Single - Jelly Roll - Need A Favor
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‘Need A Favor’ by Jelly Roll - Lyrics & Meaning

June 2, 2023 1:58 pm GMT
Last Edited July 31, 2023 9:26 am GMT

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Jelly Roll - ‘Need A Favor’

Label: BBR Music Group

Release Date: December 9th 2022

Album: Whitsitt Chapel

Producers: Austin Nivarel

Songwriters: Jason DeFord, Austin Nivarel, Joe Ragosta and Rob Ragosta

Chart Performance:

  • No. 14 on Billboard Hot 100
  • No. 3 on Billboard Country Airplay
  • No. 3 on Billboard Hot Country Songs
  • No. 1 on Mediabase

The Background:

If we look back over the past six months, and consider who has been the main break-out star in country music, there are inevitably dozens of candidates whose names immediately leap out, from new faces such as Megan Moroney and Bailey Zimmerman to more established up-and-comers, including the likes of Zach Bryan and Lainey Wilson.

But few, if any, have been as unexpected and game-changing an introduction into Nashville's coveted sphere of influence as Jelly Roll. Originally a rapper, then a rockstar, the Tennessee native tried his hand at country music in 2021 with the soulful, agonised ballad, ‘Son Of A Sinner’, which went on to become his first Country Radio No. 1.

Since then, he's earned himself a blockbuster Hulu documentary, a trio of 2023 CMT Awards and an army of passionate new fans who are lapping up Jelly Roll's shape-shifting sound.

With a troubled past that was tainted by a number of arrests, prolonged stints in jail and a variety of traumatic, life-altering experiences, Jelly Roll frequently translates his struggles into raw, visceral lyricism, epitomised by his 2022 single, ‘Need A Favor’.

Released ahead of his hotly anticipated 2023 album, Whitsitt Chapel, ‘Need A Favor’ doubled-down on Jelly Roll's commitment to using music as a means of comforting and reassuring listeners.

Jelly often seeks to do this through religious imagery and faith-filled messaging, conveyed throughout Whitsitt Chapel on tracks such as ‘Church’ and ‘Nail Me’.

‘Need A Favor’ is the undisputed keystone around which Whitsitt Chapel was constructed, and towards the end of July, the anthemic song surged to the top of the charts to become Jelly Roll's second consecutive No. 1 at Country Radio. Boosted by his rousing, choir-backed performance of the track during the 2023 CMT Awards, many expect ‘Need A Favor’ to become the second No. 1 single of Jelly Roll's career.

The Sound:

Jelly Roll prides himself on his chameleonic style of music, which draws inspiration from a diverse range of genres. ‘Need A Favor’ embodies this, with Jelly Roll's soul-searching verses pivoting powerfully around a stirring, high-octane hook.

As usual, Jelly's raspy, evocative vocals are anchored by a driving, hip hop beat, while the rest of the sonic architecture is built upon a more country-leaning, guitar-based foundation.

Opening boldly with the chorus accompanied by simple, sparse instrumentation, the song then launches straight into Jelly Roll's introspective lines about the flaws and imperfections that he feels are obstructing his path towards spiritual redemption.

When he performed ‘Need A Favor’ at the 2023 CMT Awards, Jelly Roll was accompanied by a choir, which enhanced the celestial, angelic feel of the hook, cleverly juxtaposing Jelly Roll's confessions. The studio version also incorporates this, with the chorus growing more and more choral as the song progresses.

The Meaning:

“I only talk to God, when I need a favor
And I only pray, when I ain't got a prayer
So, who the hell am I?
Who the hell am I, to expect a savior?
Oh-oh-ohh
If I only talk to God, when I need a favor?
But God, I need a favor”

‘Need A Favor’ is full to the brim with witty turns of phrase and satisfying wordplay. For instance, the lines ‘I only pray, when I ain't got a prayer’ and ‘Who the hell am I, to expect a savior?’ both subtly flip commonly used expressions that carry religious undertones.

‘Need A Favor’ is pervaded by a sense of self-reproach, as Jelly questions how he can possibly expect God to hear him out and help him yet again, when he only turns to prayer when it's his last resort.

“I know Amazing Grace
But, I ain't been livin' them words
Swear, I spend more Sundays
Drunk off my ass, than I have in church
Hardcover King James
Only been savin' dust, on the nightstand
And I don't know what to say
By the time I fold my hands”

Jelly Roll aims to craft music for those who are in pain and who aren't necessarily regular Sunday morning attendees at church (see Whitsitt Chapel's ‘The Lost’, for example).

By choosing to be vulnerable and open about his self-serving approach to faith, he ensures the spirit of ‘Need A Favor’ is made more widely accessible than traditional gospel songs.

