“Is There Life Out There”
Written by Rick Giles and Susan Longacre
#1 (2 weeks)
April 4 – April 11, 1992
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
March 20, 1992
Reba’s imperial era continues with another classic single.
The Road to No. 1
Reba McEntire’s For My Broken Heart produced a No. 1 in its title track at the end of 1991. The second single followed the first hit sequentially on the album, and thanks in part to a memorable music video, it became an anthem for women going back to school at an older age.
The No. 1
“Is There Life Out There” almost wasn’t a Reba McEntire single. An unnamed major artist was set to record it, but made a request of songwriter Susan Longacre: change the line in the chorus, “Is there life beyond her family and her home,” to something less controversial.
Longacre refused, and the song found its way to McEntire instead, who included it on her landmark For My Broken Heart album. She filmed an epic and triumphant music video for the single, where a mom balances her job as a waitress and her responsibilities at home with earning a college degree. The clip ends with her graduating, while her family cheers on.
There’s no such celebration in the actual record, which is frozen in time at a moment of hesitation and regret. As the woman in the song remembers thinking she was ready for marriage and homemaking, she contemplates action that she never actually takes: “Would she do it the same as she did back then? Oh, she looks out her window and she wonders again.”
The production is all nervous anxiety, with a carefully plucked guitar capturing her tormented indecision. Like so many of the songs on For My Broken Heart, it grants the listener no easy answers and no easy way out of the emotions being felt.
The Road From No. 1
MCA followed “Is There Life Out There” with Reba’s cover of the Vicki Lawrence hit, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” It snapped a streak of 24 consecutive top ten Billboard hits dating back to 1984, but would go on to be the highest-selling digital single from the album. The fourth and final single returned her to No. 1, and it’s even better than the two classics we’ve covered already. We’ll see it later in the year.
“Is There Life Out There” gets an A.