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.