The short version: “Dive Bar” is worth a listen or two, but not much more than that.
- Writers: Garth Brooks, Mitch Rossell, Bryan Kennedy
- Rating: 6/10
The long version: We’ve had comeback singles and albums from ‘90s veterans such as Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood, so we may as well throw Garth Brooks into the mix.
Well, in all fairness, Brooks has been making his comeback for around five years now, with the only notable success story being his first No. 1 single in over a decade with “Ask Me How I Know.” Otherwise, Brooks’s single choices have been downright baffling (and rarely good) this decade.
As such, I didn’t know what to expect with his new single, “Dive Bar,” a duet with Blake Shelton. But hey, Shelton just released his own best single in over a decade with “God’s Country,” and considering he’s supported other veteran artists like John Anderson and the Bellamy Brothers lately, maybe this collaboration would be a good thing.
I’ll say this about “Dive Bar” – it’s probably Brooks’s best comeback single to date, though that’s not saying much. As a song, “Dive Bar” wraps itself in a very familiar mold to country music. On one hand, it’s a nice little throwback to the past, but on the other, it’s little more than a novelty hit that isn’t worth spinning more than a few times.
As far as the production (and mixing) is concerned, this is easily what helps make this one of Brooks’s better singles this decade. For once, everything sounds just right in the mix and professionally done, which, yes, is a criticism of past Brooks singles this decade. Given the performers involved, the song finds itself in a bright, jubilant mix with pedal steel, electric guitar and keys to give it a rollicking flavor. It’s a fairly standard mix that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the ‘90s, but in 2019, it’s a refreshing mix (even if artists like Jon Pardi, Midland, Riley Green and Luke Combs are helping to bring this sound back).
Vocally, Brooks’s technical ability is still one of his bigger hindrances, but he’s got charisma, even if that can also mean it sounds like he’s trying a bit too hard at points to sell himself as an energetic partygoer. Again, considering that this song is just meant to be a fun little ditty, recruiting Shelton is a solid choice, especially when his flow and delivery are commendable as well.
With that said, however, it would have been nice to hear the two performers play off of each other to keep things loose and fun. As it is, “Dive Bar” feels like two competent singers just giving their best renditions of one singular song who don’t acknowledge one another’s existence. It still sounds fine, but considering it doesn’t feel like a true duet, that chance at light camaraderie feels like a missed opportunity.
Lyrically, the song is fairly novel, and as you might have guessed by now, the song is nothing more than an ode to having fun at a dive bar after a long week. On one hand, it’s always interesting to hear singers turn their misery into joy through a warped perspective, but there’s really no clever one-liners to ever get the ball rolling. Of course, part of that extends toward the song only clocking in at two-and-a-half-minutes, but lines like “hank it” or “fill your cup, raise it up” just bring back memories of some of the worst country songs from around 2013-15. Again, it’s fine, but it doesn’t stand out much, especially when there’s a similar tune out right now from George Strait called “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” that at least is framed in a more unique way.
Really, though, “fine” is how I’d best summarize “Dive Bar.” It’s a fun listen, but there isn’t really a need to listen to it more than once or twice. It’s a step in the right direction for Brooks and Shelton, but “Dive Bar” also feels like a missed opportunity for something great in other departments.
(Very light 6/10)
(To listen to “Dive Bar,” you have a few options: One, and in this author’s opinion, the easiest way, sign up for a free account at All Access, click “Music,” then “Cool New Music,” then “Country,” and you should be good to go. Two, sign up for an account at Amazon music.)