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‘Something in the Orange’ by Zach Bryan - Lyrics & Meaning

July 21, 2023 5:51 pm GMT
Last Edited July 28, 2023 3:28 pm GMT

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Zach Bryan - ‘Something in the Orange’

Label: Belting Bronco Records / Warner Records

Release Date: 22nd April 2022

Album: American Heartbreak

Producers: Ryan Hadlock

Songwriter: Zach Bryan

Chart Performance:

  • No. 10 on Billboard Hot 100
  • No. 1 on Billboard Hot Country Songs
  • No. 20 on Billboard Country Airplay
  • No. 1 on Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs

Certifications:

  • Platinum (July 18, 2023)

The Background:

Released in April 2022 ahead of his sprawling, Platinum-certified album, American Heartbreak, ‘Something in the Orange’ introduced swathes of new listeners to Zach Bryan's sparse, poetic style of music.

The ominous, uneasy ballad finds Zach staring off into the sunset, desperately searching for a reassuring sign that his lover will come back to him, before ultimately resigning himself to the fact that her absence does not appear to be temporary.

Although not containing the immediate catchiness or uptempo riff that usually lends itself to a viral hit, ‘Something in the Orange’ quickly blossomed into a TikTok sensation.

It has since become Zach Bryan's most recognisable track to date, climbing to the top of both the Billboard Hot Country Songs and the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts. The fact that ‘Something in the Orange’ has been able to flit between the two charts so seamlessly is a result of the genre-fluidity with which it was constructed.

Towards the end of last year, ‘Something in the Orange’ earned the Oklahoma singer-songwriter his first Grammy nomination for 2023 Best Country Solo Performance. More recently, it became the joint-longest charting song on the Billboard Hot 100 this century.

Following the release of ‘Something in the Orange’ as a single, Zach then included a different rendition of the track on American Heartbreak, entitled ‘Something in the Orange (Z&E's Version)’.

While the original was recorded at Washington's Bear Creek Studio under the direction of Ryan Hadlock, the album version was captured and mixed at New York's Electric Lady Studios with Zach's usual producer, Eddie Spears. The title of the comparably lo-fi latter, ‘Z&E's Version', is shorthand for ‘Zach and Eddie’s Version’.

The Sound:

Zach Bryan is known for his unpolished and purposefully under-produced sonic arrangements. The fact that Zach released two renditions of ‘Something in the Orange’ highlights this, with the single version feeling noticeably sleek compared to much of the material on American Heartbreak, including ‘Z&E's’ take on ‘Something in the Orange’.

On the single, the tentative hum of the acoustic guitar and the brooding strings cushion Zach's raw, impassioned vocals. The persistent violin builds throughout the track, with its burgeoning intensity mirroring Zach's dawning realisation that his love is ‘never coming home’.

By contrast, on ‘Something in the Orange (Z&E's Version)’, the prolific artist's vocals are brought more into focus, with nothing but a muted piano, harmonica and acoustic guitar backing him up.

This reduces the track to its bare bones, and gives Zach the freedom to play around with his cadence and the melody of certain lyrics. Most noticeably, he adds an upwards inflection towards the end of the third line, “But when you place your head between my collar and jaw”.

In doing so, ‘Z&E's version’ of the track takes on the ambience of a live performance, with Zach Bryan's vocals harbouring an additional edge compared to the single rendition.

As a result, ‘Something in the Orange (Z&E's Version)’ certainly feels more emotionally charged and heartfelt, although the mixed and mastered single version is generally deemed the more mellow and easy-listening option of the two.

The Meaning:

“It'll be fine by dusk light I'm telling you, baby
These things eat at your bones and drive your young mind crazy
But when you place your head between my collar and jaw
I don't know much but there's no weight at all”

‘Something in the Orange’ opens on a decidedly optimistic note, as Zach Bryan stares speculatively into the impending sunset. During this moment of uncertainty regarding the future of his relationship, he chooses to lean on what he can trust most lucidly, which is the feeling of levity and relief his lover brings him whenever they are together.

“And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
'Cause if I say I miss you I know that you won't
But I miss you in the mornings when I see the sun
Something in the orange tells me we're not done”

Nonetheless, doubt begins to seep nefariously into the second verse, as the song's protagonist confides in the listener that his partner does not seem to reciprocate his feelings.

He conveys the tension of being trapped between wanting to express just how much his girlfriend means to him, and at the same time being wary of coming on too strong and causing her to leave for good. The second line of this verse is the moment when the listener realises the relationship is doomed, as it's clear that Zach shouldn't need to tip-toe around his emotions when he's with the person he loves most.

Even so, the verse concludes with Zach frantically searching the horizon for a sign that tells him his partner will return to his arms. Interestingly, in this verse, the ‘orange’ stems from the dawn, which appears to be when Zach feels his lover's absence most viscerally. This serves as a metaphor for the fact that his hopes of rekindling their flame are alive, despite implying that his girlfriend has already taken off.

