Joe Nichols – “The Shape I’m In”
Songwriters: Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip
In the opening seconds of Joe Nichols’ new single “The Shape I’m In,” a short, pensive harmonica riff cuts through the haze of a drunken morning coming down. The instrument, so often representative of that hopeful overlap found at the end of lonesome reflection and the start of new beginnings, shortly passes off its emotive responsibilities to the singer’s nuanced performance.
Nichols’ voice has never needed much decoration, and the sleepy production on this single is accordingly spare. Still, interesting additions such as the soft patter of a bongo drum backing the song’s chorus bring a touch of sonic airiness to a tune that approaches lost love in similar fashion.
“The Shape I’m In” is delivered by a narrator coming to terms with the consequences of “a number on a napkin, a pounding in [his] head.” While the pain is still palpable and marked by lyrical gems such as “I lost a hell of a woman/Freedom caught me on the chin,” the narrator has managed to reach an all-important milestone of not crying at the visage of his ex-lover.
It’s an obstacle also tackled by Brooks and Dunn in the similar–albeit much darker–“It’s Getting Better All the Time,” but Nichols finds relief here in a few good doses of humor. Unlike so many honky-tonkers before him, Nichols takes a glass half-full approach to this transition, a nice thematic reflection of the turning seasons: As radio listeners recover from summer song burnout, there is a pleasing connection to the coming months that bring with them changes in temperatures and priorities.
In “The Shape I’m In,” it’s the little things that add up–the same of which can be said for the singer himself, who has quietly carried a fifteen-year recording career dotted with three number one songs. While this tune has the momentum of chart-topper “Gimme That Girl” behind it, the loads of self-deprecating charm are all its own.
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