Critical Analysis Of a Song: Whiskey Lullaby By Brad Paisley

Categories: Music IndustrySong

The aim of this paper is to critically analyze a song as it relates to marriage and family life. I chose the country song, “Whiskey Lullaby” written by Brad Paisley featuring Alison Krauss. The song was released in 2004. In this paper one can expect to find the following:

  • An explanation of the song- summarizing the main points.
  • An explanation of relevant themes of the song.
  • Application and relevance using Sociological theory to explain issues affecting the family in the song.

  • Discussion of the roles of the key persons in the song.

Summarizing the Main Points of Whiskey Lullaby ft. Alison Krauss

Whiskey Lullaby, the country song, is about a couple who were married. The husband is a soldier who was deployed for quite some time but upon returning home, he finds that his wife is unfaithful to him. He began to consume large amounts of alcohol until one day he kills himself because he can no longer live continue living without her (“He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger, and finally drank away her memory”).

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When the woman finds out he is committed suicide, she turns to alcohol envisioning the man to be with her, when in reality he wasn’t. She continues to drink and drink until she kills herself because of the guilt and pain she was suffering from. The family members bury the woman next to the man underneath the willow tree.

Relevant Themes of the Song

When I reflect on the lyrics of this song, three main themes come to my mind.

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The themes are as follows: marital conflict, suicide, alcoholism and self-blame. NOTE: The themes for this song is not limited to the ones stated herein.

Theme #1: Marital Conflict

Frank D. Fincham (2003) once stated that “marital conflict has harmful effects on mental, physical, and family health”. In the song Whiskey Lullaby, when the husband returns from deployment, he finds his wife cheating on him with another man, almost instantly, this breaks his heart. This caused him to no longer feel loved and ended up taking his own life by over drinking. Finchman (2003) in his study noted that marital conflict has been linked to the onset of depressive symptoms, eating disorders, male alcoholism, episodic drinking, binge drinking and out-of-home drinking. The woman blamed herself and ended up following the same path he took, committing suicide by drinking large amounts of alcohol.

Theme #2: Suicide

In the song “Whiskey Lullaby”, the couple consumed large amounts of alcohol until they end up dead. On one hand, the man who was an ex ended his life because the woman was unfaithful to him. According to Andersen, Taylor and Logio (2015), veterans are twice as likely as nonveterans in the general population to commit suicide. This is very true in the song, the man was unable to cope with the situation and ending up “putting the bottle to his head and pull the trigger”. On the other hand, I believe that the woman ended up committing suicide because of the guilt she was facing for what she has done and caused.

Theme #3: Alcoholism

He/she put the bottle to his head and pulled the trigger is about the man drinking himself to death over the heartbreak of having his wife cheat on him. After finding out what she did to him, he felt that alcohol was the best thing to turn to. The song represents the way the couple died. Simply put, they drowned their problems in whiskey. “For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath”, these lyrics speak clearly on how she was trying so hard to get rid of her pain until she drank herself to death.

Theme #4: Self Blame

“The rumors flew but nobody knew how much she blamed herself. For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath. She finally drank her pain away a little at a time.” These lyrics speak to how much guilt the woman was facing years after what she has caused.

Application and Relevance Using Three Sociological Perspectives to Explain Issues Affecting the Family In The Song

As stated by Haralambos and Holborn (2000), a Perspective/Theory is a set of ideas which claims to explain how something works. Therefore, Sociological Theories/ Perspectives are a set of ideas which claims to explain how society or aspects of society works. Sociology includes three main perspectives, they are: (1) the functionalist perspective, (2) the conflict perspective, and (3) the symbolic interactionist perspective. There isn’t one answer to the question of what society is and how it works. Each perspective is crucial to helps to understand how our society works.

Below one can find an explanation of application and relevance using theory to explain issues that are highlighted in the song, Whiskey Lullaby.


When considering the role of the family in society, functionalists believe that families are a crucial social institution which seeks to meet the needs of its members. Families also play a key role in sustaining and contributing to society. The family and its members perform certain functions that make prosperity possible and development of society. In the song, Whiskey Lullaby, the man facilitates prosperity by going out to work. He also develops society by serving society as faithfully as he can. Soldiers have to take an oath to serve their country when they go out on deployment to protect his country and its people.

