If I could sum up Russell Dickerson in a sentence, I’d say that he does Sam Hunt better than Sam Hunt does.
Dickerson is a Tennesse-based artist who has been kicking around Nashville as since 2010, but only recently scored a major-label deal with the newly-formed Triple Tigers label. “Yours” was actually released independently all the way back in 2015, and had already racked up thirty million Spotify streams and been declared one of the best new wedding songs of 2016 before its official release to country radio back in April. While the song is an obvious play for both the contemporary-country and wedding-song crowds, it’s also easy to see the song’s appeals after a few spins.
The production here is exactly what you’d expect out of Nashville these days. The song opens with a low, moody piano backed by a restrained electric guitar and steel guitar, then slowly builds energy and momentum by adding instruments as the song progresses (first a drum machine halfway through the first verse, then some real drums after the first chorus, and then finally a cranked-up electric guitar for a solo on the bridge). The mix does a nice job accentuating the song’s message by using darker tones and keys while the narrator details his past on the verses, and then shifting to a brighter, more-celebratory tone as the focus shifts to the present on the choruses. It’s a nice blend of modern and traditional sounds that keeps the synthetic elements in a supporting role while featuring just enough polish to remain easy on the ears.
Vocally, Dickerson is basically Sam Hunt with a slightly-smoother voice and without all the annoying talk-singing. He seems a bit more comfortable in his upper range, but he’s capable enough in his lower registers, and his flow on some of the faster-paced lyrics is pretty impressive. His biggest asset, however, is the earnestness of his delivery—he comes across as believable and sells the song incredibly well. The song also complements Dickerson’s voice well, as the lower-ranged verses are somber and reflective (which keep him from overextending his voice), while the choruses let him climb the ladder to exert a bit more vocal power. He may not be the strongest vocalist in the genre, but he’s got the vocal charisma to make a song like this feel heartfelt without sounded too corny.
The songwriting here is surprisingly strong, even despite its overarching (and overdone) theme of “my life sucked before you, but it’s awesome now because of you.” The images here are specific, vivid, and mostly unique, such as with the opening lines “I was a boat stuck in a bottle/That never got the chance to touch the sea.” The lyrics also reflect the current anti-objectification trend in the genre: The song focuses on feelings rather than appearances, and cleverly flips around the typical ownership dynamic in its hook (instead of “you’re mine,” the proclamation is “I’m yours”). The lack of gender language here is also interesting, as the song never makes a “she/her/girl/woman” reference about the narrator’s partner, and thus broadens its appeal by potentially applying to anyone. While the song is a bit one-sided (the feelings of the narrator’s partner are never mentioned, and the narrator never talks about becoming a better person for their partner), Dickerson’s delivery and vocal charisma keep the song from ever feeling shallow or self-serving.
Overall, “Yours” is an impressive debut and a great choice for a first single, featuring a mixture of sharp writing, a strong delivery, and production that doesn’t get in the way. It’s the kind of song that draws people to it even if they’re not at a romantic stage in their life, and I’m very interested in seeing how this fares on mainstream radio and where Dickerson chooses to go from here.
Rating: 6/10. Give it a few spins and see how it feels.