Reba McEntire, “Strange”

reba-mcentireThe contrast between “For My Broken Heart”, a #1 single for Reba McEntire in 1991, and “Strange,” her new single, speaks volumes on how the portrayal of women has changed in country music over the past two decades.

When “For My Broken Heart” peaked, Reba McEntire was at the height of her amazingly long run as the genre’s most successful female artist, but she was also the last of the truly great heartbreak queens. When she goes to bed with grief over being left, she wakes up the next morning and notes, “The sun is blinding me as it wakes me from the dark. I guess the world didn’t stop for my broken heart.”

Eighteen years later, she’s going to bed with a heartache again, and the sun is waking her up in the morning once more. But “strange,” she now sings, “talk about luck! I woke up and the sun was shining. I oughta be in bed with my head in the pillow crying over us, but I ain’t.”

As far as empowerment messages go, “Strange” will certainly make a listener less likely to wallow in sorrow, but I have to say that it doesn’t make for a better Reba McEntire record, since she does heartbreak better than anyone. That’s not to say she can’t she do sassy uptempo material well. She just doesn’t do it very well here.

A big part of the problem is the production, which never shifts gears as the song progresses. There’s no room built in for her to apply her stylized vocals, so rushed is the lyric. That would be fine if the backing track did some of the heavy lifting, but just like Reba’s performance, it doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no sense of tension or release. The verse about wallowing in bed with Kleenex and chocolates is delivered no differently than the verse which has her showing her former lover that she can care less that he’s gone.

Reba McEntire is simply too good of a singer to require such a loud and cluttered production, let alone one that restricts her ability to let loose as a vocalist. Even the good licks that she gets in are inexplicably drowned out by loud guitars. That in-your-face wall of sound has made Jason Aldean a mint, but it has no business on a Reba record. It’s disappointing.

Grade: C

Listen: Strange

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21 Comments

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21 Responses to Reba McEntire, “Strange”

  1. Tony CNo Gravatar

    Disagree. Think this is probably one of her strongest singles since “The Fear of Being Alone”. Love the attitude and think her vocal gives us the trademark Reba tics she’s known for.

  2. AaronNo Gravatar

    I’m a bit on the fence about this one. On one hand I love the sassy-ness of the song. I think that bodes well for Reba since, I think, she’s known to sing some great sassy songs and this is no different. On the other hand, I agree that the production is way too much. I think if they would’ve toned it down…way down, then it would be a better sounding record. It almost sounds like she has to compete with the noise in the background to be heard. I think this had everything it needed to be a great song, but not everything was done to make it great.

  3. DarinNo Gravatar

    I guess the proof is in it’s debut on the billboard charts at #39. This is a career high for the queen of country. Good luck Reba! You can do no wrong here!

  4. There’s no sense of tension or release. The verse about wallowing in bed with Kleenex and chocolates is delivered no differently than the verse which has her showing her former lover that she can care less that he’s gone.

    That’s because she’s already over the broken relationship by the time the song begins. “For My Broken Heart” was a song about the pain of the heartbreak; by the time that song ended, the narrator is just waking up the next morning and realizing that life is going to go on — it doesn’t say that she’s over the heartbreak or that she’s happy that life’s going to go on, she just acknowledges that it is, indeed, going to go on.

    “Strange”, on the other hand, is a song in which the narrator is already past that stage by the time the song starts. The pain and heartbreak are in the past, so it wouldn’t make sense for there to be any tension and release, because’s it’s over with.

    This is my favorite Reba single since “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” and I’m encouraged after hearing it that the forthcoming album will be a good one, after 2007′s disappointing duets project.

  5. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar

    So shouldn’t there be a different tone in her voice when looking back on herself wallowing in self-pity than there is when she’s imagining herself casually rejecting her former lover? The whole song is stuck in the same gear. I felt the same way about “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain” as well, actually, so maybe it’s just not a song structure that works for me.

  6. So shouldn’t there be a different tone in her voice when looking back on herself wallowing in self-pity than there is when she’s imagining herself casually rejecting her former lover?

    Not necessarily. She’s out to convince this guy — and probably herself — that she’s not bothered in the least by the break-up. She’s putting up a front, and when people do that they’re not going to let that kind of emotion show.

