I’ll Be Damned: Luke Bryan’s “Build Me a Daddy” Ain’t Half Bad

It will forever be a stain and a laughing stock on the country music genre that at the moment when the American continent was the most roiled in disease and upheaval in modern times, one of the most popular songs, if not the most popular song in country music was a doltish ditty by Luke Bryan about drinking margaritas. Make no mistake, the media outside of the country fold who loves to point and laugh at the imbecilic Southerners and rural rednecks out partying on their on their boats on the local impound lake have had a heyday in their think pieces with this development. And if we’re being honest, they’re right in their revulsion towards Luke’s “One Margarita.”

But anyone aside from those with a reactionary hatred for country music’s Gomer Pyle will confess to you that every Luke Bryan record tends to have one or two pretty good songs. His upcoming album Born Here, Live Here, Die Here will be no different, if for no other reason than “Build Me a Daddy” has made its way onto the track list. Written by Jake Mitchell, Brett Tyler, and Josh Thompson—the latter of whom has become the go-to name in the mainstream when you want a really good track to anchor a record, “Build Me a Daddy” might be one of the best songs Luke Bryan has ever released, even among those gaggle of album cuts on his otherwise dubious studio output.

There is plenty that could render “Build Me A Daddy” much more cheesy than meaningful—the heartstring pulling story of a son losing his father, and oh, let’s make the father a soldier, so we weasel that flag-waving element in there too. It’s ripe for mawkishness, and that’s probably still a conclusion some will be steered towards. But making a highly sentimental subject work is the mark of good songwriters, while the dialed-back production of “Build Me a Daddy” sets it in the right mood.

Luke Bryan may have not written it, but he lived it from a certain perspective. Luke Bryan’s sister died in 2007, and after her husband (Luke’s brother-in-law) died in 2014, they began raising his nephew Brooks, nicknamed Til. Few have ever contended Luke Bryan can’t sing. It’s just what he chooses to sing that people contend with. When he chooses a song with substance like “Build Me A Daddy,” his natural talent shines through.

“Build Me a Daddy” is not a great song. It could have been if they hadn’t loaded it up with so many signifiers so the mainstream crowd didn’t get too scared away by it. But it’s a good one, both for Luke Bryan, and for radio. Now that Luke’s indolent “One Margarita” has etched its inevitable path to #1 on country radio like any single he releases eventually will, a decision is looming on what will be next. If Luke and his record label had any guts, they would release “Build Me a Daddy” next—a much more appropriate song for the moment than “One Margarita.” And if not next, then release it as a single at some point.

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