Written by Jordanne Mickle. 15 April 2015.
Brooks & Dunn both used their songwriting skills for “Brand New Man”, a verse-chorus style song. Their skills proved to be helpful when incorporating figures of speech. The use of the verse-chorus style is perfect for storytelling, with the verses telling the story and the chorus repeating the main message or theme of the song. “Brand New Man” tells the story of a man who was living a reckless life which involved “burn[ing] beer joints down” and as far as relationships were concerned, the narrator would “love ‘em [women] and leave ‘em”. All of this was his lifestyle before he met the woman in the song. After the narrator met her, he was “baptized” and now leads this new lifestyle where he was “born to love again”. Between the verses and the multiple repetitions of the chorus, it is evident that this song is about how people can change others by showing them love. I really like that the song is titled “Brand New Man”, because in both of their careers, Brooks & Dunn are headed in a new direction. When recording “Brand New Man”, Brooks & Dunn did not use any of the studio musicians other artists were using. They took a chance on some newer players, as part of their search for a “fresh”, “unique”, and “special” sound (Price). These “brand new men” were creating a “brand new band”.
Their use of figurative language is incredibly strong in this song. The song utilizes euphemism, alludes to Biblical references, and uses idiom. “I saw the light” is a euphemism for dying. In this sense, it is being used to say how the narrator’s previous reckless way of living is dead. And now that he has been “baptized”, he will change his ways. Baptism is big in Christianity. It symbolizes giving up your old sinful ways, to live for Jesus. “Fire in your touch and the flame in your eyes” is talking about how the narrator views this woman, passionate. “I was a rolling stone” is an idiom. By describing himself using this idiom, most people understand that the narrator is someone who does not want to settle down in one place for a long time. Brooks & Dunn did not have to write this song using figurative language, however it was a smart move to showcase their songwriting skills in their debut song. Another smart move was using these idioms in particular. “I Saw the Light” was a Hank Williams song. Hank was known for leading a reckless lifestyle just as with the subject of “Brand New Man”. “Like a Rolling Stone” is a Bob Dylan song. By nodding to both of these artists, Brooks & Dunn are subtly telling their audience that they know country music and are paying respect to these huge names.
Another important aspect of this song is the delivery, or performance. In the music video, the duo are both dressed nice for the concert portion of the video. Both wear a button down collared shirt. And while Brooks sports a vest and cowboy hat, Dunn dons a nice jacket. In the desert and bar scenes they lose the nice jacket and coat, and replace them with a denim jacket, a leather jacket, and sunglasses. This could be a subtle nod to the neo-traditional style that George Strait was leading at the time, while still living up to the simple style of apparel in the country music genre. The woman in the video wears a white dress. White typically is a symbol for purity and new beginnings. The woman in the song seems pure of heart and she does offer a new beginning for the narrator. The locations in the music video are important as well. The concert scenes nod at the fact that this was Brooks & Dunn’s first debut and they want the concert in the music video to look like a fun experience so people would go to their actual concerts. The bar scenes exhibit how the narrator was living before he met the woman. And the desert scenes show that the duo are just good ol’ country boys and satisfy the outdoors trope of country music. Even though the song itself and the music video are two entities, I believe that the music video only adds to the main idea of the song. The dancing woman and Dunn’s turn for “you turned my life around” are goofy, however I think that just comes with the 1990s music video hijinks and adds to the fact that Brooks & Dunn would most likely not have gained the popularity they did if they tried to make it in the business today.
“Brand New Man” was Brooks & Dunn’s first single to become a number one on the country charts. It was the first song that the two had written together, with the help of Don Cook, the same day the duo was created by Arista recording company. When asked what their hopes and goals were for their first record, Brooks replied “we were wanting a gold record and a No.1, but I don’t think either one of us thought that was a real goal as much as a dream” (Price). Dunn adds that “A gold record was an issue of survival more than anything. That’s what we had to do to be able to re-up for the second record” (Price). At the time of release, the pressure of the record’s ability of success rested upon Brooks & Dunn. Luckily for the duo, over time the record would be certified platinum six times. Ronnie Dunn recalls being on a plane when American Airlines announced over the speaker that the song had hit number one, and once he and Kix Brooks landed in New Mexico received a standing ovation (CMIL). Overall, “Brand New Man” was the debut of an excellent duo who set out to prove that they could produce something “new” in the country music genre. It was a combination of exquisite songwriting and an explosive performance which brought this song to the popularity it deserves.
|0:00||Chorus||“I saw the light…”||The song begins with a drum sound then immediately Brooks & Dunn begin their chorus accompanied by guitar chords. Beginning with the chorus really drills the idea of how much the narrator has changed.|
|0:14||Instrumental interlude||Steel guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums||The interlude gives the listeners a break to prepare to listen to the first verse of the song.|
|0:19||Verse 1||“Well the whole town’s talking…”||Dunn starts the first verse with his honky-tonk twang. The first verse introduces the narrator as someone who was very free, but iterates that the path they were on led to “you”.|
|0:34||Verse 2||“I used to have a wild side…”||Dunn sings of the narrator who was very reckless until he met this woman.|
|0:49||Chorus||“Oh I saw the light…”||Brooks & Dunn sing the chorus together. Again the chorus is much louder and upbeat compared to the verses, symbolizing how this was a big change in the narrator’s life.|
|1:03||Instrumental interlude||Steel guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums||After listening to two verses and a strong chorus, the song gives another brief break to the listeners to prepare for more verses.|
|1:09||Verse 3||“I used to love ‘em and leave ‘em..”||This verse sung by Dunn again focuses on how the narrator treated relationships previous to meeting this woman.|
|1:23||Verse 4||“Baby me and you together…”||This verse is different than the others, because rather than focusing on the past, this verse talks about the previous state of relationship between the narrator and the woman. It also mentions of the future.|
|1:39||Chorus||“Yeah I saw the light…”||After focusing on the present and future of the relationship, the duo reiterates how the narrator’s life has changed for the better.|
|1:54||Instrumental break||Electric guitar||This part in the song gives Kix Brooks a little bit of the limelight. Since he only joins in on the chorus of many songs, including this one, he can sometimes be seen as a backup singer. Him playing the electric guitar lets the audience know that he is still there and important to the overall sound.|
|2:09||Chorus||“Oh I saw the light…”||The chorus repeats to state again how the narrator has changed.|
|2:24||Chorus||“Yeah I saw the light…”||The repetition of the chorus gives a feeling that the narrator is happy where he now is and never plans on going back to his previous reckless lifestyle.|
|2:40||Outro||“Yeah I’m born to love again…”||A focus on these two lines emphasizes how it was love that changed this man to who he is now.|
- “Brooks & Dunn Recall Favorite Memories.” Countrymusicislove.com. N.p., 22 Apr. 2010. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <http://www.countrymusicislove.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/brooks-dunn-countrymusicislove.jpg>.
- Price, Deborah E. “The Billboard Interview Brooks & Dunn.” Billboard 21 June 2003: B-2–B-17. Print.