It’s tempting to think of Hardy’s “One Beer” as the inverse of “Red Ragtop,” but both songs ultimately make an emotional case against abortion. “One Beer,” released 18 years after Tim McGraw’s wistful song about an aborted pregnancy, makes no mention of the issue. But its message is deeply relevant.
“One Beer” and “Red Ragtop” both tell a story about an unexpected pregnancy. In “One Beer,” the male narrator reflects on the terror he experienced as a small-town 17-year-old waiting on the results of a pregnancy test in a CVS bathroom. “Flash back to two pink lines, a whole bunch of prayin’ and doubtin’, felt like the end of the world,” he sings. “Now the world don’t spin without ’em.”
McGraw’s Bush-era “Red Ragtop” is explicitly about a teenage abortion, the product of a night “as hot as a coal-burning stove.” But the song draws to a poignant conclusion.
Well you do what you do and you pay for your sins
And there’s no such thing as what might have been
That’s a waste of time
Drive you out of your mind
I was stopped at a red light just yesterday
Beside a young girl in a cabriolet
And her eyes were green
And I was in an old scene
The couple in “One Beer” chooses life and finds fulfillment. The man in “Red Ragtop” is haunted by his decision.
Country’s experimentation with hip-hop is often offensively bad. But it’s possible to do it well and, “One Beer,” like Hardy’s work more broadly, blends the styles smoothly, mixing a smart and thoughtful sound with smart and thoughtful lyrics. It’s also a fantastic showcase of Lauren Alaina’s talents and a vivid rendering of a familiar moment experienced by millions of teens in Middle America.
“Red Ragtop” ignited controversy upon its release back in 2002. Worried it was alienating, some stations simply refused to play the song. “Red Ragtop” doesn’t come down hard on either side of the issue, but by depicting the abortion’s lasting impact on its narrator, accurately conveys the emotional baggage that came with his decision. It tells a powerful story.
In their contrasts, the songs are actually complementary. “One Beer” reflects bemusedly on the joy a single Bud Light ultimately brought the narrator by leading to six beers that led to a drunken kiss that led to sex that led to a valued new life. “It’s just a Bud Light, but ain’t it funny what one beer can turn into?” Hardy sings. “Red Ragtop” is about the emotional weight of terminating a new life.
Neither song is written as a clear political argument for or against abortion, but in their honest grappling with the issue, make strong cases against it.