Take note, Reba McEntire: This is how you reference God in a country song without annoying people.
Jerrod Niemann’s airplay history reads almost like an EKG: Sharp spikes of activity (his two No. 1 songs, “Lover Lover” in 2010 and “Drink To That All Night” in 2013) separated by several years of forgettable offerings (“Donkey,” anyone?). While he’s never settled on a consistent sound, Niemann occasionally captures lightning in a bottle by riding whatever’s trendy in mainstream music—in fact, “Drink To That All Night” is often credited with kick-starting the Metropolitan movement. He appears to be taking the same approach with his single “God Made A Woman,” a traditionally-sounding song packed with religious imagery that turned out better than I anticipated.
The production here is restrained and mostly organic, with an acoustic guitar carrying the melody, real drums quietly providing the foundation, and a string section setting the atmosphere. The exceptions to this rule are a steel guitar that comes to the forefront on the bridge and an electric guitar hidden deep in the background. The mix establishes a calm, relaxing mood that put the listener at ease, although the use of minor chords makes the song sound a bit more dark and unsettled than the subject matter would indicate. Overall, however, it’s a pleasant-sounding track that compliments the writing nicely.
Niemann is a decent-enough singer, but this track seems to put him in an uncomfortable place vocally. Not only is Niemann restricted to a narrow range by the song, but said range is a shade too low for Niemann, and his voice bottoms out a little on the low notes in the verses. (The choruses give Niemann a bit more room to raise his voice, and he sounds a lot more comfortable singing them, so bumping the song’s key up a notch might have been better for all involved.) This is a minor complaint, however, and Niemann not only still sounds good, but still comes across as believable and grateful on this song.
The song itself covers the time-honored country trope of a ex-lowlife thanking the man upstairs for sending him a saint of a woman to cure him of his wild ways (think Chris Janson’s “Holdin’ Her,” but with more religious imagery). The writing itself is pretty strong, featuring clever lines like “Every bar I’d find open, I’d close it down/That 2 AM last call, man I’d answer,” and “I still can’t believe that an angel would fall/For a guy like me.” While there are religious references all over the track, they do not come across as preachy and demanding like they do in McEntire’s recent single. Instead, the references are merely presented as a man praising his creator for the blessings (namely, the woman) in his life, and the narrator passes no judgement and issues no decrees about faith, making their use of religion palatable rather than insufferable.
Overall, “God Made A Woman” is a likeable enough track that highlights Jerrod Niemann’s talent and flexibility as an artist. I don’t see this doing much on mainstream country radio, but at least it’s a worthy addition to their playlists.
Rating: 6/10. Have yourself a listen or two to see what you think.