Despite the dated keys, light swells of synthesizers and layered background vocals, “Can’t Be Really Gone” manages to be McGraw’s most compelling single to that point in his career both in content and performance.
Unlike “Don’t Take the Girl”, “Can’t Be Really Gone” doesn’t have to pull out any stops of overwrought heartstring pulls to pack a good punch. In fact, it straightforwardly captures the feeling of disbelief that accompanies a surreal event like having somebody in your life one minute and then the next minute trying to comprehend the knowledge that he or she is gone. In this case, little details of everything still in their places, including a book that is almost completely read, only heighten the disbelief and denial of this man’s situation.
Until this single, McGraw sang with an exaggerated twang that often threatened to sound more silly than serious. His quiet, melancholy vocal performance on this record, however, demonstrates that he is capable of properly interpreting a song when it is necessary, which is something that he gets even better at proving as his career progresses.
Written by Gary Burr