Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “You Lie”

“You Lie”

Reba McEntire

Written by Charlie Black, Bobby Fischer, and Austin Roberts

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

November 3, 1990

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 12, 1990

A new decade and a new co-producer take Reba McEntire’s career to the next level.

The Road to No. 1

By 1990, Reba McEntire had already become one of the most successful female artists in country music history, dominating the awards circuit with record-breaking runs as Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA and ACM Awards, as well as winning the 1986 CMA trophy for Entertainer of the Year.  Her record sales were consistently gold and platinum, and she hadn’t missed the top ten with a radio single since 1984.  Her last album of the eighties, Sweet Sixteen, produced four hits and spent thirteen weeks at No. 1 on the country albums chart.  She was also a top draw touring act and popular media personality, regularly co-hosting awards shows and having a high enough profile to appear on the network talk shows.

But McEntire was wise enough to know that things were slowing down and that the competition was growing more fierce.  While recuperating from a difficult pregnancy, McEntire made the decision to switch co-producers, tapping MCA executive Tony Brown to helm her seventeenth studio album with her.  For the first single from their new collaboration, Rumor Has It, the pair chose Reba’s cover of a 1988 album track from Cee Cee Chapman’s debut album.

The No. 1

“You Lie” was immediately different from the singles that preceded it.  While McEntire’s final singles co-produced by Jimmy Bowen sounded stuck in the eighties, “You Lie” debuted a fresh and contemporary sound, with more aggressive production and a more challenging vocal for McEntire to deliver.

It’s a fantastic song already, but McEntire’s performance of it was her finest on record up until this point, with her sounding like a turbo-charged Tammy Wynette, if she’d only had the vocal power of Patsy Cline.   McEntire’s ability to sing a soaring melody without losing her twang allowed her to stake her claim as a big-throated country diva, every bit as tethered to country music as Patti LaBelle or Whitney Houston remained tethered to R&B.

“You Lie” kicks off McEntire’s imperial phase, with a string of blockbuster singles that were so consistently excellent that she managed to reach new levels of commerical success while most of her eighties peers were being left behind.

The Road From No. 1

On the strength of “You Lie,” Rumor Has It became McEntire’s fastest-selling album to date, selling over a million copies in only seven months.  They followed it up with the album’s title track, which we will cover in 1991.

“You Lie” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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3 Comments

  1. I think this is Rebas finest vocal performance as a powerhouse vocalist. Her more subdued moments are my favorite from her follow up album but I like this Reba as well. She hits those high notes just right all the while dialing it back for the verses to emote the pain of the whole situation. A dying relationship has never sounded so good!

  2. Ditto to everything trouble_with_the_truth said. In comparing the two landmark albums, I also give the slight nod to For My Broken Heart, but with that said, Rumor Has It is also great, and this has always been one of my favorite singles from it, especially. It’s also one of my all time favorite Reba songs. Those falsetto notes she hits in the chorus still give me chills when I hear it. I have read about Reba getting a lot of criticism for abandoning her traditional country roots when this album came out, yet for me, this song is a fine example of how contemporary country can also be so good.

    And yes, this is yet another song that brings back great memories of my tape recording days in early ’91. In fact, it’s on one of my very favorite tapes I did in that time. :)

  3. I struggled to accept Reba’s music in the moment. I thought her vocals were histrionic and the production too busy or dense. This strong woman probably subconsciously intimidated the hell out my 16 year old self. Her music did feel overwhelming to me.

    I listen to her now, however, and I have a whole new appreciation for what she is doing
    both as a vocalist and a contemporary artist wanting to grow and creatively push herself.

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