Another main point on functionalism is gender roles in families. Gender roles are fundamental in the economic functioning of a family. In families, division of labor also exists. It consists of “instrumental and expressive” roles. On one hand, men tend to take up the more instrumental roles in the family, which includes: work outside of the family to provide financial support for his family. The man’s role in the song is very much evident; the man goes out to work in order to take care of his family (the wife). On the other hand, women tend to take up more expressive roles, which involve work inside of the home (providing emotional and physical support). When I watch a video of the song, I see that the woman was at home when the man returned from deployment. This is evidence to show that women do function as a home keeper.

Social Interactionism

This theory speaks to the interaction, the face to face encounters and relationships of individuals who act in awareness of one another. This perspective takes a close look into the back and forth talk, gestures, and actions that all goes into being a part of a family. Members of a family communicate with each other verbally and none verbally. In the song, I believe that these two individuals communicated something very strong to each other non-verbally. Firstly, the man came back for his wife after war because he loved her. Secondly, the lady cheated on him because he was away and couldn’t satisfy her sexual needs. Thirdly, both of them ended their lives because they really loved each other, the woman felt so much guilt and the man felt as unloved and of course, cheated on. Their non-verbal actions speak volumes to how they are feeling. This is the meaning that they form from the situation they were in. Their understanding about the situation leads them to taking their own lives. One key point to note is that “family problems stem from different understandings and expectations that spouses have of their marriage”.

In the song, I believe that the man expected his wife to be faithful to him but she wasn’t. That is the reason why he turned to drinking so much alcohol until the passed away. Killing himself has great representation of how hurt he is about the entire situation the woman has caused him. The woman, too, feels guilty over what she has done.

Conflict Theory

According to Andersen, Taylor and Logio (2015), the conflict perspective as it pertains to families, sheds light on the role of power of its members. It also contends that the family is not a safe haven but rather where power struggle arise. Conflict theory stresses on the fact that the family may also produce several problems. For example, in the song, we can see that the family has been faced with a major problem that the head of the home (the man) cannot cope with and decides to end his life.

More specifically though, conflicts within a family contribute to several reasons why its members may tend to engage in all forms of conflict. The family produces workers that capitalism requires. The family produces the agents of the modes of production; therefore, this is evident in the song because the man requires a job to maintain his family. He becomes an agent under capitalism; he leaves his wife behind to serve a “master” (so to speak).

Also, the conflict theory is about power and who earns the most money within a family, we can imply that the man leaves his wife to look after the home and collecting all his money. This would be a perfect example of exercising capitalist habits within the family.

Discussion of the Roles of the Key Persons in the Song

Marriage and family are key structures in most societies. I remember in Primary School, my teachers would say “families are the building blocks of society”. This is very much true. In the song, the man and his wife make up a family. It is a very small family of only man and woman- childless family (man and woman only). In the song, this specific family helps to develop society. The man goes out to protect his country and leaves his wife behind.

This is a sacrifice that they both make to make society better. On another note, we can see that gender plays a very vital role. Each person takes on a very critical role for the functioning of their family. There are two main persons in the song as have been mentioned before, a man and a woman. The man went away on deployment and a woman who took on a very traditional role of staying home (as seen in the music video).A role is the behavior others expect from a person associated with a particular status. In Whiskey Lullaby, the man goes off to work; we can imply that he is the breadwinner of the home and the financial support. The woman was at home when the guy arrived home. Again, I can only imply that she is a domestic wife.

In the song, both of them caused pain to each other. When the man returned from deployment, he finds her cheating on him. When he can’t control his feelings anymore, he turns to the bottle of rum and drinks his pain away. Instead, he ends up taking his own life. After he have taken his life, I can imply that she cannot take the grief of losing the man anymore and end up taking her own life by the same way the man took his life.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Critical Analysis Of a Song: Whiskey Lullaby By Brad Paisley. (2024, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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