Jack and Pétron: A Musician’s New Best Friends


When every song on the radio tells you to drink and party the night away, how are you not supposed to belt some lyrics into that Budweiser bottle? (Photo Illustration by Kyle Morrison/ The Observer)

Published: February 2, 2011

Recently at my cousin’s wedding, the DJ blasted the song “Shots” by LMFAO featuring Lil Jon. Unless you haven’t been to a party in the past year, you probably know the one I’m talking about. It’s not hard to remember the lyrics, since the only word you have to remember is “shots” a million times over.

As everyone on the club floor started dancing and screaming along, I couldn’t help noticing that my 12-year-old cousin knew every word and got into the song even more than I did. When he chanted the chorus and yelled out, “Jagerbombs! Lemondrops!” I tried not to pay too much attention. However, soon I became aware that all of my cousins, all of whom are younger than I am, were slamming their fists to the song.  Most of them are barely teenagers, and there they were, shouting, “Now where my alcoholics? Let me see your hands up!” Needless to say, the image stuck in my head.

Then, over winter break, I listened to the radio a fair amount since I was finally driving around in a car again. Because the end of 2010 was near, stations were playing countdowns of the year’s most popular songs. As “Like a G6,” “Bottoms Up” and “Tik Tok” played repeatedly, I realized that almost every other song focused on drinking and clubbing.

According to the radio, the common theme of 2010 was alcohol, and if you didn’t sing about it, you weren’t ensured a club-worthy hit. Usually I don’t take lyrics too seriously, but after a while it became disconcerting. Isn’t there anything else worth writing a song about nowadays, or is partying the only thing we care about?

Music and drinking have always been a popular combination, but I’ve noticed that in recent years, songs solely about drinking have become increasingly standard. Plus, after witnessing my cousins’ breakdown of “Shots,” it alarmed me to learn that it’s not just college students who listen to these songs. Middle schoolers probably know the difference between bourbon and whiskey better than I do now.

I’m grateful that occasionally a song that has nothing to do with drinking comes out. That’s one of the reasons I don’t mind Bruno Mars. At least he, cheesy though he may be, croons a few love songs, while Katy Perry lets us know that to her we’re all a “Firework.” As painful as it sounds, I’d rather hear underage kids belt out Justin Bieber than proclaim how the sober girls around them are acting like they’re drunk.

Before I go any further, I just want to say that I actually like most of these songs. (I’m contradicting myself, I know, but wait!) I’ve already downloaded half of them, and I’m like a walking Z100 radio station, much to my roommates’ dismay. My problem is that songs nowadays seem to have run out of topics besides drinking. Curious to see whether I was overreacting, I decided to look at the Billboard Hot 100 charts for the past few decades.

Fifty years ago, Elvis Presley sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” while ten years later George Harrison sang “My Sweet Lord.” Neither songs are likely to get a party started, but both artists are still well known and their songs well played. They were trying to convey a message with their music as opposed to garnering the approval of a crowd of barely-there drunk people. Must every song on the radio be about chugging Petrón and forgetting where you are on a Saturday night?

I also know that it’s not as though we’re the only generation to embrace drinking. Back in 1978, “National Lampoon’s Animal House” told the story of a college fraternity whose only appeal was its inability to run out of beer. The year in which the film was based, 1962, had hits like “Roses Are Red (My Love)” and “Peppermint Twist,” proving that while drinking may have been popular in college culture, it wasn’t part of the mainstream.

Fast forward to 2011 and drinking is the focus of the biggest mainstream songs, along with clubbing and hooking up. Just look at Enrique Iglesias’ latest single, “Tonight (I’m Loving You),” which, as anyone with an iTunes account or access to YouTube will tell you, has absolutely nothing to do with love and is actually a censored, extremely clean version of the real song. Little is left to the imagination because apparently we’re all too drunk to use our brains anyway.

Let’s hope this trend fades soon, though, or else years from now we could all be starting our days by brushing our teeth with a bottle of Jack.