Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “Rumor Has it”

“Rumor Has it”

Reba McEntire

Written by Bruce Burch, Vern Dant and Larry Shell

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 25, 1991

Reba fully embraces her inner diva on this memorable power ballad.

The Road to No. 1

Toward the end of 1990, Reba McEntire had topped the charts with “You Lie,” the lead single from Rumor Has It.   With that album already her fastest-selling yet, MCA sent the title track to radio.

The No. 1

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re in Reba McEntire’s imperial phase, where she went from simply being the top-selling female country artist to being a multi-platinum star who could keep up with the men at the head of the pack.   “You Lie” was a masterpiece, and one of the most unique sounding records of her career.   “Rumor Has it,” meanwhile, lays down the power ballad template that would become her signature style in the coming years.

It’s a relatively simple formula: take the structure of a pop power ballad, add some country instrumentation, and let Reba completely loose.  The more she pushes her vocal limits, the more country her vocal becomes, with her natural twang being most prominent when she’s reaching for difficult notes.  It’s like the country music equivalent of Patti LaBelle.

Down the road, McEntire would stumble by trying to make actual pop-flavored music, which goes against her strengths.  But on a classic like “Rumor Has it,” she can deliver like nobody else.  She takes a simple small-town cheating experience and infuses it with drama and pathos, claiming the every woman experience as decisively as Garth Brooks claimed the every man experience with his breakthrough hits.

Incredibly, this is the weakest of the four singles from Rumor Has It.

The Road From No. 1

Reba scaled new career heights in 1991, returning to the Entertainer of the Year races and claiming her fifth ACM Top Female Vocalist trophy, extending her own record.  The next two singles from Rumor Has It were also among her career best:  “Fancy” went top ten and became her signature hit;  “Fallin’ Out of Love” went top five shortly after.

However, her professional achievements were overshadowed by a horrible tragedy, which would inform her next studio album and result in her finest artistic achievement.  We’ll talk more about that when the lead single and title track tops the charts at the end of 1991.

“Rumor Has it” gets an A. 

 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Paul Overstreet, “Daddy’s Come Around” | Next: Mark Chesnutt, “Brother Jukebox”

 

5 Comments

  1. Favorite lines:”I overheard a conversation your name was mentioned in. They didnt talk about us only her again”. So much punch, yet so simple! Definitely an A rating!

  2. I like this song, but I’ve always felt that “It’s Your Call” just was a better version of the same song.

  3. I like this song so much better listening to it in 2021 then I first did in 1990. At the time, I found her vocals and production overwhelming. In my comment on her previous number one I maintained I may have been intimidated by her growing celebrity. At the time, I was always looking for a way to dismiss her. I thought she was somehow selling out and betraying country music. In hindsight, it was such an immature and silly response to her music and career. It prevented me from appreciating great vocals like this in the moment.

    Maybe this feature will connect me with some of Reba’s best music I undervalued in my youth!

  4. Really love this song! I had actually just heard it the other night while listening to one of my favorite tapes I recorded in early 1991 (this feature has made me want to dig them all up again and hear what country radio was like during this period covered so far). This is another one of my all time favorite Reba songs. Love her emotional vocal performance on it, and the production still sounds great today!

    I remember this song also being one of my favorites during the late 90’s when I was revisiting the same tape. It was pretty neat how you were just as likely to hear a latest hit like this from Reba, Clint, Vince, Lorrie, etc. as you were to hear 80’s and 70’s recurrents from the likes of Janie Fricke, Alabama, Eddy Raven, Emmylou Harris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Charley Pride, Charly McClain, Dan Seals, Ronnie Milsap, and even The Eagles.

  5. @Peter,
    She definitely got to a point where the music was overshadowed by her media personality, but her first two albums with Tony Brown are classics. She really could’ve gone by the wayside, but she showed up with the best music of her career.

    @Scott,
    I have thoughts about “It’s Your Call,” but I’m saving them for when that song is covered in 1993!

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