Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, "Something Like That"

1999 | #1

You know what's one of the best ways for a contemporary country song to worm its way into my heart?  To display a mature and insightful perspective, or to tap into some universal truth, while dressing itself up with the catchiest of melodies and hooks.

That particular sweet spot is one that the female artists in country music tend to hit more often than the males – See “Deep Down,” “Hey Cinderella,” and “The Fear of Being Alone” for case studies.  However, Tim McGraw's 1999 chart-topper “Something Like That” hits it, and hits it dead-on.

The song recounts the narrator's youthful experience of falling in love for the very first time at age seventeen.  The verses are replete with little details – a barbecue stain, a miniskirt, a suntan line, etc.  Such details may seem to have little meaning, but in this particular context, they mean everything.  In the second verse, the narrator has a chance encounter with his old flame while traveling on a plane, where she says “I bet you don't remember me, to which he replies “Only every other memory,” thus assuring her that she is hardly forgotten.  “Like an old photograph, time can make a feeling fade,” he sings during the bridge, “but the memory of a first love never fades away.”

Through its vivid, detail-laden approach, the lyric effectively hones in on the fact that the experience of one's first love is, in itself, unforgettable.  Every little aspect of the encounter feels significant in its own way, because it's a lifetime milestone that leaves a lasting impression.  Indeed, “a heart don't forget something like that.”

The point is driven home by a sprightly piano hook, toe-tapping rhythm, and wildly catchy singalong-friendly chorus – a one-two punch that helps the record make an impression both as a great lyric and as a fun, catchy listen.

Witty, timeless, and hugely entertaining.

Written by Rick Ferrell and Keith Follesé

Grade:  A

Next:  My Best Friend

Previous:  Please Remember Me

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18 Comments

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18 Responses to Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, "Something Like That"

  1. Michael A.No Gravatar

    Sorry, I can’t get on board with this one. I’ve always hated it. This and “I Like It, I Love It” are too simple, too cliche ridden and too overplayed for me to enjoy them. That last one isn’t the fault of the song, but it doesn’t help.

  2. DevinNo Gravatar

    I’m sure most people disagree, but I don’t think it can be overstated how HUGE this song is/was. The most played song on the radio of any genre in the last decade.

    Personally, I have to attribute this song to single handedly re-sparking my interest and passion in country music. There’s just something about it that’s so relatable and entertaining, that once I heard it again (about 4 years ago now) I just knew that country music was something I needed to explore. Won’t ever get old to me.

  3. This and “I Like It, I Love It” are too simple, too cliche ridden

    Just out of curiousity, what elements of this song and “I Like It, I Love It” do you consider cliche? Both are lighthearted in nature, to be sure, but I can’t say either of them strikes me as being cliche.

  4. Kyle WardNo Gravatar

    This, simply put, is contemporary country at it’s absolute finest. For starters, it’s rare that a song with tempo has this kind of substance. That that substance is matched with such a tight and instantly identifiable melody is quite an accomplishment. I can vividly recall my entire school bus belting out this song when it would come on the radio when i was in jr high. And this was a bus full of kids who said they hated country and always tried to get the driver to change the station. When this song came on – everyone loved it.

  5. Michael A.No Gravatar

    The parts that seem cliched to me are winning the teddy bear at the county fair (actually both songs mention the county fair), there’s mention of his truck, skipping rocks by the river, running into each other years later on a plane or airport, etc. (I guess I’m glad she was wearing a mini skirt and not cutoff jeans though.) Anyway, they just ring false to me. In fact, they seem about as sincere as a Justin Moore song. Gasp! Blasphemy, I know. In a post on something awhile back, someone mentioned “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” as a template for other songs from the past decade, but these two seem like better candidates.

    Another factor is that my personal tastes tend to lean toward ballads. Listen, I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but frankly, this song and “I Like It, I Love It” annoy me.

  6. Jake JNo Gravatar

    ^I think that this song got so much airplay that it was bound to become a little off-putting because of that. I still really like this song (more than “I Like It, I Love It”) it just reminds me of summertime. I agree this song also set up a template of similar songs on country radio by male artists (“Springsteen”, “Dirt Road Anthem”, etc) but this one always did it better.

  7. AndrewNo Gravatar

    This is the song that made me a Tim McGraw fan. It’s definitely my favorite song he ever did and among my favorites to come out of the decade of the ’90s.

    Also, how great an album was A Place In The Sun? This song, “Please Remember Me”, “My Best Friend”, “My Next Thirty Years” and a slew of solid album cuts. Great stuff.

  8. SweetcheeksNo Gravatar

    I think “Something Like That” is a good song, but all this talk about it having “substance” is odd to me. I don’t see it as significantly more “substantial” than many of today’s “country life” songs that get negative reviews. This song could easily be a Rodney Atkins song in 2012.

    I don’t think this song says anything “substantial” about first love (a comparison with an old photo is not substantial but trite) and most of the images are pretty generic country images (fairs, hot women, et cetera). The barbecue stain line is awesome though: makes the song a bit quirky and memorable but not a novelty song.

    I think the song is generic enough (most of the details are pretty bland, the characters in the song are not developed, et cetera) that listeners can hear the song, feel nostalgic about their first love, and place themselves in a position similar to McGraw and his first love at the fair. If anything the song’s lack of substance helped it become a hit.

