400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #125-#101

Johnny Cash may have been too dark for country radio back in 1994, but his morbid single lives on alongside debut singles, seventies covers, and a whole lot of Mary Chapin Carpenter.

400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #125-#101

#125
Breathe
Faith Hill
1999 | Peak: #1

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Sure, the melody of the chorus sounds just like “It Matters to Me.” But “Breathe” took the country power ballad to new heights, becoming Hill’s signature hit in the process. – Kevin Coyne

#124
Life’s a Dance
John Michael Montgomery
1992 | Peak: #4

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It’s the catchy fiddle riff that’s  so memorable about John Michael Montgomery’s debut, number one, single. He is known for being a balladeer, but this one is an up-tempo motivational song. – Leeann Ward

#123
All the Good Ones are Gone
Pam Tillis
1997 | Peak: #4

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A far more nuanced take on single women than “She’d Give Anything,” this tender ballad finds Tillis battling regret and loneliness, resignation and frustration. The most heart-wrenching part for me is the exchange between mother and daughter, as there are few things in this world more painful than feeling like you’re failing to live out the dreams your mother has for you. – Tara Seetharam

#122
We Just Disagree
Billy Dean
1993 | Peak: #9

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An interesting, refreshing record in its maturity and perspective. If only every conflict in the world was treated with this kind of respect. – TS

#121
Spilled Perfume
Pam Tillis
1994 | Peak: #5

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The regrettable one-night stand is a significant part of country music lore, but this song approaches it from a unique angle: that of the consoling friend looking in on the wreckage the morning after. Tillis is both sweet and frank in that role, passing on wisdom she herself had to come by the hard way. – Dan Milliken

#120
Whole Lotta Love On the Line
Aaron Tippin
1994 | Peak: #30

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The relentless hook here is the guitar loop that powers the entire track. Tippin matches it with one of his very best heartbroke vocals. – KC

#119
Man! I Feel Like a Woman!
Shania Twain
1999 | Peak: #4

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The definitive girl power anthem of ever. (Apologies to Madonna, Spice Girls, etc.) And although the vast majority of this record is pure pop, due credit to the very country wordplay in the title. – DM

#118
Feed Jake
Pirates of the Mississippi
1991 | Peak: #15

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A quirky country-folk nugget which somehow fuses that cliche about sad dog-related country songs with sympathetic social commentary on the poor and gays. And it was a top 20 hit. Only in the nineties! – DM

#117
Next to You, Next To Me
Shenandoah
1990 | Peak: #1

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A wonderfully catchy title translates to an equally catchy song. The joyous celebration of active love is ever present here. – LW

#116
I Feel Lucky
Mary Chapin Carpenter
1992 | Peak: #4

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One of the coolest name-dropping songs of the nineties: “Dwight Yoakam’s in the corner, trying to catch my eye / Lyle Lovett’s right beside me with his hand upon my thigh /…Hey Dwight, hey Lyle, boys, you don’t have to fight / Hot dog, I feel lucky tonight.” – LW

#115
Wrong Side of Memphis
Trisha Yearwood
1992 | Peak: #5

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Never mind that she had four top ten hits from her first album. This is where Trisha Yearwood, the artist, truly begins. – KC

#114
Is it Over Yet
Wynonna
1993 | Peak: #6

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Such a simple melody with hardly a chorus; such a simple production with little more than a piano. It’s Wynonna’s fabulously emotive voice that takes this song from something potentially lifeless to a whole other stratosphere of emotion. – LW

#113
Down at the Twist and Shout
Mary Chapin Carpenter
1991 | Peak: #2

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It’s an unshakably catchy Cajun dance tune that finds Carpenter as loose as she’s ever been. – LW

#112
Safe in the Arms of Love
Martina McBride
1995 | Peak: #4

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Another installment, another reminder of how good Martina McBride can be given the right material. She’s asking to be cradled and supported here, but interestingly, there’s nothing submissive or needy-sounding about her performance. These are things she knows she deserves, and she’s confident enough to proclaim her desire for them loudly and proudly. – DM

