This uptempo cut is about a brokenhearted woman washing her former lover's memory away with whiskey on a wild girls' night out. The song was released as the first single from Lady Antebellum's fifth album. "I think it's always cool when you can capture what feels like a fun track where the lyrics are a little darker," the band's Charles Kelley told The Tennessean newspaper. "You really listen to the lyrics. It's definitely a head-bobber, but then you kind of listen and you're like, 'Man, this girl is talking about literally drinking the pain away.' I think those songs are cool when you can have that juxtaposition."
The song features Hillary Scott as the lead vocalist. She told The Tennessean: "As a female, I love the fact that it's not this song about her [saying], 'My hearts been broken, it's so sad, he did me wrong.' It's not about going and rebounding with some other guy. She's just going out with her friends and having a night to forget about what this dude just did to her. I love that as a woman, kind of taking the reins in a situation and getting over it in a fun way."
The song was written by the Lady A trio with Rodney Clawson (Florida Georgia Line's "Get Your Shine On," Luke Bryan's "Crash My Party"). It was produced by Taylor Swift's regular producer Nathan Chapman. Lady A's Dave Heywood said: "The song, 'Bartender,' actually started with a title Charles had on his phone, and a little idea I had on my phone, and we pulled 'em all out. It was one of the last writing sessions we had on the road for this record."
"You know, we want to have songs that people can get lost in and come out and get lost in the noise of the crowd and these kinds of songs, and it just feels like one of those songs that can stand up in a big venue," he added. "We wanted to try to create something like that, and it's fun. I think anybody's been out where you want to go out and get lost because of something you've been going through and forget about what's been going on, and so that's part of the inspiration too for 'Bartender.'"
The song's music video was shot in Los Angeles in May 2014 and directed by Shane Drake (Paramore, Kelly Clarkson, Fall Out Boy). The visual features Kate Upton (The Other Woman, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Model) and Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development) in a drink-off.
"I think we definitely captured the spirit of the song, but we also threw in some unexpected twists that the fans will love," Charles Kelley said of the clip. "Kate and Tony took what could have been just another music video to a really cool place. I mean, pretty much every guy in America is in love with Kate Upton. And if I'm being totally honest, Dave and I now both have a little man-crush on Tony too…he's hilarious! Hands-down my favorite video we've ever done."