Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “It’s Your Call”

“It’s Your Call”

Reba McEntire

Written by Bruce Birch, Shawna Harrington-Burkhart, and Liz Hengber

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

July 23, 1993

A longtime leader falls behind.

The Road to No. 1

Reba McEntire followed her No. 1 duet with Vince Gill, “The Heart Won’t Lie,” with the third and final single from It’s Your Call.

The No. 1

It’s the title track, and it’s a mess.

Coming off of her two best studio albums, Rumor Has it and For My Broken Heart, Reba McEntire had positioned herself as both a creative and commercial leader among female country artists.

She’d maintain the latter status until the mid-nineties, but “It’s Your Call” was the single that signaled she wasn’t in sync anymore with where the women of country were going.

Only two short years ago, it had been Tanya Tucker and Lorrie Morgan who were selling the most records besides Reba, and their material was largely cut from the same “victim queen” cloth that Kitty Wells, Tammy Wynette, and Reba herself had woven entire careers from.

But by 1993, the most compelling voices were Mary Chapin Carpenter, Pam Tillis, Wynonna, and Trisha Yearwood, and they were recording intelligent and sophisticated material that featured independent women that all had a strongly developed sense of self-worth.  They got hurt, but they were survivors, not victims.

McEntire had been heading in that direction herself.  “Take it Back” had her leaving a cheating man, while “Buying Her Roses” and “Rumor Has It” were frozen at the moment of finding out about the infidelity, so at least one could imagine that she was headed out the door.

But oh my God, “It’s Your Call.”  Originally slated to be the lead single, this finds McEntire handing the phone to her philandering partner: “It’s your call. It’s her.  Would you rather take it in the other room?”

What follows would make even Tammy blush, as she gives an ultimatum that lacks even a shred of dignity:  “If you stay, tell her goodbye….I can’t stand another night of wondering if I even matter. It’s something only you can answer.”

Good Lord, lady.  Leave.  You don’t have to fix him a supper with black-eyed peas, but don’t be such a doormat.

Look. She sings the fire out of this song. She sounds absolutely fantastic.  But on the radio dial next to “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “Let That Pony Run,” she also sounds like something from another era.

The Road From No. 1

Reba followed “It’s Your Call” with a duet that won her a Grammy and powered her second hits collection to five million sales.  It’s an even bigger mess.  We’ll get to it before the year is out.

“It’s Your Call” gets a C.

 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Brooks & Dunn, “We’ll Burn That Bridge”

5 Comments

  1. I never knew what to think of this song.
    First, I loved the sound of the song and reba sounds perfect and Emotional. However, I could never stand behind the woman in the song…because I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t standing up for herself.

  2. Of course it’s a mess! The narrator holds an affair in her hand after answering the phone.

    This song deserves more credit for how it touches the raw vulnerability of betrayal in a relationship and the strength it takes to even consider staying.

    Lyrically, I love how the weight of making a huge decision in the moment unfolds over a phone call. What happens depends in their relationship literally depends on “your call.”

    This woman is no doormat. She knows the situation but she also knows and seemingly still loves her man. She knows her boundaries and terms. She knows where she stands. It can be hard to validate this kind of honesty and loyalty in the face of such an offence, but there she is respectfully giving her man the space and opportunity to find the same trust to make the call she already has.

    Forgiveness doesn’t have to involve an F-you.

  3. Admittedly, I haven’t spent as much time with this one as I’ve had with Reba’s other ballads from this era, and it’s one I didn’t really get into until more recently when I picked up a copy of the album of the same name. Like Greg, I always really liked how the record sounded and Reba’s performance. I also like the double meaning of the saying “It’s your call.” Lyrically, it does come across as a bit “soft” and “dated” for the time period it came out, but I do think Peter makes some good points as well about not all women and situations being the same. I do find it pretty interesting how the woman in this song has a completely different reaction to the cheating partner than the one in her previous single, “Take It Back.” If anything, it definitely showed how versatile she was as a performer. Anyway, I happen to like this song, along with “Take It Back,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” and I absolutely love “Let That Pony Run.”

    I’m pretty much with you on the next single, btw.

  4. While I personally would not do what the woman did in this song it does not make her less of a woman to stay and tell him it’s her or me, it’s your call. Sometimes it takes more strength to stay and work it out if both partners are on board. To have 2 cheating songs released off the same album showing 2 ways that this situation can go shows Reba’s versatility as a vocalist and interpreter. This is an A for me.

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