#111
Almost Home
Mary Chapin Carpenter
1999 | Peak: #22

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A revitalizing revelation from a woman who’s discovered that inner-peace is the key to moving forward in life. She speaks specifically to her own situation, but the song is both anthemic and spiritual, and, as a result, wonderfully accessible. – TS

#110
It Works
Alabama
1996 | Peak: #19

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The sweeping social changes that have led to greater autonomy and independence for women came too late for some generations. But that doesn’t mean that no women felt completely fulfilled without the opportunities of their daughters and granddaughters. Not by a long shot. Remember that when your grandchildren wonder how you ever lived happily in such primitive times. – KC

#109
Delia’s Gone
Johnny Cash
1994 | Peak: Did Not Chart

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From the first of the American  Recordings series, Cash’s second version of the murder ballad, “Delia’s Gone”, is as sparse as technically possible. There’s only a single acoustic guitar recorded in mono rather than stereo, but Cash’s voice resonates so much that it’s hardly noticeable. – LW

#108
There Goes My Baby
Trisha Yearwood
1998 | Peak: #2

Listen

Belting isn’t always necessary. It’s rarely necessary. But when you know the right moments to do it, and you have the chops to pull it off, you get magic like this. – KC

#107
Stand Beside Me
Jo Dee Messina
1998 | Peak: #1

Listen

Songs about female empowerment were abundant in the nineties, but there’s something raw about Messina’s approach, perhaps because she doesn’t display blind optimism. She knows the struggles associated with sticking to her standards, and she faces them with a realistic mix of strength and vulnerability. Per usual, Messina nails this sentiment in her performance. – TS

#106
What a Crying Shame
The Mavericks
1994 | Peak: #25

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The Raul Malo-penned single was The Maverick’s breakthrough hit. It showcased a band with a fresh sound that even the nineties needed at certain points in the decade. – LW

#105
Has Anybody Seen Amy
John & Audrey Wiggins
1994 | Peak: #22

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A song about getting older and feeling out of place, masquerading as a song about a long lost love. “You can always go home but you can never go back.” – KC

#104
No One Else on Earth
Wynonna
1992 | Peak: #1

Listen

Trod to death now that it’s basically Wynonna’s only recurrent, but this celebration of an exceptional love remains groovy karaoke bait with some very groovy growls from Ms. Judd. If you haven’t tried to mimic the “HOW DID YOU GET TO ME” part before, your country music fandom may not yet be valid. – DM

#103
You Win Again
Mary Chapin Carpenter
1990 | Peak: #16

Listen

Desperate. Despondent. Ferociously Bitter. – KC

#102
Meanwhile
George Strait
1999 | Peak: #4

Listen

He’s settling for paradise, since what he really wants is lost forever to the past. – KC

#101
The Heart Won’t Lie
Reba McEntire & Vince Gill
1993 | Peak: #1

Listen

Two of the most distinct voices in country music tear their way through a throbbing sentiment on this power ballad. It’s one of those records that just soars. – TS

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24 Comments

Filed under Back to the Nineties

24 Responses to 400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties: #125-#101

  1. love, love, love, love, love this list!! If it’s this good in this part of the countdown, can’t wait to see the final 100!

    So glad to see a vast represenation of MCC, the songs listed are among my top favorites of hers.

    @Dan: I am embarrased to admit this, but I have sung along to “No One Else On Earth,” quite a few times and found myself trying to impersonate that line! I cracked up when I read that.

    Martina’s “Safe In The Arms Of Love” may be my favorite song of hers. Did “Independence Day” already make it onto this list in the bottom 275?

    The Wy track (“Is It Over Yet”) is such a powerful listen for me, just bone-chilling. What she can do with a song is so amazing.

    The Messina track is absolutely great, she is such a good singer.

    I love the McEntire/Gill duet, so amazing to listen to. Arguably two of the genre’s best vocalists.

