Heartache. That word would best describe the theme of Gary Allan’s most popular songs. Allan has been one of the best in country music in recent years at making great heartbreak songs. His lyrics brilliantly captured the emotions of people going through emotional pain. “It Ain’t The Whiskey” was one of my favorite mainstream country songs of 2013 and “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” from the previous year was another song I really enjoyed. For his new single, “Hangover Tonight,” Allan gets away from the heartbreak and appears to be going for a more fun vibe. The question is does he pull this off as well as his heartbreak songs?
Well…I’m just going to get this out of the way up front. “Hangover Tonight” is a flat-out disappointment in my book. I understand that Allan wants to move onto different kinds of songs and probably get away from the heartbreak songs for a while, but this is a step in the wrong direction. Let’s look first at the instrumentation and production of this song. Quite frankly the instrumentation isn’t country at all. It’s a combination of pop, blues and R&B to create a different sound. Sonically it’s the exact opposite of previous singles. While on the first few listens this seems to have a catchy beat, after a few more listens it just feels generic to me. I understand Allan was going for a down to earth tone with this song (similar to Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown”), but the instrumentation is just too slick for it convey this feeling.
Not only do I not like the instrumentation of this song, I also think the lyrics are below par. This song is essentially about drinking, partying and getting into bed with a girl. Despite taking a classier and friendlier approach, is it really that different from a Cole Swindell song? I think Allan says the word “girl” in this song more than his last five singles combined. It was disheartening to hear. On top of that Allan treats drinking in this song the exact opposite way he treated it in “It Ain’t The Whiskey.” In previous drinking songs, it was considered a crutch and vice of someone in emotional pain. In “Hangover Tonight” it’s about drinking the night away and as the title of the song says get a hangover tonight.
Now look I’m all for a feel good drinking song, but “Hangover Tonight” just isn’t one of those songs. It’s a generic blues/R&B single that’s trying way too hard to appeal to radio. This is a big miss on Allan’s part and I don’t think a lot of his fans will like this change. It reminds me an awful a lot of when Brad Paisley released “River Bank” last year. I remember hoping it wasn’t indicative of his album, but sure enough it was. I’m not saying Allan’s new album will be similar to this lead single, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. The teaser released for “Hangover Tonight” last week featured a taxi driver flipping through the radio station and as he switched to a different station he heard a different Allan single from the past. The driver stopped when he heard “Hangover Tonight” and turned up the volume. Interpret this however you want. All I know is unlike the taxi driver, I will turn the station if I hear “Hangover Tonight” playing.