Jerrod Niemann – “What Do You Want”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | September 23rd, 2010

Jerrod NiemannSongwriters: 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.

Thumbs Up

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  1. Thomas
    September 23, 2010 at 6:33 am

    …this is beautiful and it could be sung by someone wearing a cowboy-hat, but one or the other would appear a little out of place.

  2. Ben Foster
    September 23, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I like this song quite a bit better than “Lover, Lover.” Your review hit on a few points that I didn’t pick up on, such as how the production and background vocals seem to echo the story told in the lyrics. A great performance.

  3. Benny
    September 23, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Yeah it’s one of the standouts on the album and I was glad when it was announced a single. Like it more than “Lover, Lover” too, and I also like the way it it’s produced and how Jerrod sings it – he’s got a great feel for rhythm.

  4. Rick
    September 23, 2010 at 10:44 am

    And the big question is will Top 40 Country Radio keep the welcome mat out for Jerrod with a second single that is not a bouncy pure pop song? Jerrod’s potential fate as a one hit wonder hangs in the balance and in the hands of AirHead radio programmers! Only the Shadow knows…

  5. Noah Eaton
    September 23, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I like this song on its own, but as a single I believe it’s weak.

    I find myself nodding off listening to this. This sounds more like something that would fit the vibe in a corner store cafe at eleven in the evening than a radio single. It’s pleasant enough listening to, but I can nonetheless even easily mistake this as something I’d hear on the weekly syndicated adult alternative-leaning radio program eTown, late on a Sunday evening.

    Lyrically and musically I agree with this review regarding the “authentic commitment to the exploration of pain and love.” and are the strongest aspects of the track. Regarding the vocals, Niemann is vocally at his best during the second verse, where you can tell there’s a little more urgency behind his voice at that time. That said, he sounds bored elsewhere. He sounds flat and disengaged during the chorus, as though he’s more mumbling “What do you want, what do you want, what do you want from me?” than singing. It’s one thing to understate your vocals, but another thing to simply sound disinterested, and Niemann’s performance leans more toward the latter here to my ears.

    I give this a Thumbs Up as an album cut, but as a single I’m not inclined to go either direction as I’d be partially asleep in making a verdict anyway.

  6. Adam
    September 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I’m not a fan of this song or the album for that matter.

  7. Noeller
    September 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I was a big fan of “Lover Lover” and the album struck a chord with me as well. This is a guy that has a great voice, and more importantly, knows how to use it properly. The fact that he’s buddies with Jamey Johnson and Randy Hauser is a big bonus, too.

    I was at a Sony showcase put on for insiders recently, and heard this song and saw the video for it and everyone in the room (mostly media but some other industry types) was blown away. There was a huge ovation for it, so I think we can safely assume that the track will have power at radio.

  8. Drew
    September 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I’m glad to see this was picked as the next single. It has the highest play count out of his songs on my iTunes, so I must like it haha. Honestly, a strong song, and he should have more well-earned success from it.

  9. Joseph
    September 23, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Very nice review. I enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to seeing the new video.

    Noeller, that is pretty exciting to hear about the Sony showcase. Will be interesting to see if that excitement carries over to the radio stations.

  10. Sue
    September 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    What Do You Want is an awesome song and I am sure it will be a big hit! It’s a sensitive song sung in a mellow voice. He can hear his pain. Great job.

  11. Keith
    September 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Finally another single review! I thought the song was okay – not great, but not terrible either.

    Thanks for the review. It would be nice to have them almost every day like we used to though, instead of maybe one a week. I wish you would do another Mailbag too! Those are great.

  12. Steve
    September 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    When I heard Jerrod’s first single “One More Drinkin’ Song”, I had high hopes for this guy. “Lover, Lover” was okay, but this is more pop than I was expecting him to put out.

  13. Leeann
    September 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I admit to enjoying “Lover Lover” for what it is, but there’s nothing about this one that I like: not the vocal, the production, the melody or the lyrics. You made a compelling case for it though.

  14. Ben Foster
    September 23, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    I second Keith’s petition for more mailbags and single reviews.

  15. Richard
    October 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    This song has just an awesome harmony… Jerrod Niemann deserves another #1 with this, I don’t care if it’s not as well suited for radio. It’s a beautiful song.

  16. Rick L
    October 17, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Ever since discovering 9513 , I have been a fan of it’s “tell it like it is ” approach to …well …everything it covers. I am totally entertained by the album and singles reviews for this reason. Lately , however , I wonder if it may be time to adjust our reference points for these critiques , (he said sadly). Yes , most serious song listeners and critique rs may have some problems with this suggestion but I doubt they won’t appreciate the “logic” behind it . It seems no matter what the genre , commercial music is once again becoming more ear candy-like ( think late 50’s , early 60’s ..maybe some disco era ditties ). To fault a song fro being too memorable because of this is ..well…a bit insane isn’t it . Commercial music isn’t designed to change the world or compete with the I CHING in the wisdom for the ages department . It’s designed to stick to your brain long enough to get you to the next sales pitch from that car dealer or roofing tradesmen . And surprise, surprise …it DOES ! . There’s an off button on that car radio and there’s some amazingly original , progressive, inspiring and innovative music waiting for us to stumble upon it when we REALLY need an I CHING fix but can’t find our Kindle .

    rick

  17. Tom UK
    December 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Can’t stand it. A whiney, tedious, mediocre, pseudo-serious snoozefest.

  18. Tamara
    January 5, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I love this songg. explains exactly how i feel at the momentt.

  19. Rachel Z
    January 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE. its honest and real.

  20. Heather
    February 1, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    All of his music is infused with HARMONY! It shows true musicality!

  21. Lynne
    February 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Just heard this song for the first time on the radio today. Thought to myself “sounds like Jerrod Neiman”. When I got home I went straight to the computer to find out who sings it and was delighted to find it was him. I am from Liberal, KS. and Jerrod graduated from Liberal High School back when my own children did. It has been fun to see he is doing well; after many years of hard work. This is indeed a beautiful song. I don’t listen to much music and when a song catches my attention ….. it has to be good. This is good; really good.

  22. Dawn
    July 27, 2011 at 12:37 am

    I’m not much into country music, but love Jerrod and love this song. Lover Lover is catchy, but this one appeals (or can to some folks anyway) on a visceral level. I took the beat as symbolic for a heartbeat…rhythmic and slow…like when your heart thumps at the sound of another’s voice, good or bad. He can actually use his voice, he’s not a typical “twang for twanging’s sake” singer, and he doesn’t look like a cornfed bubba. Lovely change of pace for country music and the one hit wonders it had been churning out lately.

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