It's not Lady Antebellum's fault. It's not like they're a particularly saucy or salacious trio—sure, there was some hardcore lust and sexual desperation burning through "Need You Know," but even that was plenty tasteful, and by the lead single of their next album, they were singing about how "Just a Kiss" was good enough for them. It's just years, decades even of pop culture conditioning, in music and just about every other artistic medium that trades heavily in double entendre. Whenever you hear a song that prominently features talk about "going downtown"—especially in the context of a romantic relationship—you have to wonder if there's not some sort of double meaning there.
Given Lady A's track record of relative wholesomeness, it's a little hard to believe that there's actual oral sex metaphor-izing going on in "Downtown"—Hillary and company just don't seem the type. And yet...who writes a song, a lead single, primarily about the activity of going downtown, without some kind of extra layer there? OK, yes, you can take it to mean that the unsatisfactory partner's unwillingness to literally take her to the downtown part of the city reflects a lack of excitement and pizzazz in their relationship, but...even that part kinda sounds like it's really talking about the couple's lovelife, doesn't it?
But let us not speculate on this all day. Let's parse the verses and choruses for further clues about the song's true intentions.
Well, all the parties on the streets are talking
Store front mannequins sleeping in lights.
We used to smoke while we were jaywalking
Like it was your birthday every other Saturday night
Knew the bands so we never payed our cover
Wrote our names on the bathroom tiles
We never dressed to impress all the others
They would let us in on our laid back kind of style
But boy you know it's been a while
The song's first verse would all appear to be basically on the level, describing literal activities one would do when out on the town—going to gigs and parties, writing on the bathroom walls, and various other good-timey happenings. There is a good deal of sleaze (or at least a sort of earthiness) to the proceedings though, Hillary singing about smoking while jaywalking and dressing in a "laid back kind of style," and that final "you know it's been a while" speaks to a dissatisfaction that would appear deeper than a craving for a public sort of nighttime excitement.
I don't know why you don't take me down town like you got anywhere better to be
Talk it up and give me the go round, round like a good time tease
I'm only counting on your cancellation
When I should be counting on you at my door
Did you forget about how we went around
I don't know why you don't take me downtown anymore.
The chorus would appear to be far more suggestive, with its lyrics calling the romantic partner a "good time tease" (!!) and repeatedly expressing frustration about not being taken downtown. Of course, some of the lyrics still make more sense taken on the surface than on the metaphorical level—the "Like you got anywhere better to be" line doesn't really make sense taken as double-entendre, nor does the "counting on you at my door" one, unless you're taking "door" to mean something it's definitely not traditionally taken to mean. Still, on the whole, the chorus definitely feels too emotional and provocative to just be about a region of town.
I got some platforms sitting in the corner
They wanna stroll on a city sidewalk
I got a dress that'll show a little uh uh
but you ain't gettin' uh uh if you don't come pick me up (damn),
Show me off (wow),
You might be tired, but I'm not!
These lyrics are the first to actually explicitly address sex in the relationship, Hillary claiming that her guy won't get to see her in (or out of) her revealing dress if he doesn't even come by at all. And the "You might be tired, but I'm not!" definitely feels like the frustration of a lover just not willing to put in the work anymore. Avenue D would nod their heads in support, certainly.
Ultimately, the song doesn't serve as perfectly metaphorical, so much so that it's hardly like the only possible interpretation of it is that it's Hillary Scott expressing dissatisfaction over her lover's unwillingness to actually go down on her. However, there's enough sauciness to the whole song, enough winking in certain lines, and enough of a sense of palpable frustration throughout that it's impossible to disregard the second meaning entirely. Ultimately, even if it's not actually about oral sex, it still sort of is. Unfair, perhaps, but that's the post-Aerosmith world or rock/pop lyrics that we live in, and we here at Popdust wouldn't have it any other way.