Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire with Linda Davis, “Does He Love You”

“Does He Love You”

Reba McEntire with Linda Davis

Written by Sandy Knox and Billy Stritch

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

November 6, 1993

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 29, 1993

A powerhouse vocal duet brings Linda Davis her biggest chart hit to date.

The Road to No. 1

While Reba McEntire’s previous two singles had also gone No. 1, Linda Davis was without a recording contract at all when she recorded “Does He Love You.”  McEntire was a big fan of Linda’s voice, and she had her on the road as a backup singer following Linda’s stint on Capitol/Liberty Records.

Davis had been hustling for a long time on Music Row.  Her clear talent had created opportunities that hadn’t paid off.  First, she was half of the duo Skip & Linda, and they charted a handful of minor hits in 1982.   Then she had a singles deal with Epic that produced a handful of additional chart hits in the second half of the eighties.  Davis then released two albums under the Capitol/Liberty imprints.  1989’s In a Different Light produced three singles, two of them reaching the lower end of the country chart.  The third single failed to chart, as did all of the releases from her self-titled 1992 set.  Her decision afterward to go out on the road supporting McEntire led to her appearance on one of the biggest country duet singles of all-time.

The No. 1

“Does He Love You” was a massive hit, thanks to a cinematic music video and two powerhouse vocal performances, with Linda Davis more than standing her own while going up against one of the all-time greats at her career peak.

The song itself felt anachronistic even in 1993. It was originally written in 1982 and pitched to Barbara Mandrell and to Liza Minnelli; the latter would eventually record it with Donna Summer in 1996.  It’s the tale of a wife and a mistress desperately wondering who the man really loves, rather than just showing the cheating cad the door and leaving him on his own.

It all has the sheen of that early eighties country that kept one foot in seventies R&B, despite the presence of two pure country vocalists that do their best to inject a bit of twang.  That Summer/Minnelli cover is worth a listen because it hints at what the song was truly intended to be, especially as the ladies ad-lib in the second verse, piercing each other’s delusions in a way that makes the song feel more like a real conversation between two women.

Oh, but they can’t match the fireworks and bombast of Reba at her syllable-stretching best, which is what really makes this record work far better than it should.   Reba sings the hell out of her part, and somehow Linda Davis goes toe-to-toe with her.  This was before diva-like belting became commonplace later in the decade, and it really was something special in 1993 when the genre was still centering men.

I don’t love it, but I respect it.

The Road From No. 1

Linda Davis was signed by Arista in the aftermath of this hit, which won both ladies a CMA and a Grammy the following year.  Her time with Arista produced two albums and higher charting singles than her previous work, with “Some Things Were Meant to Be” making it into the top fifteen.  Another stint on DreamWorks produced a top twenty hit with “I’m Yours.”

Davis is the mother of Hillary Scott, who found success in the band Lady A(ntebellum).  Davis participated in a contemporary Christian project with Hillary called the Scott Family.  The album Love Remains and the single, “Thy Will,” were major hits, winning Davis an additional two Grammys for her mantle.

As for McEntire, “Does He Love You” powered Greatest Hits Volume Two to five-times platinum status, her highest selling overall release to date.  The second and final single, “They Asked About You,” went top ten.  McEntire followed it with Read My Mind, another triple-platinum album that produced the top five hit “Why Haven’t I Heard From You” and the top fifteen hit “She Thinks His Name Was John.”  1994 became the first year since 1983 where McEntire didn’t have at least one No. 1 single, but she’d get caught back up in 1995 when the three other singles from Read My Mind all topped the chart.

“Does He Love You” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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4 Comments

  1. Lyrically, “Does He Love You” always seemed a bit lightweight to me, but with more in common with “Whoever’s In New England” or “Jolene” with the female singer having little dignity and begging her man not to go. I actually like all three songs. Even though it’s not a cheating/love triangle sort of song, I like the sentiment in “Consider Me Gone” much better.

    “Never Wanted to Be That Girl” captures all the emotional turmoil the situation in it and “Does He Love You” calls for, but more maturely while leaving the narrators their self-respect. Different eras, I guess.

    I’m really enjoying this feature. Thanks for all the great write-ups.

  2. I still beleive there is an underappreciated strength and confidence to the women of this generation as they confront infidelity. Trying to tease all the emotional knots from the unexpectedly twisted cords of human kindness while holding together the fraying ends of the ties of love doesn’t sound like weakness or a lack of self respect to me. I think the vocal firework and bombast perfectly capture the turmoil these two women are wrestling with. They are in a battle with themselves as much as one another.

    This is vocal sparring and theatre at its best. Reba went head-to-head with Vince Gill and she does it here with Linda Davis. She will do it again with Ronnie Dunn.

    I always loved the ending of the video with Rob Reiner, “Huh? You like it? You’re dead.” It’s the perfect emotional release valve to the built up intensity and pressure of the song.

    • This song is definitely vocal sparring theatre at its best! As much as I enjoy hearing the Summer/Minnelli version because it really is written for that R&B/Broadway theatre world, I think it works better because it’s put outside of its expected context here.

  3. I’m pretty much with Kevin on this not being one of my favorites, but I respect it for the strong performances it brought out in both women, and how it brought the underappreciated Linda Davis into the spotlight. Heck, even the music video was such a huge deal, which doesn’t seem to happen too often lately.

    I just could never quite get behind the idea of the two narrators cat fighting over the man who made a fool out of both of them. Funny how you should mention Barbara Mandrell, because I’m reminded of her “One Of A Kind Pair Of Fools” which covers similar territory, and I personally prefer the direction the story takes in that song. I even prefer the sentiment in the later duet that Reba would do with Linda called “Face To Face” from 1998’s If you See Him.

    It’s also pretty cool to learn that it was actually written in the early 80’s, which perfectly explains why it sonically has much more in common with Urban Cowboy country than early 90’s country. Also, great point on it being one of the first examples of the belting style that would become commonplace among country female vocalists in the late 90’s. Strangely, this combined with the lyrical content sort of made it both behind AND ahead of its time. It obviously worked, though!

    As for Linda Davis, it’s too bad this ended up being her only real hit and the only thing most folks remember her for now. I actually remember hearing “Some Things Are Meant To Be” a lot on the radio in 1996 and was surprised to eventually learn that it wasn’t even a top 10. My personal favorite single of hers, though, is 1998’s “I Wanna Remember This” from the soundtrack of the movie, Black Dog. I also really like “I’m Yours” from later in that year.

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