Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Reba McEntire

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December 19, 2009

Reba McEntire

A guest contribution from Country Universe reader Zack Jodlowski.

When I first came across country music back in the eighth grade, I automatically gravitated towards the female artists of country music. When I heard the romp-stomping performance of “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” I thought “I have to hear more!”

Reba McEntire’s music has been such a lifesaver for me, that four years after my mom died, I found new found strength within me that allowed me to make peace with her death. It says a lot for a teenager to relate so strongly to the lyrics of Reba McEntire songs. Reba has been my favorite artist of all time, and she’ll most likely remain that for as long as I live.

Reba McEntire has been the heartbreak queen, an entertainer, and a superstar; at times she doesn’t make music choices that are spot-on, but her ability to deliver a song with an emotional tinge in her voice is all but rare in the music business, and with this ability she lifts a song up to another level. Reba also finds a way to relate to her audience with her music, whether it be helping someone through tragedies or inspiring people to continue to chase their dreams. Reba’s ability to adapt to the changing times and to continue to make herself relevant to the new country music generations is one that transcends the biases on radio that are established against females and the elder men and women of country music.

It was hard to narrow Reba’s extensive catalog down to twenty-five songs, and hard not to include some of her other great songs, but in the end I’ve managed to pick my twenty-five personal favorites.

#25

“Bobby”

For My Broken Heart, 1991

Truly heartbreaking. Bobby kills his spouse, causing hatred from his son to be thrust upon him, but in the chorus we find he does this out of love (he didn’t want his spouse to suffer any longer). His son later realizes his father’s intentions and realizes “He still missed his mama, but he’d missed his daddy too.” This is one of the rare Reba McEntire co-writes found in her catalog.

#24

“Fancy”

Rumor Has It, 1990

Reba captures the story of a woman thrust into prostitution at a young age by her mother in an iconic performance, but the woman is not ashamed or angry; she knows that her mother had to save her from a life of desperation and despair.

#23

“The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia”

For My Broken Heart, 1991

This song creeped me out when I was younger. However, I grew to love it, and it’s a great classic covered by a great singer, and one of Reba’s best ‘story’ songs. I love to listen to it in the car driving at night, gives me an eerie feel, or a great listen for Halloween. In fact, let’s go find Andy’s house next Halloween and scare the heck out of him!

#22

“Walk On”

Sweet Sixteen, 1989

In the Heartbreak Queen era, Reba was making up-tempo songs like these few and far in between; or at least, she didn’t become well-known for them until “Fancy” came around.

#21

“Little Rock”

Whoever’s in New England, 1986

Reba’s had enough of this jerk, and when he comes home he’ll find that little rock.

#20

“Once You’ve Learned To Be Lonely”

Room to Breathe, 2003

Reba’s role as the advice-giver never fails as she warns people that settling in loneliness just makes it harder to get back into the world. One of Reba’s more rootsy performances of the 2000’s, Room to Breathe defiantly featured her best work of the decade.

#19

“(You Lift Me) Up To Heaven”

Feel the Fire, 1980

I fell in love with this song when I first heard it. It’s among one of my favorites of Reba’s early, early stuff.

#18

“Every Other Weekend” (ft. Kenny Chesney)

Reba Duets, 2007

The heartbreak queen returns with what she does best! Reba conveys so much emotion in the song; it’s hard for Chesney to keep up. But it’s definitely one of Reba’s best duets of all time.

#17

“Somebody Should Leave”

My Kind of Country, 1984

Two parents who don’t love each other anymore, but they love their kids, so they’ll stay together “hoping somehow they might need each other again.” Sad, Sad, Sad, but an excellent performance from McEntire.

#16

“With You I Am”

Love Revival, 2008

When you are with someone you love, you’re free to be yourself. (Also check out Reba’s cover of “I’ll Still Be Loving You”).

#15

“Sweet Music Man”

Greatest Hits Volume III: I’m a Survivor, 2001

This was the version I heard first, and it’s kind of hard to top it. Reba sings with such grace and simplicity.

#14

“Consider Me Gone”

Keep on Loving You, 2009

He doesn’t want to deal with her right now, so she’s giving him the choice, listen or “consider me gone.” One of Reba’s best of the decade, and one of her biggest hits of the decade, proving she’s still a contender for radio airplay.

