So of all the country artists whose style Jerrod Niemann could have copied…he chose Walker Hayes?
I previously described Niemann’s as resembling an EKG, but after his last single “God Made A Woman” only made it to #55 on Billboard’s airplay chart, it appears that his career is on the verge of flatlining. In response, Niemann and his team have shifted back to the Metropolitan sound that briefly revived his career in 2013 (“Drink To That All Night”) and released “I Got This” as the third single from his This Ride album. It’s a stripped-down, half-spoken track that bears a strong similarity to Hayes’s debut abomination “You Broke Up With Me,” yet Niemann and his producers elevate the song far higher than it has any right to be, and far beyond anything Hayes could even dream of doing.
The production opens with a slick electric guitar and a methodical drum set, and…well, that’s pretty much all you get. While the percussion is the prominent instrument here (the guitar is relegated to basic background riff duty until the bridge solo), both are heavily restrained and kept at a low volume for the entire song (the drum noise increases for the choruses, but just barely). You wouldn’t think that there would be enough raw noise here to establish any sort of groove, but the mix’s simple rhythm and moderately-fast tempo are actually kind of catchy, and it creates a chill, subdued vibe with just enough energy to keep things moving. It’s an impressive demonstration of the “less is more” philosophy, and it’s probably my favorite part of the song.
For his part, Niemann manages to overcome the song’s many shortcomings to deliver a believable performance that (mostly) manages to stay out of the gutter. To be honest, this song is a terrible fit for Niemann’s voice:
- The song’s key is set way too low, trapping Niemann too far down in his range and makes him sound a bit rough and uncomfortable.
- The verses are done in the annoying talk-sing cadence that seems to be all the rage these days, and while Niemann has the flow to handle this sort of song, his voice loses a lot of its usual tone when he does it.
- The writing itself is pretty shallow, requiring a Herculean effort from Niemann to keep it from feeling too sleazy or creepy.
Despite all this, Niemann turns in an earnest, enjoyable effort on the song, making the narrator feel more sincere than sleazy and maintaining just enough tone across the verses to make them tolerable. Given the degree of difficulty involved, I’m actually kind of impressed.
As I touched on here, the writing here is pretty shallow: The narrator claims to have all the pieces in place for a fun night on the town, and is just asking a woman if she wants to be the one to share it all with him. All the usual Bro-Country/Metropolitan tropes make an appearance: Drinking, night driving, partying, playing love songs on a guitar, etc. The actual lyrics walk a fine line between originality and outright bizarreness (“Letting my mind unwind in my own jet stream,” asking the woman to “play the lead in this cool movie that I’m dreaming up right now,” etc.), and the “Black and Milds” reference completely fell flat with me (Wikipedia says it’s a brand of cigar?). Finally, the song does feel a bit sketchy at times (the movie line, “let yourself just let go”), and probably would have come across as really creepy in the hands of a lesser singer (Walker Hayes, for example). It’s a tribute to both Niemann and his producers that this song turns out as listenable as it does, because the writing provides no help at all.
I’ve seen some good singers work miracles with mediocre material before (Brett Eldredge on “The Long Way,” Darius Rucker on “For The First Time”), and “I Got This” falls into this same category. The song is a generic, poorly-constructed Metropolitan track that I have no business liking, but the one-two punch of Jerrod Niemann’s vocals and simple-yet-effective production turn it into a enjoyable, toe-tapping listen. Niemann may be copying the style of Sam Hunt and Walker Hayes here, but given the results, maybe Hunt and Hayes should be the ones copying him.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth a few spins on the turntable.