    The song is not about substance, but nostalgia. And it does nostalgia well — the song doesn’t lay the on thick, but gives enough of it to make listeners want to reminisce about their first love.

    And the fact that its catchy helps a lot, too.

  9. I’m with Michael. I’ve never liked this one at all.

  10. I can’t help but be a bit perplexed by some of this discussion. I have never put this song anywhere near the same plane as today’s “country life”-themed hits, and I absolutely believe I would like the song just as much if it were released today instead of in 1999. Someone like Rodney Atkins would be very lucky to be able to sing this song.

    Here’s the vital difference, in my opinion – “Something Like That” has a defined narrative, and an overall point to make, and that alone sets it head and shoulders above most of today’s radio fare. The song’s point is that the experience of your first love is something that matters, and the song makes its point such that listeners can see correlation to their own life experiences. That’s what a great country song is supposed to do.

    Some of the song’s imagery does also appear in today’s “country life” songs, but the details serve a purpose in enhancing the story. I don’t see those details as contrived in any way. Besides, the song is not about how country the narrator supposedly is, nor are things like county fairs unique to the backwoods lifestyle.

    I totally understand that no one song is going to float everyone’s boat, but I can see definite artistry at work here, and I think it’s very much worth recognizing.

  11. Jake JNo Gravatar

    Well it was the most played song of the last decade so someone must’ve liked it :P

  12. SweetcheeksNo Gravatar

    I like the song. I listen to it when it comes on the radio. Its catchy. Tim sings it well. Its easy to understand why it was such a big hit. So we agree that its a good song, though for different reasons.

    I agree that “Something Like That” has a narrative, but its pretty bare bones. Basically the plot is that a guy in his early 20s is on an airplane when he sees an old romantic interest. He reminisces about how they met at a fair and has a brief conversation. That’s it as far as I can see.

    The narrative here is super bare bones compared with, say, “Walkaway Joe” or other McGraw songs like the controversial “Red Ragtop.”

    I agree that the details enhance the story. If Tim could’t remember the details, he wouldn’t be able to claim as convincingly that a “heart don’t forget something like that.” But the details are the same familiar stock images — and even the reviled country songs use these stock images to prove a point — namely, “I’m country.” Sure the country life songs have beaten those details to death to the point where we wonder about their sincerity, but the details make a point in those songs no less than in “Something Like That.”

    I do agree that the “song’s point is that the experience of your first love is something that matters,” but I don’t see this as particularly substantial or interesting. Does anybody disagree that your first love (or second…) matters? And the song never really says why the first love matters other than that we tend to remember it a (mere!) five years later. I just don’t see how that is substantial or even interesting.

    For me, what’s interesting about the song is its hook, Tim’s performance, and possibly the “barbecue stain line.” Anyhow, the song clearly was a massive hit and deservedly so.

  13. Erik the PinkNo Gravatar

    This song is definitely Rodney Adkins territory. In the late 90’s, it would have made sense to hear this from Mark Wills or Tracy Byrd. But Tim had mostly outgrown throw-aways like this. Nobody bought him as Opie, skipping rocks in rivers by railroad tracks. But it was 1999, and if Tim released 3 minutes of him and Faith snoring, it would have gone to #1.

    Anyway, was this really the most played song of any genre in the 90’s? That sounds way wrong.

  14. It wasn’t the most played song of the 90s. It was the most played song (of any genre) for the first decade of the 2000s.

    It had 487,343 spins between Jan 1, 2000 and Dec 17, 2009.

    I found that a little surprising only because his career hit “Live Like You Were Dying” came out in 2004. I would’ve thought that one would’ve gotten more spins, but there’s just something irresistible about a barbecue stain on a white t-shirt.

  15. ShannonNo Gravatar

    Spot on review. Love this song.

  16. I found that a little surprising only because his career hit “Live Like You Were Dying” came out in 2004. I would’ve thought that one would’ve gotten more spins

    I think that probably has more to do with the timing of the releases than anything else. “Live Like You Were Dying” came out four years into the 2000s decade, while “Something Like That” came out in mid-1999, just before that decade began. I would guess that the four-year head start before “Live” came out is probably what made the difference. If one tablulated the total spins of “Live Like You Were Dying” from 2004-2012, I’m sure that figure would be quite staggering as well.

  17. KarlyNo Gravatar

    I’ve always adored this song; it’s everything a great pop/country song should be. Charming, endearing, catchy and it evokes memories of a first love. Some may consider it ‘fluff,’ but considering its longevity, I disagree.

    Sometimes I forget that Tim used to be one of the only artist who could do this kind of modern country music so well; you’d never know it, listening to his material of the past decade. This is the guy I can get behind as a superstar; the new Tim, not so much.

  18. RowdyRedNo Gravatar

    Karly, how did you get in my brain? I would have written the exact same review, right down to the choice of words: charming, endearing, catchy! I still smile when I hear it.

    And I too wonder why Tim left this guy behind. Honestly, I can’t recall anything by Tim in the last five years that’s as memorable (in a GOOD way) as this sweet little coming-of-age memoir.

    Nowadays, he seems to be genre-hopping when he’s not posing as a “rock star” — but never mind all that. This song is the subject, and this song is hard to beat, imo.