#13

“You’re Gonna Be”

Reba #1’s, 2005

New parenthood is a scary thing, but in this song we find parents always picture their children reaching for the stars. I’ve always had a nice picture of my mom (I was her first born) thinking these things when she held me in her arms.

#12

“If I Had Only Known”

For My Broken Heart, 1991

A really powerful song, Reba never released this as a single, but it is one of the best she’s ever recorded. A stoic performance from a woman in grieving, this album was truly her masterpiece. The emotional tinges in her voice when she sings makes me choke up, anyone got a Kleenex?

#11

“Waitin’ for the Deal to Go Down”

Rumor Has It, 1990

When I first heard this whole CD, I loved it; I thought it was fantastic. This song finds Reba questioning just why it’s taking her boyfriend so long to propose, fearing the worst; she states “do I love you? I’m afraid I do. Do you love me? Once upon a time I was sure I knew.”

#10

“Let the Music Lift You Up”

What Am I Gonna Do About You, 1986

Country music’s ‘American Pride’ song of the 1980’s. I love this song because it’s so rare to get a great upbeat song from Reba, and using music to unite the nation is a novel concept.

#9

“The Fear of Being Alone”

What If It’s You, 1996

Two bruised lovers go on a first date. He wants something more, but Reba knows what’s coming and warns him that it’s just “the fear of being alone.”

#8

“Is There Life Out There”

For My Broken Heart, 1991

With this, Reba inspired many women to go back to college; besides the great song, voice, music, and singer; I find a lot of my mom in this song, just before she died she went back to college, and I’d always like to think Reba might have something to do with that.

#7

“You Lie”

Rumor Has It, 1990

Only Reba could make us feel sorry for this character, who’s aware that her spouse is struggling on how to break up with her, so she allows him to lie to her, even though “maybe it’s wrong, but you know how much I love you, so you lie.” By the way, did I mention that it’s one of her best vocals of all time?

#6

“He Gets That from Me”

Room to Breathe, 2003

Truly one of the better post-9/11 songs in country music. Reba ends with a heartbreaking “he really misses you, he gets that from me.” When I first saw the video (this was within my first ten Reba songs I heard) I almost bawled, thinking how does she know me so well?

#5

“Somebody”

Room to Breathe, 2003

Everyone’s looking for that one special person, and only Reba could convince you (in her own special perk-you-up way) that there is someone waiting out there for you.

#4

“What If It’s You”

What If It’s You, 1996

One of my favorite heartbreak songs from Reba, it’s a story as old as the hills. Reba loves him, spends three minutes talking about how he’s her soul mate; and how if they got together she’d never let him go. But of course, Reba never gets him; I just love Reba when she’s in ‘heartbreak queen’ mode, that’s when she’s at her strongest.

#3

“She Can’t Save Him” (ft. Trisha Yearwood)

Reba Duets, 2007

“And that day she’ll know, she hasn’t failed, ‘Cause nothing can change until he saves himself.” When you love someone, it’s hard to see them sink into the dark, but you can’t do anything until they help themself. Reba and Trisha bring out the best in each other, lamenting about a woman who tries to save her husband from his drinking problem with no avail. One of my favorite duets… no, songs from Reba’s catalog.

#2

“One Promise Too Late”

What Am I Gonna Do About You, 1986

The Heartbreak Queen’s finest moment, running across an old crush/flame, and finding they love you. But you’re in a new relationship, and so you’re stuck with hurting a friend and yourself. And you find yourself wondering “where were you, when I could have loved you?” Reba shines on this song, and it is the only reason why disc one of her 50 Greatest Hits collection is the one that finds the most ‘spins’ in my car.

#1

“For My Broken Heart”

For My Broken Heart, 1991

Thank god this song wasn’t a duet with Clint Black. It is a masterpiece when Reba sings it by herself, and this sole song has helped me through dealing with my mom’s death. In the song we find heartbreak and the realization that we have to find some strength to move on. I think Reba’s artistic peak was on this CD, it [For My Broken Heart] was (again) the masterpiece of her career, and proves through grief and pain we come out stronger; finding a brighter day among the pain, seeing that life goes on, and that the world won’t stop for our broken hearts.


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  1. SDNo Gravatar says:

    I think what I love most about Reba is that even when her song choices are rather spotty, I always feel like she has a deep emotional connection with the material. She really does put her all into her songs, and that’s what resonates with her listeners and fans.
    And I always feel like “Bobby” doesn’t get as much love as it should. What an eloquent way to deal with the subject of euthanasia. I had no idea it was a Reba co-write.

