Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Alabama, “Then Again”

“Then Again”

Alabama

Written by Rick Bowles and Jeff Silbar

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

November 22, 1991

Alabama tread water with this anemic ballad.

The Road to No. 1

After four No. 1 singles from their 1990 set, Pass it On Down, Alabama released their second hits collection, Greatest Hits II.  Featuring three new tracks, the two of them released as singles found the band in a holding pattern.  They’d explore some new sounds with their next studio set, but the two chart toppers on Hits tread familiar and tired ground.

The No. 1

“Then Again” is an eighties power ballad that’s too scared to be an eighties power ballad, so it strips out some of the bombast but forgets to put in a melody or a memorable lyric.

The band sounds lost, like it doesn’t know if it’s supposed to lean into their country roots or pump things up to the scale of another “The Closer You Get.”

Randy Owen takes so long to finally get going that when he does start to show some emotion, it feels like it comes out of nowhere, going from 0 to 80 at the tail end of the record.

It’s a dull and lifeless affair, and one of their weakest chart-toppers.

The Road From No. 1

There’s another single on the way from Greatest Hits II, and it’s not much better.  But it will be featured when we get to 1992.

“Then Again” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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11 Comments

  1. This is my least favorite Alabama single that actually was a hit. I think the review nails the fact that even Randy Owen seems unsure on this song, and the melody is almost non-existant/doesn’t really build to anything. But, the lyrical content always annoyed me more than anything else. I never cared for songs where a person in a relationship talks about all of the negative things happening and how they’re so close to ending it…but their answer to the problem is… “Then Again…we can change/fix it”. It makes it sound too easy, and unless you write the song in an interesting/relatable fashion that focuses on mistakes/how to fix them…it doesn’t feel “real”. This feels like someone whining more at the end of a relationship, then actually going the extra mile at trying to do something about it.

  2. It aggravates me to no end that my two favorite Alabama ballads of the decade – “We Can’t Love Like This Anymore” and “It Works” – are among their only singles to not go No. 1.

  3. Nothing new to add other than reiterate the song wanders and the echoes suggest the song is lost itself.

    This is part of that pendulum swing through Alabama’s sounds that made me distrustful of their music. As much as I felt artists like George Strait and Randy Travis were comforting radio presences that held the fort on the country charts, Alabama was unpredictable, a wild card that often wasn’t very wild at all.

    When a soft Alabama song doesn’t have any nostalgic or sentimental hold on me it, it just sounds limp and lifeless like this one.

  4. I can’t recall ever hearing this song before, so I gave it a listen and I agree, there’s nothing very interesting or special about it. I’m surprised it went #1.

  5. I remember the song – I don’t think it went top five on any of the stations I listened to in Central Florida and while I know it did reach #4 on billboard, I am surprised to find that this bland ballad went to #1 on Radio & Records / C-

  6. @ Kevin

    “We Can’t Love Like This Anymore” never stuck with me for some reason, but I just listened to it again, and it’s funny listening to it in contrast to “Then Again”. “We Can’t Love.” gives a much more realistic look at a decaying relationship, and the emotions that come from it. I like the line “I thought Time would make things better, but it only made it worse”…which flies in the face of “honey, let’s give it one more try even though it appears to be over”. Its not showy, but it’s a nice song that holds up well.

    “It Works” is excellent, and is a song I grow to appreciate even more as I get older. Easily one of their career highlights, as far as quality goes.

  7. Ouch! Guess I’m gonna be the lone ranger here for now, because I’ve always actually really liked this one. Nostalgia could very well have a lot to do with it, since I’ve liked it ever since I was little, and it personally brings back some really good memories for me. Still, it somehow really works for me today. There’s just something about the melody I’ve always really liked, and the overall dark feel of it. Also, I’ve always appreciated that there were still traces of 80’s style production in at least a few songs on the charts in the early 90’s. There’s just something about the production, especially the keyboards and 80’s pop style drums, that has a bit of a charm for me and reminds me of a time long since passed (which I admit was a very happy time for me). I’ve personally always liked Randy Owen’s performance as well, with him showing off more his lower register for a change. For me, it was a pleasant surprise to find out this one actually went to number one! lol

    I remember hearing this one a lot back when it came out in late 1991, and I still have a really good memory of the night I recorded it on to a tape for the first time with both my dad and step dad downstairs with me. That tape is another one of my favorite ones I recorded from that time, and on the same side, it also includes other favorites of mine like “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” by Kathy Mattea, “Don’t Waste It On The Blues,” by Gene Watson, “Down At The Twist and Shout” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, and “The Dirt Road” by Sawyer Brown. And as I mentioned in the “Brotherly Love” thread, this song is also on the tape I loved listening to whenever my family and I would drive through the beautiful scenery of Northeast PA and Upstate NY. This song especially reminds me of when we were in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1999 on the way to Maine, and we stayed in that area for the night. I remember having it stuck in my head on certain occasions during that trip, particularly when we went to the Red Lobster in Wilkes-Barre for dinner that night, lol. Sigh…good times!

    I guess I’m gonna be in the minority also in that I happen to really enjoy both the singles that came off Alabama’s second Greatest Hits album. I do agree all the way with Kevin, though, that “We Don’t Love Like This Anymore” and “It Works” are excellent and deserve more recognition.

  8. I just dusted off that very first tape that I recorded this song on in late ’91 mentioned above, played it while ago, and believe it or not, this song sounded even BETTER to me coming from the tape! Our stations always seemed to play the music with extra bass and a fuller sound, plus our old stereo has a great bass booster feature. Perhaps, that’s one reason why it never seemed as bland to me. I especially like those little thunder like sounds during the second verse, which I noticed more thanks to the bass booster. Lyrically, I personally like how the narrator remains optimistic and hopeful despite knowing the relationship is in trouble, even if it may not be realistic.

  9. …we loved it at the office. when someone made a really silly suggestion on anything, quite often someone else would go humming oder even singing at low voice in great alabama schmalz-style: theeen agaiiin,… to highlight the ridiculousness of the idea. and guess what, that was in london, england and the years where the late 90’s. nice guilty pleasure and funny memories.

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