Review – Jerrod Niemann’s “Blue Bandana”

Jerrod Niemann’s musical run last year was tainted by a disastrous single called “Donkey.” The auto tune drivel of terrible rap and spoken word proved to be too much alongside the ridiculous lyrics, and radio all but wrote Niemann off. But Niemann hasn’t written music off as he’s back in the studio gearing up for more releases. “It was fun to try out some different things and challenge myself in the studio, as a songwriter and producer, but this song is very much real-sounding with real instruments … and was something that was missing out there,” Niemann tells Billboard of his new single, “Blue Bandana.” He also says, “I wanted to get rid of all the effects and compression. We turned it all off and really deadened the sound like they did in the classic rock and Southern rock days. I feel that it really allows the record to breathe a little bit.” For the most part, I’d have to agree that “Blue Bandana” is more natural and organic compared to Niemann’s last few singles.

The first minute of the song carries a nice acoustic production to it. The first 30 seconds are just Niemann’s voice and an acoustic guitar before a subdued percussion track fills in. You can imagine Niemann with the guitar and a drummer on Djembe or other type of hand drum following along. It sounds great, and vastly different from the R&B styles infecting country music. However, any sort of originality in the song is wiped out when the first chorus ends as roaring electric guitars turn this acoustic country song into a generic mid-tempo rock anthem.

Lyrically, the song depicts a free-spirited girl who loves to follow her favorite bands from music fest to music fest across the nation. Writers Ben Goldsmith, C.J. Solar and Andrew Scott Wills tell a story similar to that of Kenny Chesney’s “Wild Child.” The big difference with “Blue Bandana,” however, is how the writers heavily rely on name-dropping nearly every well-known hipster music festival short of SXSW. The chorus begins with:

She’s a Bonaroo baby,
she’s Coachella crazy,
She’ll be folking out in Newport,
you’ve probably seen her before

“Blue Bandana” is a song that’s unique enough to standout among the backwoods party anthems and bedroom rendezvous ballads, yet it’s safe enough to appeal to the common listener. There are no risks taken with this song. This is the type of song you’d expect from someone who was all but kicked off the radio last year because of “Donkey.” There’s some good in “Blue Bandana,” but there’s a lot I could do without. The song relies too much on naming dropping festivals which takes the focus away from story of the girl in said blue bandana. While the settings and actions are different from many generic country songs, “Blue Bandana” is still a song that focuses on describing settings and images surrounding the characters, rather than actually telling any sort of story.

5.5/10  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

6 thoughts on “Review – Jerrod Niemann’s “Blue Bandana”

  1. Scotty J July 22, 2015 / 11:31 am

    This guy is the perfect embodiment of country music in 2015. He is like a junkie that will do whatever it takes to get a hit. Does EDM type stuff til he pushes that too far then professes that he really wants things more natural sounding but still has to name drop every corporate festival under the sun.

    To paraphrase the Aaron Tippin song if you don’t stand for something you’ll try anything.

    I give this a 4/10 because musically it’s not the worst but the lyrics are too much and the same sentiment could have been established without the cheap name dropping. Of course that would have taken a little more thought and talent for the writers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Josh Schott July 22, 2015 / 11:55 am

    This is much better than “Donkey,” but then again you have nowhere to go but up after that terrible song. I kind of pity Niemann at this point because he will never reach the heights of “Drink To That All Night” ever again. I’m actually surprised his label hasn’t dropped him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raymond July 22, 2015 / 12:15 pm

      I’m not he only had a couple of misfires after Drink To That All Night. Now if this song performs badly then Jerrod’s in hot water. He needs a hit though soon otherwise he could be dropped.

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  3. jb July 22, 2015 / 12:14 pm

    What percentage of country’s core listenership—female, 20s to 40s—is going to know what Bonnaroo and Coachella are? (I had a similar thought with “Wild Child” and its reference to Bonnaroo and Burning Man.)

    Dropping these festival names, which are far beyond the experience of the majority of the audience, is more evidence of mainstream country’s desperate pursuit of mainstream coolness. Which can’t be done without seeming uncool.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nadia Lockheart July 22, 2015 / 12:54 pm

    This is basically piggybacking off of Kenny Chesney’s “Wild Child”, for better or worse.

    Much like “Wild Child”, “Blue Bandana” is trying to milk the summer festival crowd for all it’s worth and market mainstream country to younger, more alternative, somewhat hipster demographics that are more likely to enjoy Alabama Shakes and Houndmouth and love going to Bonnaroo and Burning Man.

    “Blue Bandana” actually sounds pretty good, and so it’s heartening to see that Niemann took the lessons of his “Donkey” follies to heart by offering something more stripped-down. In truth, this actually sounds exactly like something Kenny Chesney would record. Even his vocal tries to emulate Chesney somewhat. The production gets admittedly a little cluttered and unnecessarily louder by the second verse onward, but melodically it doesn’t lose focus and so that is refreshing to see.

    Lyrically, this succumbs to the same shortcomings of “Wild Child”, however. Despite some nice imagery here and there including the muddy Wakarusa and a Carolina sunset, this doesn’t reveal anything particularly memorable or even sentimental about the female subject. Much like all we get from “Wild Child” is that she’s a free spirited rebel who goes wherever the wind suggests she goes, but is hardly a song about respecting and empowering women in the broader sense like Chesney made it out to be…………….all we get from “Blue Bandana” is that this woman LOVES going to just about every musical festival abound and she LOVES to jam.

    There’s nothing wrong with any of that, per se. It’s just this trope has been done to death countless times and would have been more memorable had we actually gotten more of a glimpse as to the strong, independent and fun-loving woman she is rather than another face in the crowd with a blue bandana on her forehead.

    *

    Yeah, I actually am in absolute agreement with your score. I, too, am going to give this a 5.5/10. It gets enough right to give me hope Jerrod Niemann has learned the errors of his “High Noon” ways, but he needs to either look to better-written songs or hone his own songwriting if he intends to stick it out for the long haul.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jack Gaines August 20, 2015 / 11:28 am

    Apparently, this song is stalling at #43 on the Airplay chart, and has not reached the Hot Country Songs chart. Looks like Donkey has left a permanent scar.

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