    Thanks for writing this!

  2. [...] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptWhen I first came across country music back in the eighth grade, I automatically gravitated towards the female artists of country music. When I heard the romp-stomping performance of “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain,” I thought “I have to … [...]

  3. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    I realize this is an opinion piece – not something that purports to be an objective list of Reba’s 25 best songs. And it’s such an earnest piece . . . well, I’m an equal opportunity contrarian, so here goes: Reba really faded in the 00′s. Her attention was not on Broadway, tv, commerce and things other than her music, which suffered.

    That’s changed now I think, but a list with 8 of 25 songs from this decade . . . you should definitely revisit Reba’s catalog from the 70′s (there’s a fine boxed set that picks up some of that stuff), 80′s and 90′s again.

    And I’d go deep into the albums. Reba never really got credit for it, but her albums were consistently good – very little filler at all. In fact, I’d like to see someone’s take of the best non-singles.

    Anyway, songs that should be on anyone’s Reba 25 list include:
    How Blue
    Whoever’s In New England

  4. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Treacle:
    Yes, I did not intend this to be a list of Reba’s best songs.

    Those two were actually on my final list of 30 songs to include on the list.

    I wanted to include “Whoever’s In New England” on my list though, it was one of the first I’d heard of hers.

  5. chesnuttisNo Gravatar says:

    “Bobby” has always been one of my favorite Reba songs. It dealt with a very controversial and confusing issue in a way that wasn’t pandering, wasn’t simplistic or simple minded, and wasn’t moralizing. Too many songs could fall into those traps. But the song was great for not just what it wasn’t but also what it was. It was a genuinely moving song, well written, intelligent and sung sensitively.

    I’ve been listening to country music for years, and I have several Reba albums. But perhaps I have come to take her music for granted. This list is may not be a “best of” list but it is a great reminder that Reba at her best is hard to beat.

  6. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Ooooh, daunting task, Zack but a great read! Thank you for sharing your story. Reba drew me into country music too (with “Fancy”) when I was in middle school. I was surprised to see it and “The Night the Lights…” ranked so low. Rumor Has It is hands down my favorite album. Good job citing some of my favorite singles (“I’m Gonna Take That Mountain”, “What If It’s You”) that are often overlooked in favor of flashier hits. I had forgotten that she cowrote “Bobby” and that “For My Broken Heart” was intended to be a duet with Clint Black. I think I’ve also read somewhere that “The Heart Won’t Lie” was originally intended to be a duet with Kenny Rogers and not Vince Gill. Anyway, thanks again and nice work!

  7. StephenNo Gravatar says:

    Great list, but I would have included “Maggie Creek Road” – a perfect cut, I feel.

  8. SamNo Gravatar says:

    I really enjoyed this list. I queued up all the songs in order on iTunes, (except for the two I don’t have), poured a glass of whiskey and listened to them, reading along. It was really interesting to hear about how your personal experiences affected your reading of the songs, and you also gave a lot of interesting tidbits about the songs that I didn’t know.

    And you chose what is probably my favourite Reba song as your favourite too. Kudos :)

  9. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent contribution Zack, these lists are terribly hard to write on your favorite artists. I agree with the “She Cant Save Him” I always dreamed of a McEntire/Yearwood tour but never got it. I’ll keep wishing i suppose. But more duets are needed. “You Lie” is one of the earliest country songs I can remember listening to.

  10. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    Reba really faded in the 00’s. Her attention was not on Broadway, tv, commerce and things other than her music, which suffered.

    Country music in general, declined in quality this decade. And since Reba has been making a concerted effort to stay relevant and to keep getting radio airplay, it makes sense that some of her recent song selections haven’t been as good as what they were in the past.

    This is a good list. I’d have made some different choices in some cases, but I don’t think any two people would ever compile an identical set of songs. But Zack, was it really necessary to mention that you were in the eighth grade when you first heard “I’m Gonna Take That Mountain”? Now I have to hate you for making me feel old. ;)

  11. JoJoNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome list!! Only song I would for sure add is “How Was I To Know.” That one along with “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” and “Is There Life Out There” are my favorite Reba songs! Hope she sings them at concert I am going to in February!!