    You guys have the best write ups… Seriously, I have yet to find a more talented foursome of writers on a site yet! Kudos!!

  2. I’ve always liked Billy Dean’s cover of “We Just Disagree” lots better than Dave Mason’s. It has more muscle.

    I can really relate to “It Works.” Just recently, I had to check my “That’s not how things are done today” indignation when discussing women’s roles with my grandmother not too long ago. As someone who takes sincere pride in waiting on my grandfather hand and foot, including tying his shoes, she couldn’t understand why my sister was frustrated that her husband wouldn’t help with some of the household chores. In turn, I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t understand until I sympathized with the generational shift that must be just as odd for my grandmother as it is for me.

  3. ScottNo Gravatar

    Great List

  4. “Spilled Perfume” is one of my favorite Pam Tillis songs. I just think that’s one of her greatest vocal performances ever.

    By the way, Dan, my country music fandom is totally valid. Just last week, I was belting out “No One Else On Earth” on with some friends on karaoke.

  5. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Re. “Breathe”–certainly Faith got a ton of mileage out of that song; it was played at least several times a day on Adult Contemporary radio at the height of its chart performance, some three months into the new millennium as I recall. After a while, it got a bit old (don’t they all after being overplayed?), but the prominent acoustic guitar part at the start (which sounds a bit like “Landslide” to me”) still wins people over.

    Re. “We Just Disagree”–I guess, Leann, you and I do on this one (LOL); no offense, mind you. I do prefer Dave Mason’s 1977 original. For those who may not be aware, Dave Mason was a member, along with Steve Winwood, of the late 1960s British progressive rock band Traffic (“Dear Mr. Fantasy”).

    Re. “There Goes My Baby”–I can’t tell you how many people I know thought that Trisha had reworked the Drifters’ 1959 classic of that same name. And of course I can’t tell you how many of them were kind of disappointed when they realized she hadn’t (LOL).

  6. TomNo Gravatar

    …”spilled perfume” is one of those songs where everything seems to be fitting just perfectly. lyrics, production and most of all pam tillis’ vocals.

    i saw billy dean in concert in farmington n.m. when “we just disagree” was in heavy rotation.
    it was a really good show but not as good as that breakfast burrito the next morning. still dreaming about that breakfast.

  7. Tom said…

    …”spilled perfume” is one of those songs where everything seems to be fitting just perfectly. lyrics, production and most of all pam tillis’ vocals.

    Exactly! That was a quality that characterized so much of Pam’s music. Each Pam Tillis song sounded just the way it was meant to sound. Her producers and musicians brought as much to the table as she did, and everything came together perfectly.

  8. Food is the only thing I love more than music.:)

  9. For me, it would probably be a tie. ;D

  10. JonathanNo Gravatar

    I love the MCC selections. She is one of my favorite singers. You can never go wrong with a whole lot of MCC!

    Great Pam Tillis selections as well. I was listening to both “Spilled Perfume” and “All The Good Ones Are Gone” last weekend and was wondering where they would place on the countdown. She is one heck of a singer.

  11. Wow love every song on this list, but am very glad to see both “Feed Jake” and “Has Anybody Seen Amy” make the list, absolutley two underappreciated gems.

    Love all the MCC and Pam Tillis selections as well, my favorite two MCC songs made this portion of the list, can’t wait to see the rest keep up the good work guys.

  12. TRAVIS IN VANo Gravatar

    I love both the pam songs!!!!!!!!! Also love the MCC songs. I’m going to see her at the Shenadoah Valley Music Festival tomorrow night and hope to hear all the selections listed above. My all time favorite MCC song is “You Win Again”. Man if you don’t feel anything when she sings that song you have a heart of stone. Also the Wynonna song “is it over yet” kills me every time.

