“Liquor Store Blues” is a song by Bruno Mars featuring Damian Marley, which delves into the struggles of dealing with life’s hardships and finding solace in temporary escapes.
The song has a chill vibe that makes you want to grab a drink and sing along. It talks about using alcohol to escape problems and hoping everything will be alright after. While critics praised Marley’s appearance, some said that the track was heavily influenced by Sublime’s style.
In this article, we will analyze the meaning behind the lyrics, examining each verse and the overall message conveyed by the song.
Table of Contents
Before we delve into the story behind this song, let’s take a closer look at each verse of the lyrics.
Standing at this liquor store
Whiskey coming through my pores
Feeling like I run this whole block
Lotto tickets, cheap beer
That’s why you can catch me here
Tryna scratch my way up to the top
In the first verse, Bruno Mars describes his character’s situation, standing at the liquor store, with alcohol seeping through his pores. The mention of lotto tickets and cheap beer suggests a lack of financial stability and a desperate hope for a better life. The character feels like they have control over their surroundings, even if it’s just an illusion.
Cause my job got me going nowhere
So I ain’t got a thing to lose
Take me to a place where I don’t care
This is me and my liquor store blues
The chorus expresses the character’s frustration with their dead-end job and the feeling of having nothing to lose. Seeking refuge from the harsh reality, they find solace in the “liquor store blues,” using alcohol as a temporary escape from their troubles.
I’ll take one shot for my pain
One drag for my sorrow
Get messed up today
I’ll be okay tomorrow
Here, the character uses alcohol and potentially other substances to numb their pain and sorrow. The lyrics highlight the short-term nature of these coping mechanisms, with the character believing they will be okay tomorrow after indulging in these temporary escapes.
Me and my guitar tonight
Singing to the city lights
Tryna live on more than what I got
Cause 68 cent
Just ain’t gonna pay the rent so
I’ll be out here til they call the cops
In the second verse, Bruno Mars introduces another form of escape for the character: music. Playing the guitar and singing to the city lights represents a creative outlet that helps them cope with their financial struggles. With only 68 cents to their name, the character acknowledges the need to hustle and work hard, even if it means breaking the rules.
Damian Marley’s Verse
Here comes Junior Gang
I’m flying high like Superman
And thinking that I run the whole block
I don’t know if it’s just because
Pineapple kush between my jaws
Has got me feeling like I’m on top
Feeling like I woulda stand up to the cops
And stand up to the bigger heads because the whole a them a saps
All the talk them a talk unemployment no job
Enough ghetto youth cannot escape the drag
Damian Marley’s verse introduces another perspective, with the character feeling empowered and fearless. The mention of “pineapple kush” suggests that the character is using marijuana as another means of escape. The verse also touches on the issue of unemployment and the struggles faced by many young people in impoverished areas who cannot escape the “drag” of their circumstances.
True Meaning Behind “Liquor Store Blues”
“Liquor Store Blues” is a unique reggae track that dives deep into the theme of addiction. Drawing inspiration from dub music and roots reggae, the song features a “melodious boom-box midtempo” that echoes the works of Sublime, Michael Jackson, and Bedouin Soundclash.
Centered around feelings of pain and sorrow, the lyrics present alcohol as a means to escape life’s misfortunes. The chorus, with lines such as “I take one shot for my pain, one drag for my sorrow, get messed up today, I’ll be okay tomorrow,” showcases the song’s unique exploration of addiction. Tyrone S. Reid from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer praises this portrayal as “wonderful, if humorous.”
Composed in common time and set in the key of C# minor, “Liquor Store Blues” maintains a tempo of 144 beats per minute. The vocal range of Mars and Marley spans from the low note of G3 to the high note of C6, adding to the song’s rich musical tapestry.
Ths song was crafted by an impressive team of writers, including Mars, Philip Lawrence, Levine, Dwayne “Supa Dups” Chin-Quee, Mitchum Chin, Marley, and Thomas Pentz. Production was handled by the Smeezingtons—Mars, Lawrence, and Levine—alongside Chin-Quee.
Bruno Mars and Damian Marley’s collaboration in “Liquor Store Blues” has a trippy music video directed by Jack Summer. The video premiered exclusively on Mars’s official website on March 3, 2011, and features the two artists singing together in a psychedelic room with colorful backgrounds and acid-trip visual effects.
As the music plays, plumes of smoke fill the screen, and Marley raps about being “high as Superman” and shouting out pineapple kush, while Mars looks upset about something. They both drown their sorrows in the colorful visuals. The video has been described as an anthem to marijuana, rather than one about drunkenness.
Brad Wete from Entertainment Weekly suggests watching the video to find out what concoction Mars and Marley are whipping up, while Andrew Winistorfer from Prefix Magazine was more critical, saying that Damian Marley appeared to have sold out and might as well be in McDonald’s commercials.
Despite mixed reactions, the video received a nomination for International Video of the Year at the Danish GAFFA Awards in 2011.
Bruno Mars’ “Liquor Store Blues” has had a lasting impact on his fans and fellow musicians alike. The song was a staple in his setlist during his 2010-2012 “The Doo-Wops & Hooligans Tour,” where it was performed as the ninth track. Fans of the extended version were also treated during the “Hooligans in Wondaland Tour” in 2011, where it was performed as the tenth track.
Even in 2016, “Liquor Store Blues” was still on Mars’ mind. During the Grammy Awards, he was seen with a flask engraved with the lyrics, “One shot for my pain, one drag for my sorrow,” paying homage to the song that clearly meant a lot to him.
The song’s impact continued to be felt even a decade after its release, as American singer-songwriter Raiche covered “Liquor Store Blues” in 2020, as part of the tenth anniversary of Mars’ debut album.
“Liquor Store Blues” by Bruno Mars and Damian Marley is a powerful exploration of addiction, escapism, and the struggle to find solace in a harsh world. With its unique blend of musical influences, poignant lyrics, and outstanding production, the song offers a thought-provoking perspective on the human experience.