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“Downtown” by Lady Antebellum

The doldrums of winter are officially here, but thankfully Lady Antebellum has returned to snap us out of them. From the group’s highly anticipated fourth studio album comes the first single, “Downtown,” a little slice of country-soul heaven that’s bound to be blowing up radio airwaves in a matter of weeks.

Notably absent from this recording are the dramatic (some might say overwrought) underpinnings of some of Lady A’s recent singles like “Just a Kiss” and “Wanted You More.” On the other end of the spectrum, the buoyant “Downtown,” written by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally and Natalie Hemby, succeeds by the deceptively simple trick of subtraction. A slinky drum groove, a chirping B3 organ and funky electric guitar put things in motion, before steel and an Allmanesque twin lead guitar sunburst welcome our harmonizing friends to the front.

The track makes wonderful use of space: instrumental parts (especially the bass) drop in and out, providing an abundance of variations to tickle the ears. Hillary takes the lead here, chastizing her fella for saying he’s going to take her out on the town and then always flaking out. She recalls fondly, and perhaps with a touch of sadness, a time when we used to smoke while we were jay-walkin’, like it was your birthday every other Saturday night. But things change, and now she has to bribe him with a dress that’ll show a little uh-uh to get what she wants.

Understandably, she’s a little confused about the guy. I don’t know why you don’t take me downtown, like you got anywhere better to be, sings Hillary, backed by Charles and Dave, in the earworm chorus. (Seriously, dude, she could be making you sit at home and watch Downton Abbey with her and the dog—show her a good time!) Hidden somewhere between the sunny melodies and head-bobbing tempo is some real adult frustration—at this unreliable guy, sure, but maybe also at the notion that the party can’t just go on forever. 

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