  13. BobNo Gravatar

    Never heard “Feed Jake” before or the Wiggins version of “Has Anybody Seen Amy”. thanks. I have the Amy song, written by Jon Vezner and Don Henry, on Vezner’s 1994 cd “Who’s Gonna Know”. The cd was part of “The Songwriter Series” from Liberty Records but apparently the only other cds in the project were “XS in Moderation” by Kostas and a Sample of the Series featuring Jill Colluci, Kostas, Pat Alger and Vezner. Backup singers on Vezner’s cd included Kathy Mattea, Don Henry and Gary Burr.

  14. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    “Has Anybody Seen Amy” is so mysterious. Thank goodness Britney Spears was around to clear things up with her response song, “If U Seek Amy”.

  15. BobNo Gravatar

    Maybe U2 could follow up the Spears song with “If U2 Seek Amy” call B. Spears. (i know – GROAN)

  16. “Spilled Perfume” is my favorite Pam Tillis song. I love the lyrics, the production, and her voice…they are all brilliant. I hear this song almost daily on XM Radio’s Prime Country channel and it just amazes me everytime.

    “Meanwhile” is a great song from George and I’m glad to see it on the list. It’s one of my favorite songs from his catalog.

    Another great installment to the list! Can’t wait to see the remainder of it!

  17. Another solid segment, and this one has more of my personal favorites than any installment so far. Top 100 here we come …

    Also, it’s interesting to note that in the comments, it’s almost exclusively the female singles that people are mentioning as their favorites and extremely memorable. I always thought the females of the 90s were the ones pushing the envelope while the men all kinda sounded the same. This continuing list has only strengthened that idea.

  18. BillyNo Gravatar

    I’m surprised that “Breathe” wasn’t in the top 100. I do suppose that it did get tiring at the height of its popularity though.

    I loved seeing “Feed Jake.” My family named a puppy we found Jake after this song.

  19. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    @ J.R. Journey,

    You’re dead on about the women in the nineties, as far as my perspective goes. I think that the window between Garth and Shania allowed female artists to make very compelling work, as the expectations of mega-sales were placed on the male artists.

    Once Shania shattered that ceiling, female artists were expected to sell just like the men, so a lot of the creative freedom went away.

    I also think that there was an inordinately large amount of older women breaking through in the nineties, many of whom had toiled in obscurity for a long time, so the music was generally more mature than what much of the men were producing during the “hat act” era of the early to mid-nineties.

    I was listening to “Here I Am” in the car today, which has that line, “My pride was stronger when I was younger.” As good as some of our young female artists are, I don’t think any of them could pull of that line convincingly.

    I think it’s great that the younger perspective is expressed in country music, but I sure do miss the older perspective.

  20. @Kevin. You’re deinitely right about the older perspective being largely missing from today’s hit country music. And I still think you’re analogy of the women on the charts being in front of or behind their ‘quarter life crisis’ is the best summary of today’s mainstream female stars.

    But I do think that even before the younger perspective took over that the ladies were trumping the guys in terms of artistry and generally interesting music. Garth’s massive sales caused many, many musical clones to appear. And maybe it’s simply because he hit first, and Shania came half a decade later, that we were able to consume so many great adult perspective songs during that period before sales expectations went through the roof.

    Very interesting exchange here. I’m enjoying it.

  21. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    “I think it’s great that the younger perspective is expressed in country music, but I sure do miss the older perspective.”

    Totally agree. I’m very pro-balance in general when it comes to the music scene. Country-pop and traditionalist, young, old, in-between, male and female – I like everything in moderation.

  22. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Also, Zack: thanks very much for the kind words. We’re pumped that people are enjoying the countdown!

  23. I don’t like to double-comment, but I made a typo that just drives me crazy … above, it should read:

    “And I still think your analogy of the women on the charts being in front of or behind their ‘quarter life crisis’ is the best summary of today’s mainstream female stars.

  24. Soul Miners DaughterNo Gravatar

    Still cringe over Billy Dean recording “We Just Disagree”! Not only is the Dave Mason classic off limits (IMHO), but this new version reeked of desperation. I’m so bored with Music Row hitting a wall with performers so they go for the tired “record a pop/rock song and make it sound country-ish”. Nothing short of pathetic.