Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “Is There Life Out There”

“Is There Life Out There”

Reba McEntire

Written by Rick Giles and Susan Longacre

Billboard

#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.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Alan Jackson, “Dallas” |Next: Wynonna, “She is His Only Need”

 

8 Comments

  1. Fabulous record. It avoids the typical sap propagated so often in country. It’s just real. Real person, real problems, questions with no answers. Life. A+

  2. I think what for me makes this song so great is that music video. It really helps the song a ton, and is imo one of the best music videos in all of country music.

  3. I love the video myself, but it does give a resolution to the storyline that doesn’t exist in the song. I think that it’s easy to miss that there isn’t a happy ending – or any ending at all – in the recording, just because the video was so powerful.

  4. I am not a huge fan of the song but the video was great! I see nothing controversial in this song even for it’s timeframe. Can’t imaging what artist would have thought that

  5. I had never seen the video until clicking on the link above. I don’t like it. The resolution is too pat, too predictable, too optimistic for the angst portrayed in the song.

  6. Love this song so much! This one just brings back all sorts of great 1992 nostalgia for me. Even that intro alone with the guitars and keyboards just really takes me back to being a seven year old again. I’ve always loved the quiet guitar plucking part before the final chorus, as well. And although I don’t have a family of my own, I can still relate to it. The line “She doesn’t want to leave, she’s just wondering is there life out there” especially hits home. I’ve never been one who’s wanted to be far away from my parents, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, there’s certainly been times I’ve wondered if there “is life out there.” Social anxiety has also possibly kept me from doing certain things that I might’ve done differently otherwise. I have to agree with Kevin, in while I also love the video and the positive influence it’s had on so many, I personally like how just the song by itself makes you wonder and perhaps lets you decide for yourself what happens to the song’s main character and how her life goes from that point on.

    As I said, this song just really brings back great memories for me, as well. For some reason, it’s the main song that reminds me of when I was really into collecting buttons while we were living in my dad’s house in early 1992. My parents would always take me to the Woolworth in the mall where I usually found new additions for my collection, and I would play all kinds of games with both my dads involving the buttons (usually with the radio on in the background). :) This song also made it on to side B of the same tape I mentioned in Garth’s “What She’s Doing Now.” Also on that side it “Anymore” by Travis Tritt, “Heart Of The Night” by Juice Newton, “I’ll Need Someone To Hold Me When I Cry” by Janie Fricke, “Born Country” by Alabama, “Never Knew Lonely” by Vince Gill, “Jealous Bone” by Patty Loveless, “Is It Still Over” by Randy Travis, “Keep It Between The Lines” by Ricky Van Shelton, “Meet In The Middle” by Diamond Rio, “Hearts Aren’t Made To Break (They’re Made To Love)” by Lee Greenwood, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis, “Since I Don’t Have You” by Ronnie Milsap, and “From The Word Go” by Michael Martin Murphey.

    And of course, this song also brings back great memories of when my step dad brought home Reba’s For My Broken Heart album not long after we moved into our new house later in 1992. It’s another one of my favorite early 90’s country albums I still love to revisit every now and then that brings back so much nostalgia (and yes, I made a cassette copy of it too. :) ).

  7. One of Reba’s better efforts of the 1990s. The video was excellent even thou it really supplements, rather than complements the actual lyrics

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