Song Review: Granger Smith, “Happens Like That”

Some artists have been able to successfully bridge the Bro-Country divide and establish themselves as legitimate country singers. Granger Smith is not one of those artists.

Neither Smith nor his alter ego Earl Dibbles Jr. found much success on country radio for the first decade or so of his career, but Smith finally broke through in 2015 with his No. 1 hit “Background Backroad Song,” a tune so bland, boring, and generic that doctors have started prescribing it as a non-habit-forming sleep aid. His Top Ten follow-up “If The Boot Fits” was no different, and while he tinkers with his bro-based formula slightly on “Happens Like That” (the leadoff single for his next album), the result is basically the same: An uninteresting track from an uninteresting singer.

The production here follows the quiet/loud trend I’ve been hearing in a lot of songs lately. It opens with a restrained drum machine and some atmospheric guitar tones reminiscent of Cody Johnson’s “With You I Am,”  then tosses in some real drums and turns up the electric guitar for the chorus. The whole things sounds formulaic and familiar, as if you’ve already heard this song a million times before, and the darker tones of the guitars and the frequent minor chords establish a dark, foreboding atmosphere that doesn’t really match the theme of the song. Outside of the guitar solo, there’s nothing here that impacts the listener or makes the track even remotely memorable.

I’ve never been terribly impressed with Smith as a singer, and his performance here is barely passable. While he has an impressive flow and does a good job handling rapid-fire lyrics, his range is never tested by the track, and he lacks the vocal charisma to credibly fill the role of the song’s  supposedly-upstanding narrator. When he sings about “being back at your house, one thing leads to another, you’re loving each other,” it comes across as a euphemism for a makeout session rather than an innocent statement about feeling love for the woman. When the lyrics veer towards the gutter, Smith is dragged into it with them, and isn’t a strong enough performer to elevate the writing and fulfill the song’s supposed purpose.

The writing here attempts to take a classic Bro-Country trope and make it a bit more classy by talking about how a one-night hookup could lead to everlasting love because “it happens like that.” It’s an admirable sentiment, but it comes across as weak and disingenuous here because the song still focuses on that initial moment while barely touching on the long-term possibilities. Aside from the mention of “how just one drink turns into one knee down with a diamond ring,” the song is indistinguishable from any other Bro-Country track: guy goes drinking, guy sees girl, guy tries to get girl to go home with him. There isn’t really any objectification here (the only part of the girl that’s even mentioned is her eyes), but the creepy vibe is still present despite the writers’ best intentions, and neither Smith’s delivery nor the generic production do enough to get the song onto the high ground that it’s aiming for.

Overall, “Happens Like That” is a forgettable song at best, and does not do enough to escape its Bro-Country trappings and stand out in a shifting genre landscape. Granger Smith comes across as just another guy singing just another song, and at some point this kind of mediocrity is not going to be enough. Radio can be a fickle beast, and an unremarkable single like this can potentially derail a career because…well, sometimes it just “happens like that.”

Rating: 4/10. It’s not worth your time.

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