Jerrod Niemann – “What Do You Want”
Songwriters: Jerrod Niemann, Rachel Bradshaw and Richie Brown
Newcomer Jerrod Niemann knows the value of a little repetition. Not the monotonous, expected kind featured on country radio and favored by flavors of the month, but the well-designed rhetorical device that turned out the catchy “Lover, Lover” and sent it to the top of the country charts.
“What Do You Want,” a hurt-filled, slow-tempo follow-up to that smashing debut, relies on emotion over production and employs that same looping conceit to similar success. Niemann tiredly slurs out line after line of “So what do you want/What do you want from me?” and “You keep takin’ me back, takin’ me back” to no tidy answers or conclusions.
While its verses succinctly hit on three key reasons ex-lovers have for getting back in touch – hear some begging, do some bragging and get some booty – the lyrical peak comes mid-song. Lyrics “I get so tired of living like this/I don’t have the time/And neither do my friends” are so ragged and honest, it’s hard not to share his exhausted pain.
Beyond a titular question fundamental to all flames that just won’t die, there’s an additional and oddly comforting repetition in the tune’s production. The pulsing drumbeats found at the song’s beginning and end could play in a continuous loop, not dissimilar from the cyclical nature of the protagonist’s played-out relationship. The female harmony, sung by co-writer Rachel Bradshaw, acts as the voice of his lover; part urging, part listless, her echoes remind listeners that there’s another side to this story and take the song up an ethereal notch or two.
With no steel, no fiddle and no banjo, the song doesn’t fit nicely into the “real” country label some fans hankered for in backlash to the pop-flavored offerings of late. Regardless, its authentic commitment to the exploration of pain and love is an unabashed, modern take on honky-tonk’s favorite theme.
Beyond its lyrical and thematic reiterations, the most successful repetition the subtle, haunting “What Do You Want” is likely to achieve will be the chart-topping repetition of its predecessor.
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