“Yeah, I owe you more than one
And, beggars can't be choosers
But, I'll pay for all I've done
Just, please, don't let me lose her”

For the majority of ‘Need A Favor’, the specific predicament that the song's protagonist finds himself in is unclear, and towards the end of the second verse he seemingly hints that he's referring to relationship difficulties. He croons “Just, please, don't let me lose her”, as he pleads with God to come to his aid once more.

However, in the music video for ‘Need A Favor’, it becomes apparent that the lead character is actually singing about his daughter, who's suffering from cancer. Thankfully, it's not based on real-life events, but this doesn't detract from the heart-rending nature of the song.

“Hangin' in there, just barely
Throwin' up prayers, like Hail Mary's
If You're still there, Lord spare me
Oh my God, oh my God, Hail Mary”

Despite being full of self-deprecation, guilt and remorse, ‘Need A Favor’ plays as a generally uplifting, inspirational track. This is in part due to the electrifying backing, but it also stems from Jelly Roll's impassioned, emotionally charged delivery. As a result, the listener is left without doubt that Jelly's calls for assistance will be answered.

What has Jelly Roll said about ‘Need A Favor’?

During a 2023 appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, Jelly Roll explained that ‘Need A Favor’ was born from his experience revisiting the backroad church of his youth, Whitsitt Chapel, with his daughter. Following this, he was inspired to create an album about ‘going to church’, but one that was aimed at an audience that was perhaps being left cold by classic faith-based music.

He asked, “I was like, ‘What [does] worship music for sinners sound like?’”, before going on to explain, “When you're in church, it's ‘Holy, holy, you are great’, and I was like, ‘I don't necessarily feel that way, so how do I feel?’ You know what I mean? And then it was like, ‘I only talk to God when I need a favour’....I was like, ‘We've got to build it with a choir and big production. I want that old stomp, clap, that old church feel’.

In the same conversation, Jelly Roll shared how he was determined to give ‘Need A Favor’ a motivational, optimistic undercurrent, “Have you ever been to a Sunday in the south worship service? They're going to convince you you're a horrible human at some point, [that] you're going to hell, and then at the end, they'll hit a major key instead of a minor one finally and go, ‘But there's hope’... So I was like, ‘How do I write that?’”

In a recent interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Jelly Roll touched on the genre-blending that glues the sonic structure of ‘Need A Favor’ together, and how this is becoming more and more prominent in Music City, “Even when you get to the end of [‘Need A Favor’] - “Hangin’ in there, just barely / Throwin’ up prayers, like Hail Mary's” - that's a hip hop groove, right? There are so many blurred lines here now in this town, I've never seen it better. The best songs that will ever be written I think will come out of the next generation of these Nashville kids”.

Although Jelly Roll modestly refuses to classify himself as part of this pioneering new wave of artists emerging out of Nashville, the impact he is already having on country music is unquestionable.

‘Need A Favor’ is an invigorating, modern-day hymn carefully tailored for today's listenership, and it's explosion in popularity is impressive, but perhaps somewhat unsurprising. Although Jelly Roll has already achieved so much, you can't help but feel this is only the tip of the iceberg for the trailblazing maverick.

For the full lyrics to Jelly Roll's ‘Need A Favor’, see below:

“I only talk to God, when I need a favor
And I only pray, when I ain't got a prayer
So, who the hell am I?
Who the hell am I, to expect a savior?
Oh-oh-ohh
If I only talk to God, when I need a favor?
But God, I need a favor

I know Amazing Grace
But, I ain't been livin' them words
Swear, I spend more Sundays
Drunk off my ass, than I have in church
Hardcover King James
Only been savin' dust, on the nightstand
And I don't know what to say
By the time I fold my hands

I only talk to God, when I need a favor
And I only pray, when I ain't got a prayer
So, who the hell am I?
Who the hell am I, to expect a savior?
Oh-oh-ohh
If I only talk to God, when I need a favor?
But God, I need a favor
Amen, amen

Yeah, I owe you more than one
And, beggars can't be choosers
But, I'll pay for all I've done
Just, please, don't let me lose her

I only talk to God, when I need a favor
And I only pray, when I ain't got a prayer
So, who the hell am I?
Who the hell am I, to expect a savior?
Oh-oh-ohh
If I only talk to God, when I need a favor?
But God, I need a favor
Amen, amen
Amen, amen

Hangin' in there, just barely
Throwin' up prayers, like Hail Mary's
If You're still there, Lord spare me
Oh my God, oh my God, Hail Mary

Hangin' in there, just barely
Throwin' up prayers, like Hail Mary's
If You're still there, Lord spare me
Oh my God, oh my God, Hail Mary

I only talk to God, when I need a favor
And I only pray, when I ain't got a prayer
So, tell me, who the hell am I to expect a savior?
When I only talk to God, if I need a favor?
God, I need a favor
Amen
God, I need a favor, whoa
Amen”

For more on Jelly Roll, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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