@hollercountry Did you know this about #zachbryan? 👀   We’ve answered the most asked qs: How old is Zach Bryan? Was Zach Bryan a Navy SEAL? Why was Zach Bryan discharged from the military? Why is Zach Bryan so popular?  Who is Zach Bryan touring with in 2023? #countrymusic #livemusic #fyp #musictok #somethingintheorange ♬ original sound - Holler

“To you I'm just a man, to me you're all I am
Where the hell am I supposed to go?
I poisoned myself again
Something in the orange tells me you're never coming home”

Once again, we get another hint that the relationship is somewhat unbalanced, with Zach confessing that he idolises his lover in a way that is not reciprocated (“To you I'm just a man, to me you're all I am”).

He pointedly describes his state of alcohol-induced intoxication as an act of 'poisoning himself’, which could imply he's punishing himself for believing against all odds that the relationship was salvageable. By the end of the sinuous hook, the twilight haze has lifted and the fate of the couple is tragically clear.

“I need to hear you say you've been waitin' all night
There's orange dancing in your eyes from bulb light
Your voice only trembles when you try to speak
Take me back to us dancing, this wood used to creak”

So far, the titular ‘orange’ has arisen from either the dawn or the sunset, but now, we get a vivid description of the “orange dancing in your eyes from bulb light”.

It's no accident that this electric glow Zach now sees in his lover's eyes is artificial, compared to the naturally illuminating light of the sun that he references elsewhere in the song. It seems this symbolises the falseness of his partner's affection.

Nonetheless, the overall mood throughout ‘Something in the Orange’ is one of desperation from our narrator, and Zach never dips into any sense of bitterness or spitefulness at the way his lover has left him.

Even by the time we reach the resolution of this verse, our protagonist still yearns to return to the happy, carefree moments of their relationship (“Take me back to us dancing, this wood used to creak”).

“If you leave today, I'll just stare at the way
The orange touches all things around
The grass, trees and dew, how I just hate you
Please turn those headlights around
Please turn those headlights around”

Zach Bryan finishes the track by reaffirming his longing for his girlfriend to change her mind and make her way back to him. Despite the fervour with which he underlines his enduring love for her, we are left with no uncertainty that her truck is already too far gone down a one-way road.

@hollercountry One year since @zachlanebryan posted this teaser: Millions of plays later, a Grammy nomination and one of #BarackObama’s favourite songs… We think its fair to say ‘Something in the Orange’ is a smash hit. 🔥 #zachbryan #fyp #music #musicoftiktok #musictok #newmusic ♬ original sound - Holler

What has Zach Bryan said about ‘Something in the Orange’?

Zach Bryan is famously elusive when it comes to interviews, but he did make an appearance on Apple Music to play down the gravity that is often attributed to his ‘Something in the Orange’ lyrics, “Everyone thinks it was over some deep, dark thing, and it was just me in a cabin in Wisconsin. I thought about the word ‘orange’ and I was watching the sunset, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool story to tell in a song’”.

Speaking more generally about the creative process behind American Heartbreak, the ‘Oklahoma Smokeshow’ songsmith told Spotify, “At one point I'd written, like, the saddest album of all time, so I just kept writing and kept writing...I wanted to go to Electric Lady [Studio] because I didn't want it to sound like anything”.

He went on to emphasise how he respects the Nashville country scene “a lot”, but that “I didn't want it to sound like anything I'd heard, so I wanted to go somewhere where, like, country artists or Americana-folk artists don't usually go”.

For the full lyrics to Zach Bryan’s ‘Something in the Orange’, see below:

“It'll be fine by dusk light I'm telling you, baby
These things eat at your bones and drive your young mind crazy
But when you place your head between my collar and jaw
I don't know much but there's no weight at all

And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
'Cause if I say I miss you I know that you won't
But I miss you in the mornings when I see the sun
Something in the orange tells me we're not done

To you I'm just a man, to me you're all I am
Where the hell am I supposed to go?
I poisoned myself again
Something in the orange tells me you're never coming home

I need to hear you say you've been waitin' all night
There's orange dancing in your eyes from bulb light
Your voice only trembles when you try to speak
Take me back to us dancing, this wood used to creak

To you I'm just a man, to me you're all I am
Where the hell am I supposed to go?
I poisoned myself again
Something in the orange tells me you're never coming home

To you I'm just a man, to me you're all I am
Where the hell am I supposed to go?
I poisoned myself again
Something in the orange tells me you're never coming home

If you leave today, I'll just stare at the way
The orange touches all things around
The grass, trees and dew, how I just hate you
Please turn those headlights around
Please turn those headlights around”

For more on Zach Bryan, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
Author - Zach Bryan
Zach Bryan
Artist