The short version: Twenty years ago, “Heartache Medication” wouldn’t have stood out much from the pack. In 2019, it’s exactly what the country music genre needs.
- Writers: Jon Pardi, Natalie Hemby, Barry Dean
- Rating: 7/10
The long version: Now this is what I was hoping to hear more of from Jon Pardi.
Pardi may have lost his crown as the leading neotraditional country artist to Luke Combs, but he’s had a tremendous run thus far. Sure, things looked bleak in 2014 when Pardi’s biggest hit couldn’t even scrape the top 20, but he played the long game and was rewarded in a big way with California Sunrise.
Even if I wasn’t personally on board with that album, I still admired Pardi’s pragmatism. But there’s still an elephant in the room to address. While the charming “Head Over Boots” led off that era, it was Pardi’s more contemporary singles like “Dirt On My Boots” and “Heartache On The Dance Floor” that were the huge hits from that era – and they weren’t exactly good. “She Ain’t In It,” which sounded like an old Alan Jackson cut, sadly faded into the background.
So I’ll admit I was worried where Pardi would go from here. Well, I was actually more worried about where his label would make him go from here, as when something works in Nashville, you run it into the ground twice over. But again, Pardi is playing the long game, and considering the label was willing to take a chance on his style of music at all in the current climate, maybe everything would work out.
If Pardi’s lead single, “Heartache Medication,” off of the upcoming album of the same name due for September is any indication, there’s no reason to worry at all. Perhaps what’s most surprising about
“Heartache Medication” is that there’s no modern flourishes at all, instead sounding like a single that would have fit right into the format 20 years ago. It’s not exactly the lead single smash most people were probably expecting, but this is a solid song all the same.
Lyrically, this follows the exact formula you’d expect for a “tear in my beer” country song, with the main character drowning his sorrows at a bar with alcohol and women. But that’s also the point. The main character paints the scene as somewhat of a regular routine for him and can predict everything that’s going to happen next. As the title implies, this is just what he does every day to get through the day, like some old typical country song. The imagery is fairly novel, but the self-awareness of the common tropes is fairly smart, and the nod to Gary Stewart with that one particular line is surely appreciated.
The instrumentation and production are probably the most surprising elements, as the song leads in with a fiddle. For 2019 standards, that’s a damn miracle. What’s more surprising is that, while the steel and electric guitars eventually find their way into the mix, the fiddle remains at the forefront throughout.
Pardi’s nasally tone will always be his weakest point, and tracks that demand more charisma from him are usually where that shows. But “Heartache Medication” finds Pardi in a more serious atmosphere. It’s not exactly moody or anything despite the subject matter, but Pardi maintains a solid flow all throughout that suits the song, so he’s fitting for the role. Despite a weaker melody and the brighter tones, “Heartache Medication” really does come off as just an ordinary day in this character’s life, not necessarily a somber event.
“Heartache Medication” doesn’t stand out much as a song in general, but for mainstream country standards in 2019, this is evidence of a solid step forward for more organic presentation. Out of all the current modern neotraditional artists in the format now such as Combs or Midland, Pardi’s sound is the most fully realized for this lane, and it’s nice to hear a song that finds him comfortably bridging the gap between tradition and the future.
Closing remarks: If you missed the rougher edges of Pardi’s early work over the polish of (some) recent singles, “Heartache Medication” is for you.