Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Doug Stone, “In a Different Light”

“In a Different Light”

Doug Stone

Written by Bucky Jones, Dickey Lee, and Bob McDill

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

May 25, 1991

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

May 10, 1991

Another new star scores his first No. 1 single.

The Road to No. 1

Doug Stone didn’t have a major label contract until he was in his thirties, but he started in the industry very early, performing by age five and even opening for Loretta Lynn at age seven.  He diligently payed his dues, performing at ice skating rinks and bars while holding down a day job as a mechanic.   He built his own recording studio at his home, and his demos were successful enough to earn him a contract with Epic Records.  Upon signing him, they asked for him to change his name from Douglas Brooks to avoid confusion with Garth Brooks, so he adopted the stage name that made him famous.

He hit right out of the gate with one of the strongest singles of the decade, “I’d Be Better Off (in a Pine Box}”, which was the first single from his self-titled debut album.   It was a top ten hit, as were his next two singles, “Fourteen Minutes Old” and “These Lips Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye.”   With the fourth single, Doug Stone finally earned his first chart-topper.

The No. 1

“In a Different Light” is a country love song that demonstrates how far the genre could reach beyond its traditional small town themes.

The setting isn’t the local Dairy Queen or a rural back road, but rather a nondescript office, where the protagonists work together, three desks apart.  Stone plays the role of a coworker who gets to see his very professional, very understated partner downplay her beauty behind glasses and conservative suits.   But he knows what she looks like with her “hair falling down,” which is how he saw her last night.

It’s tasteful in the same way that Conway Twitty’s love songs were.  While later Stone hits would take his “Mr. Love” reputation and weigh him down, he keeps things on the right side of the line between sentimental and sappy.

The Road From No. 1

Doug Stone would follow this hit with another two consecutive No. 1 singles, both of which appeared on his sophomore set and will be covered later this year.

“In a Different Light” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: George Strait, “If I Know Me” | Next: Diamond Rio, “Meet in the Middle”

5 Comments

  1. In a different world we would be celebrating “I’d Be Better Off (In a Pine Box)” as Stone’s first number one hit. In a perfect world he would have continued to mine that stone-country vein to fame and fortune.

    Instead, we are left to celebrate the arrival of a corporate country romance that feels more suburban than rural.

    This is the first song of this feature that suggests another kind of country music, sanitized and safe.

    I feel so much of Stone’s output reminds me of what could have been, of mishandled talent, and missed opportunities.

    I know my sister, who was not a country music fan, really liked this song at the time.

    This is the first new singer to score a numer one hit in the early 90’s that I struggled to get behind.

    I think I was always waiting for Stone to put himself back into the sounds of “Pine Box.”

  2. One of my all time favorites from Doug Stone, and I love the sweet and charming little love story it tells. However, Kevin just pointed out one of the other things I’ve always loved about it. I always thought it was pretty neat that it was one of the very few country songs centered around the romance between co-workers in an office instead of the typical rural/small town setting. And I like that the woman is not dressed like the typical female subject in a country song, except for those times he’s seen her “in a different light.” For me, that alone makes this one stand out among Stone’s other love ballads. Heck, it’s even refreshing when compared to most modern country songs in which the women are portrayed as not much more than objects in tank tops and daisy dukes, with little to no personality.

    I’ve always loved the beautiful catchy melody in this song, as well, along with the fiddle and steel, and Doug’s tender vocals. And even though it’s a bit dated, I’ve always really liked the production. I especially thought the background vocals getting louder near the end combined with the increased echo effect sounded really neat and unique.

    And like so many other songs from around this time frame, this one brings back some great memories from when I was only six year old in 1991 and not a care in the world. :) And even though this was one of the only songs by Doug Stone that survived as a recurrent for the longest time, I never got tired of it.

    I do have to agree with Peter, though, in that I wish we could’ve gotten more songs in the vein of “Pine Box,” and it’s too bad that we never got to see that side of Doug more often, at least on the radio.

  3. Interestingly, I loved this song back in the nineties, but it hasn’t stuck with me as far as melody or production goes, but I still like “Too Busy Being in Love” and “I Never Knew Love.”

  4. Leeann – I absolutely adore “Too Busy Being In Love”! I imagine we’ll be getting to that one sometime later in this feature. :)

    I forgot to add that another one of the reasons why I’ve always liked the unique office setting in this particular song is because as a kid, it always reminded me of the kind of place my step dad worked in (he worked in computers), which makes it even more special for me.

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