I guess Cole Swindell isn’t going away. Like dozens of his counterparts, Cole cashed in on the bro-country wave and found himself with a number one single in “Chillin’ It.” Yet, he’s somehow proven himself not to be a one-hit wonder as his follow-up, “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight” also topped the charts. And now Cole Swindell has a third single on the radio that’s flirting with the top-20 of the airplay chart, and likely to continue climbing. This third single is a surprisingly well-meant kiss-off song called “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey.” However, unsurprisingly, it’s just another bland, generic pop country song that has little to offer.
The premise of Swindell’s new single is simple: A girl has left him for another guy and Cole isn’t going to mourn her leaving. He’s still going to party in spite of her. On the surface, it’s an attempt to add some depth to the radio waves and tries to add heart to party, similar to Dierks Bentley’s “Drunk On A Plane.” And hey, Swindell has a good reference to country music’s history of drowning your relationship sorrows in booze. And with modern country being a party, he sets a fitting tone that, I’d say, sums up the change in country’s attitude about alcohol in the songs: “I won’t waste a dime; Or the bartender’s time; Trying to catch a buzz; Over the thought of us.” In a song like this, I think that’s a great stanza that captures the entire meaning.
However, the problem with “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” is that for the most part, the writing is weak. The opening stanza ends with “I don’t care what his name is; Girl it is what it is.” They rhyme “is” with “is.” The writers (Swindell with Josh Martin and Adam Sanders) can’t come up with any other word or a better phrase than “it is what it is” to end that? If I could offer up a rewrite off the top of my head: how about “I don’t care what his name is, you made up your mind with that kiss”? A line like that not only gives a different word for the rhyme, but could add to the story of the relationship’s end. If she did indeed cheat (like the song vaguely implies), I think a line like that could make the point clearer without overtly stating it. I’m not a songwriter, but I really can’t stand songs that can’t even come up with different words to end the lines. That’s just a pet peeve of mine when listening to music. It seems lazy to me.
The second verse doesn’t really add anything further to the story other than the fact that her friends didn’t like him. To me, that doesn’t make me want to celebrate your new-found singleness. In Bentley’s “Drunk On A Plane” the underlying story is that she cancelled their wedding. That’s enough to make us feel for Dierks’ character in the song. In “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” we only know she’s now with another guy. Like I said, there’s a vague hint that she cheated, but I don’t think it’s clear enough to work. Overall, the weak verses are basically fillers for a loud, cliché, and pandering chorus to ignite a sing along: “I’ll drink to a country song; to another long work week gone. And I’ll raise my glass to a long lost buddy I ain’t seen.” The production here, especially during this chorus, is cranked up to try to cover up for the fact that Cole Swindell can’t sing well. It’s shocking that a guy who can’t sing a lick has two number 1’s. But I digress.
I’ll give Cole Swindell this, he ends the chorus well after the clichéd lines: “I might stay for one more round, or I might close the whole place down. But don’t think for a second I’m out to drown your memory.” I like that line and it fits well with the stanza I like too. Now a majority of fans will throw songs like this back into the faces of Cole Swindell’s haters because it isn’t a shallow, bro-country song with drum machines and rapping. It’s not; this is a step in the right direction. But this is only a half-assed attempt to add some depth and heart back into mainstream country. “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey” relies heavily on catchy hooks and the stapled topics of mainstream country for its radio and fan appeal. Maybe if there was a bit more effort into telling us what led him here I’d like it, but the song doesn’t do that. I’m still not sold on Cole Swindell.