Review – Cole Swindell Tries (and fails) to Add Depth with “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”

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.

Grade: 3.5/10

21 thoughts on “Review – Cole Swindell Tries (and fails) to Add Depth with “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”

  1. jb January 8, 2015 / 11:19 am

    The writers did manage to come up with the completely gratuitous line “I’m raisin’ a glass to those savin’ our ass overseas.” What’s that doing there?

    I’m sure Cole Swindell is capable of depth. It’s just that no instrument sensitive enough to measure it exists yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Derek Hudgin January 8, 2015 / 12:05 pm

      Just another pandering, unnecessary line. The fact that this is meant to be a song with meaning is dumb. I’d be less annoyed if he went 3 for 3 with bro-country, but the fact that this is the idea of “effort” from these guys annoys me to no end. This song does have potential, but to me it just falls way short of that potential.

      And yeah, I’m sure he can write with depth. There are a few bright spots here that I think show some good writing chops, but it isn’t consistent. Or maybe he’s not capable of writing a compelling story and that’s why there’s so much relying on cliched hooks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Zack January 8, 2015 / 11:57 am

    Well i like this the best out of his three singles but thats not saying a whole lot…. The thing with Cole is that he isn’t as offensive as the other bros(in my opinion) but he also doesn’t have that one song that proves he can do more either(you know like Jack Daniels and Jesus and Dirt). He is just vanilla really i’ll give this song a 5 personally. Its got some clever lines as you pointed out but is just overall forgettable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin January 8, 2015 / 12:20 pm

      I agree Zack, it’s incredibly bland and forgettable, just like all his singles so far. I haven’t even tried to listen to Swindell’s album, so I don’t know what his other offerings are like. I’ll take your word that he doesn’t have that stand-out like Rice or FGL, and I think that says alot about Swindell and his capabilities right now. All he can do is catchy, cliche, and pandering.

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  3. Cobra January 8, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    I definitely liked this one better than his first two offerings, but my main problem is that Swindell cannot sing at all. He has no talent as a vocalist.

    Liked by 1 person

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