Joe Hanson’s “If The World Was A Small Town” begins with an electric guitar riff reminiscent of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” which then transitions into a groove that hints at Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Hanson is categorized as country music, but one must add the disclaimer that Hanson’s take on country music is not anything like classic country music. Instead, the music he creates is classic rock-inspired country music, which sounds just right to mainstream country fans.
With that said, Hanson is from Naperville, IL, and he has a sweet, youthful singing voice. This particular song speaks of a wish for the world to be more small town-like. Naperville, which is a well-to-do suburb of Chicago — by the way — is not that small-town Hanson dreams about. On the one hand, Hanson wishes for a more compact living arrangement. More importantly, he imagines this small town as a place where he’ll see this special girl more often. He’ll be able to see her shopping at the store or attending church, he tells us.
Hanson wonders states, “I wouldn’t have to wonder where you are.” It’s easy to lose contact with somebody in a big city. Metropolises, like Los Angeles, offer so many things to do, every night of the week. The girl he’s after could be almost anywhere in the big city. Small towns, on the other and, offer so many fewer option. If she’s out, say, on a Saturday night, it’s highly possible to run into her in a small town.
The second verse suggests this is the girl that got away. That’ she’d moved to Los Angeles, where he wouldn’t know where to locate her. We never find out if he eventually connected with this girl; we just know he wishes for a reduced population to better his connection chances.
It’s worth noting what Hanson doesn’t say about small town life. If you break up with that girl you were chasing in that small town, you’ll probably spend a lot of time trying to avoid her. What goes around, comes around. In that case, he’d be wishing the world was a huge city; one where he could move around without always bumping into his former flame. There are, after all, consequences for having your wish come true.
Vocally, Joe Hanson sounds a bit like county artist Hunter Hayes. And like Hayes, Hanson infuses his country style with a whole lot of pop elements. Hanson also shares a youthful vocal vibe. Hayes is not as young as he used to be, but he’ll always sound like a young man. One imagines, for better or worse, this fate also awaits Hanson.
Purists will likely tell you “If The World Was A Small Town” is not true country, as it has no fiddle or steel guitar. Then again, Joe Hanson doesn’t sound as though he’s trying to connect with diehard traditionalists. Instead, he’d going after those music fans that were raised on pop, rock and country, and don’t mind if their musical food – so to speak – touches each other on the plate. Both city folk and small-town dwellers will likely dig this song.