  7. I have to disagree too. First of all, I don’t think ‘For My Broken Heart’ is a fair comparison at all. A song like ‘How Was I To Know’ is much more in the same vein as this one. I get your contrast angle about this not being a heartbreak song, but Reba has recorded heartbreak songs aplenty. And I for one welcome this change of pace. I’m sure she’ll release another achingly sad number soon enough.

    As to the production, I like it quite a bit too – it’s fun and radio-friendly while retaining more than just a facade of ‘countryness’ like so many new releases today.

  8. I get your contrast angle about this not being a heartbreak song, but Reba has recorded heartbreak songs aplenty. And I for one welcome this change of pace. I’m sure she’ll release another achingly sad number soon enough.

    And actually, if she’d released a heartbreak song, somebody somewhere would be criticizing her for dong too many of them.

  9. ZachNo Gravatar

    Personally, I enjoy the change in the music, compared to the powerful somberness of the Duets project McEntire did, it’s a good change of pace. I actually enjoy this song and its quickly become one of my favorite McEntire songs, hopefully it will become a big hit for McEntire, so we know she has staying power and maybe she can sneak in a fantastic song that is reminiscent of her best material! But until then, go Reba!

  10. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    I’m not expecting her to do a heartbreak song either, but this one doesn’t quite work for me. The wall of sound feels more like a Big & Rich production more than I was hoping to hear from Reba at this season of her career. I think Jason Aldean was an apt description for the production (someone who has adopted the B&R style and run with it). With that said, Reba does Aldean better than Aldean does, so I’m still pulling for Reba. She’s clearly vying for the mainstream attention and I hope she’ll get it. It’s just nothing special for me.

  11. Music ManNo Gravatar

    Kevin J. Coyne says:
    The contrast between “For My Broken Heart”, a #1 single for Reba McEntire in 1991, and “Strange,” her new single, speaks volumes on how the portrayal of women has changed in country music over the past two decades.

    Music Man says:
    That’s due to the PCness of music today, heaven forbid anyone is portrayed as a victim.

    I liked the song when she sang it on the AMC’s, not her best, but better than many of the songs out by today’s female singers.

  12. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    Reba was Reba in the 1990′s…Noone else came close to who she was. A McEntire track made you stop what you were doing, and listen. It moved you,it affected you, you felt something. Im afraid all this song did for me was maybe give me something to tap my foot along to. I really was looking for something more from her new label debut.

  13. Canadian BoyNo Gravatar

    Wow, I have to say I’m kind of disappointed with this review. I really like this song and I would have given it a B+ or and A-. It isn’t one of Reba’s best, but it’s still a great sing with a lot of sass. I’m hoping this will be her 23rd number one single.

  14. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar

    Room to Breathe was a really underrated piece of work, and here’s hoping that the new album follows in that same vein. I agree that the production’s a tad heavy and the lyric’s a little rushed, so…B- maybe. I’m worried that Reba’s bending a bit too much towards the mainstream (she has the power and the influence to record whatever she pleases), but I’ll hold judgment until I hear more of the new music. I think it’s interested that, at 55, she’s still aiming for commercial success (at least on a grand scale).

  15. It is interesting that she’s aiming for success but why not when she’s still beloved by radio and fans alike. Here’s hopin’ she’s got another good 10 years of chart success ahead!

  16. JessicaNo Gravatar

    I disagree! Bad review, in my opinion…I like this song!

  17. Soul Miners DaughterNo Gravatar

    Compared to the cheeziness of that last single with Kenny Chesney, I say this is a welcome back for Reba.
    She may be great at heartbreak songs but she can sure serve up the over-dramatic cheez to a fault.

  18. CarolineNo Gravatar

    I think this song deserves at least a B! It isn’t my favorite Reba song, but I think it’s a lot of fun. I was lucky enough to get a preview of some of the songs that are on the upcoming album (Keep On Loving You) – I think it’s gonna be GREAT!!!

  19. PatrickNo Gravatar

    C? Everyone I know, who has heard the song, loves it. Come on, at least give it a B…

  20. iam a huge huge fan and i was just woundering do you have any new pictures or cd out yet because i want to have my whole room full of you and have all your cds too.

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