  12. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Tough choices to make. Reba is one of those artists who can lousy songs well (and she’s recorded a lot of lousy songs). When she gets her tonsils around a good song, the result is magical – I’d go with

    1) Somebody Should Leave
    2) How Blue
    3) Whoever’s In New England
    4) You’re The FIrst Time I’ve Though About Leaving
    5) Can’t Even Get The Blues
    6) One Promise To Late
    7) Little Rock
    8) Today All Over Again
    9) Oklahoma Swing (w/ Vince Gill)
    10) I’m Not That Lonely Yet

    In looking at my list, I noticed that all of these were from before 1990. That confirms my opinion that Reba was a really great artist during the 1980s and and only a good to very good artist since then, predicated mostly on song selection since she can still sing as well as almost any female artist

  13. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Michael: Yeah, when I finished compiling my list, I was surprised to see they were low ranked too.

    Stephen: I liked “MCR,” it reminded me a lot of “Georgia,” but it doesn’t rank among my favorites, maybe if I were compiling a top 100 list, it might be on there.

    Cory: I’d love to see a McEntire/Yearwood tour too!! More duets from them would be awesome.

    Razor X: haha. :)

    JoJo : Hope you have fun at the concert!! I’m going to one in Feb. too!! Can’t Wait!

    Paul: I love a lot of McEntire’s early stuff too, i guess it’s just the recent stuff that gives me a more personal connection. It was really hard to leave off some of her 80′s stuff, especially “How Blue” and “Whoever’s In New England.”

  14. BooNo Gravatar says:

    Wow Crackerjack, What is this, you know I dont know enough puter stuff to know. I want to know about the Bobby song, is that something I’m missing or is the title in some kind of code? Am I not just getting it?

  15. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Boo!! :)

    haha, glad to see you on here.

    The song isn’t in code, its the name of the man who is the father of the son. :)

  16. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    Good list. At least half of them would be on my own personal list of favorites. And I like the idea of listing your own favorites rather than those that are universally loved. I was sure someone had already written a Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists post for Reba, but after looking in the archives, I found it was a Starter Kit. So it’s great to finally see one of these done for Reba, and I think you were a fine candidate to compile it, Zack. Well done.

  17. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, and I want to add that I agree with Razor about country music’s general decline this decade – and Reba is just trying to stay relevant, so she’s just playing the game. As far as mainstream country goes, I still think hers is among the best out there today.

  18. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks JR.

    I agree with Razor and JR (especially that Reba’s making some of the best mainstream country now).

  19. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    my favorite is “I’d rather ride around with you” fun, kinda giddy, and energetic

  20. tammyNo Gravatar says:

    i like reba mcentire and went she sing cowgirls dont cry with brooks and dunn

  21. Greg DowNo Gravatar says:

    I think the only song I would have added was the heartwrenching, and slightly controversial, She Thinks His Name Was John. Still an elagant and powerful song that says so much without every saying it.

    I might have also add And Still.

    Also, I’m surprised The Greatest Man I Never Knew is not on the list, another one of Reba’s finest.

    However, it would be hard to narrow down a 30 years career into 25 songs. Especially with someone with a catalog as huge as Reba’s.

  22. ZackNo Gravatar says:

    Greg:

    “And Still” almost made my list, it is definatly one of my favorite Reba songs.

    I liked “She Thinks His Name Was John,” but there was just nothing that sparked for me in that song. I do believe it is a hell of a song and one of Reba’s finest, and I do comend Reba for tackling such a controversial issue, when at the time, few artists chose to do so.

    Same with “Greatest Man,” I do like it, and think it’s great; but there was no real personal connection for me.

    You said it! :)

    Tammy: “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” is one of my favorite Reba duets and one of my favorite Brooks and Dunn songs.

    Scott: I do like “I’d Rather Ride Around With You,” it’s one of my favorite upbeat Reba songs.

  23. BRYAN YOUSEYNo Gravatar says:

    I LOVE REBA.. I LOVE THE SONG WHAT AM I GONNA DO ABOUT YOU SO MUCH!!! I LOVE THE PART WHEN SHE SING’S O WELL I TRIED AND I’V TRIED BUT I STILL CANT BRLEAVE THAT WHERE TOUGH WHAT MAK HER GET THAT HIGH AT THE END OF THAT SONG I WILL NEVER KNOW!!!!!!!! REBA MAKE’S ME CRY ON HER SONG

    LOVE YA REBA!!!!

    BRYAN

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