Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Billy Ray Cyrus, “In the Heart of a Woman”

“In the Heart of a Woman”

Billy Ray Cyrus

Written by Brett Cartwright and Keith Hinton

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 10, 1993

Billy Ray Cyrus scores his third and final No. 1 country single to date.

The Road to No. 1

By the time Billy Ray Cyrus was releasing his second album, his first was already 7x platinum, on its way to nine million in certified sales.  However, radio was already hedging on the wildly popular project.  After two No. 1 singles, the third – “Wher’m I Gonna Live?” – missed the top twenty.  A fourth single, “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore,” returned Cyrus to the top ten, but the final single, “Some Gave All,” missed the top forty entirely.

Mercury got radio back on board for the lead single from It Won’t Be The Last, but as far as No. 1 singles on the country chart go, it very much would be the last.

The No. 1

“In the Heart of a Woman” is a great record and it achieves what a successful sophomore lead-off single should.  It reminds listeners of what was appealing about Billy Ray’s first set, while building on that foundation with a stronger melodic hook and more mature lyrical content.

Unfortunately, Cyrus was already being perceived as a one hit wonder, despite him enjoying his fourth major radio hit.  So “In the Heart of a Woman” feels like a lost classic these days, a window into what could’ve been a long running radio career if the artist’s popularity with record buyers had weighed more heavily on the decision makers at country radio.

The Road From No. 1

It Won’t Be the Last quickly went platinum,  but radio enthusiasm waned.  “Somebody New” went top ten, and the excellent “Words By Heart” didn’t quite get there.  And then, the bottom fell out.  The album’s final single, “Talk Some,” barely charted. Cyrus followed with Storm in the Heartland, which produced a top forty hit in its title track and managed to go gold.

Cyrus persevered, releasing the critically acclaimed Trail of Tears album and having a handful of additional hits.  “Busy Man” went top five in early 1999, and his duet with daughter Miley Cyrus, “Ready, Set, Don’t Go,” also went top five in 2007.

Cyrus continued to record and release independent projects, before suddenly resurfacing on one of the biggest hits in music history.  Adding a featured verse to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” Billy Ray Cyrus scored his first No. 1 pop hit, which just happened to become the longest-running No. 1 single of all time.  “Old Town Road” is the only song to date that’s been certified 15x platinum, and it earned Cyrus the first two Grammy Awards of his career: Best Pop Vocal Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video.   He also won his second CMA Award for Musical Event in 2019, a full 27 years after he took home Single of the Year for “Achy Breaky Heart.”

“In the Heart of a Woman” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Dwight Yoakam, “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” |

Next: Garth Brooks, “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)”

 

7 Comments

  1. This is one of my favourites of his songs but I’m commenting mostly to agree how excellent “Words By Heart” is – it is one of the finest country “first love” songs I know of. Not the best – I don’t think I could pick a best – but top tier for sure.

  2. Are you planning on doing a best of 2021 feature this year?

    I always enjoy the Country Universe teams picks.

  3. “Words By Heart” is fantastic! “Somebody New” is really good, too. I feel like Cyrus got punished for “Achy Breaky Heart,” as if it had lowered country music’s standards or something. This feature is going to demonstrate that sidelining Cyrus didn’t stop a wave of novelty records from topping the charts. There are some that I’m absolutely dreading writing about because it means I have to listen to them again.

  4. @Kevin I know just what you mean that it feels like Cyrus was ‘punished’ for Achy Breaky Heart. I think maybe because it was ‘too’ successful in some way. But he has always been a favourite of mine, I like most of his songs (even Achy Breaky sometimes but I do need to be in the right mood to listen). I don’t envy you having to listen to the novelty songs, though.

  5. This became one of my favorite Billy Ray songs after I found a super cheap copy of his It Won’t Be The Last album at the K-Mart in Fredericksburg, VA around 2004. Again, I love his Springsteen/heartland rock influences on display here, and I love the well written lyrics. I also really love the sound of the steel guitar heard throughout, and it somehow sounds great together with the rock influenced arrangement. Finally, I love the guitar solo at the end. For me, it’s a perfect song to crank up with the windows down on a nice warmer day. Always really loved the video, as well, and the beautiful location was a perfect fit for the feel of the song.

    I also really adore “Somebody New.” That’s probably become one of my favorite BRC songs of all time, and I wish it was a bigger hit for him. It’s actually also one of my dad’s favorites.

    And yes, I also LOVE “Words By Heart,” which takes the Springsteen influence even further. It’s a perfect example of a song obviously being more rock than country not bothering me at all because it’s just so good. Again, it’s a shame that it wasn’t a bigger hit, and it doesn’t seem fair that radio was “punishing” Billy Ray for “Achy Breaky” and his sudden popularity.

    I actually find myself liking “Achy Breaky” more than many of the other novelty songs from other artists that followed it. Maybe that’s because “Achy Breaky” was seemingly dropped like a hot potato from our stations after the early 90’s ended, and therefore, I never really had much of a chance to truly get sick of it (And of course, it has some nostalgic value for me, as well).

    Anyway, It Won’t Be The Last is still one of my favorite BRC albums, and in some ways, I even like it more than his debut.

  6. I wonder how much Cyrus’s beefcake, Chippendale dancer image worked against him in terms of credibility. It certainly set him apart from the hat acts and identified him as not playing by Nashville’s image rules. It’s ironic that despite much of his music hitting the mainstream mark, his image didn’t meet expectations while somebody like Dwight Yoakam who also played by his own rules musically received industry validation by at least looking the part. Mullet minus the hat bad, mullet with hat good.

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