“Madam, how like you this Brantley Gilbert song?”
“The singer doth protest too much, methinks.”
Gilbert has built a reputation as a hard-edged country rocker on the back of pandering Bro-Country tracks like “Bottoms Up,” “Small Town Throwdown,” and “Country Must Be Country Wide.” Lost in this caricature, however, is Gilbert’s ability to deliver emotional, more-traditional material like “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” and “One Hell Of An Amen.” “The Ones That Like Me,” the second single off of his album The Devil Don’t Sleep, attempts to split the difference between Gilbert’s harder and softer material, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
The production has a Skynyrd-esque southern rock vibe to it, featuring hard-hitting real percussion, electric guitars that sound that like they were ripped straight out of “Simple Man” (the title of which pops up in the lyrics), and even an organ floating around deep in the background. Unlike A Thousand Horses, though, Gilbert stops short of copying the band’s sound outright, and instead opts for a more restrained, acoustic-guitar-driven approach on the verses while only turning the guitars loose on the choruses and bridge solo. The resulting mix fails to set a consistent atmosphere, and it tends towards brighter, positive tones but throws in a number of minor chords that introduce some uncertainty, causing the listener to question whether this track is suppose to celebrate the narrator’s supporters or declare his defiance to his detractors.
Gilbert’s rough, raspy delivery matches his public persona well, and while he walks a fine line between differentiating him from his peers and falling into Kip-Moore-level hoarseness, he mostly avoids the pitfalls and sounds pretty decent overall. The song doesn’t test his range or flow all that much, and it traps him in his lower range on the verses (causing his voice to occasionally bottom out), but it raises the ceiling on the chorus to let him exert a bit more power and get his point across. Overall, he does a good job selling his material here, and while I wouldn’t call his performance spectacular, it’s enough to get the job done.
The lyrics are where things start to go off the rails for this song, as they are more confusing than anything else. The song opens with this passage:
Ain’t gonna lie, I can count on both hands
My down to ride ’til the day I die friends
To get them, I’d like to think
That I’m few and far between
…Huh? What exactly are “down to ride” friends? How does being “few and far between” let you “get them?” What does Gilbert being “few and far between” even mean?!
The song is basically just the narrator saying that people don’t like him because they don’t know him. There’s nothing wrong with this (and it may actually be true), but there’s a hint of ego and self-centeredness behind declarations like “even the ones that said forget him, you can bet they ain’t forgot me,” and “I’ll ask forgiveness before I ask permission.” Instead of trying to understand why people may not like him (or even just acknowledging this fact and saying “hey, to each their own”), the narrator writes them off as inconsequential haters and proclaims that those who really matter think he’s really great. It’s a self-serving attitude that overshadows the more-interesting pieces of the writing, such as how the narrator has earned the trust of those who trust no one else. Unfortunately, this attitude plays right into Gilbert’s decent sales job and reputation as a couldn’t-care-less outlaw, and completely undermines the positive spin that he and the production are trying to push.
Overall, “The Ones That Like Me” is a confusing track that tries to be portray Brantley Gilbert as a tough guy with a heart of gold, but features too much attitude and not enough empathy to make the idea stick. In the end, the song just kind of exists without offering a good reason to do so, and if he keeps releasing pointless material like this, “the ones that said forget him” actually will forget him, and so will everyone else.
Rating: 5/10. Don’t bother with this one.