Songs about alcohol in country music are nothing new. Country music legend Hank Williams wrote hits such as “There’s a Tear in My Beer” as well as several other sorrowful, liquor-infused tunes. He sang about his life experiences and died from alcohol addiction at age 29. Williams was followed by an army of country singers who explored alcohol from every angle, singing of both its harms and its virtues—but mostly its virtues. Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville” is an ode to sun-soaked relaxation, but it also includes elements of tragedy that are often lost on the listener.
But a more recent phenomenon within country music is portraying alcohol as the ultimate solution to the listener’s problems. This new attitude is summed up by the chorus of Christian country artist Thomas Rhett’s 2019 song “Beer Can’t Fix”:
“Ain’t nothing that a beer can’t fix
Ain’t no pain it can't wash away
From the moment that it hits your lips
Makes those clouds look a little less gray.”
Other artists echo these claims. Luke Combs currently has a song called “Beer Never Broke My Heart” rising on the Billboard charts. And country acts Florida Georgia Line, Kenny Chesney, and Darius Rucker don’t just sing about alcohol. They each started selling their own brands of whiskey and rum.
Country music has turned alcohol into Andy Crouch’s definition of an idol. In Playing God: Redeeming The Gift of Power, Crouch explains how every idol promises two things:
1. You shall not surely die.
2. You shall be like God.
Contemporary country music raises alcohol as an idol, promising it will take away human suffering and provide feelings of incredible pleasure. But, as Crouch explains, every idol eventually demands more until the idol is asking everything of its worshipers while providing nothing in return.
This idol is demanding more of musicians and fans. Several artists sing songs celebrating alcohol despite their own addiction struggles or precarious sobriety. Some artists pretend to drink onstage to maintain a particular image. Tailgating and binge drinking at country concerts are the norm. In order to belong, to be “country,” fans feel they need to drink heavily and appear they are having a great time all the time.
Christian listeners might be tempted to overlook idolatry in country music because of the many songs in the genre that use Christian imagery. Others might argue that alcohol is a good part of God’s creation. However, when humans use anything to try to avoid death and become like God, it becomes an idol. Listeners must listen discerningly and remember that while “Beer Can’t Fix it,” God is the ultimate healer.