Two years after releasing the infamous “Donkey” as a single to country radio, Jerrod Niemann appears finished at Sony Music Nashville. Niemann has become irrelevant at country radio ever since “Donkey” was a huge flop at radio and commercially. Many Niemann fans have been fearful that his spot at major label Arista Nashville was in jeopardy and now it appears he is no longer on the label. Suspicion first came up when he recently released a new single “Yellow Brick Road,” an old song that was on a record of the same name he released in 2013 under the label Aria Tree Records. The song was written in 2006 by Niemann, Billy Joe Walker and Ray Termini.
Sony Music Nashville, which Arista Nashville is an imprint under, has yet to publicly announce anything or issue any official statements regarding the status of Niemann. Nothing has been announced from Niemann himself either. He is also still listed on Sony Music Nashville’s official site as an artist. Country Perspective has reached out to Sony Music Nashville and has yet to receive a response. If we do receive official word or something is announced, this story will be updated.
In the meantime we can only speculate. If this is indeed true, it is not a big surprise at all. Niemann’s latest single “Blue Bandanna” failed to crack the top thirty at country radio, despite being a return to his original sound. Niemann’s reputation and appeal has been tainted ever since he released the aforementioned “Donkey” to country radio. It was the follow-up to his smash EDM-laden hit “Drink To That All Night,” which reached #1 on the country chart and #34 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was easily the biggest hit of Niemann’s career and the first country song to be heavily influenced by EDM to have big success. However, many country fans saw it as a “sell out” move by Niemann and a betrayal of his original sound. Niemann of course defended the song fervently in interviews.
But this was just the beginning of the end for Niemann, as him and label quickly put out a remix of the song featuring Pitbull, which I thoroughly tore apart. It did pretty much nothing on the charts, as Niemann and company hoped to replicate the success Florida Georgia Line saw when they remixed “Cruise” with Nelly and shot to superstardom. In a panic move, Arista Nashville decided to follow this up with “Donkey.” It relied on EDM even more heavily and the lyrics were at best childish and stupid. For those unaware or don’t remember, it won Country Perspective’s 2014 Worst Song of the Year award. Derek rightly gave this song the thrashing it deserved:
Why, you may ask, is it so bad? Well to start, Niemann’s voice here is way too distorted to make anyone believe it came from an actual human. This distorted robot provides us with an awful spoken-word rap about wrecking his truck and being left penniless. So in order to get to the party in town, Niemann hops on his trusty steed to ride him in. Just read the lyrics to the chorus. “Gonna ride that donkey donkey, down to the honky tonky, it’s gonna get funky funky.” I can’t believe that anyone with a pulse could actually think that these lyrics were worthy to be heard, let alone even put on paper. I have to imagine that everyone from the writers to the producers, even Niemann himself, were drunk through the entire process of creating this poor excuse for music. That’s the only possible explanation that I could accept for this song.
I myself remember remarking on numerous occasions how this single is probably the death nail of Niemann’s mainstream country career and may never recover. While bro country fans’ standards may be low, even they rejected this poor excuse of a song. I hate to say I told you so, but I did. And I’m not taking pleasure in seeing Niemann’s career bomb. It’s never good to see someone lose a job or a contract. No, this is just a simple reminder to any artist who is thinking of selling out or betraying their core fans what happens when you listen to a label executive. While selling out may get you fame and fortune in the short run, it will probably come back to bite you in the ass in the long run.
(By the way I would post the music video, but they took it down. I guess they realized how stupid it looked.)