This is one of Tim McGraw’s most polarizing singles, with perhaps more falling down on the “hate it” than the “love it” side of things.
I love it. I really do. Part of that love is from a combination of the vivid imagery and McGraw’s plaintive vocal performance.
But a much bigger part comes from the second verse where the narrator dreams about his father. Their relationship is idyllic in his subconscious but was distant and cold in reality. That verse is so well-crafted, and McGraw delivers it so masterfully that it always surprises me, no matter how many times I hear it. It’s amazing to see how far he came from “Don’t Take the Girl”, where you can hear the tragedy coming from three verses away, so dripped is his voice in cloying sentimentality.
I get why some people aren’t crazy about this one. It is, after all, about a guy who cries in a supermarket parking lot, and then at a grave site, and then after tucking his little girls into bed. But I guess that instead of coming off as wimpy or sappy to me, it feels more like a guy who didn’t come from a loving home feeling the pain of the little boy and his mother, and later feeling deep appreciation for his own love being reflected in his little girl’s “I love you, Dad.”
After all , there aren’t that many folks out there who get the perfect childhood and then go on to provide it to their children. Even those who have never known a broken home have usually known a few shattered windows. “Grown Men Don’t Cry” makes its fair share of eyes roll upward, but quite a few of those eyes prove the title wrong because it hits so close to home.
The song with the ridiculously long title was released as the fourth international single from Up! It performed respectably in some markets, but did not match the success of the previous singles from the project.
It also reaffirmed Twain’s affinity for parentheses, which apparently ranked as her second-favorite punctuation mark behind only the exclamation point.
“Thank You Baby!” retains many of the usual qualities of a great Shania Twain single. Twain’s vocal delivery brings a sense of warmth and genuineness to the lyric, which details a woman’s search for love, as well as the deep satisfaction of finally having found it.
Where it falters is in its lack of an immediately accessible, memorable hook. The arrangement isn’t as crisp or fresh-sounding as usual, and just barely escapes sounding dated. Likewise, the melody doesn’t quite match the sonic stickiness of Twain’s past efforts, which may be one reason why the song didn’t match the chart impact of its predecessors.
It’s a generally enjoyable effort, but not as satisfying as the delicious pop confections that preceded and succeeded it.
Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain
Strait’s fifteenth #1 single, and eighth in a row, was a cover of a #2 Faron Young hit from 1954.
It features Strait singing in such an exaggerated twang that the entire proceedings feel more campy than country. You’re much better off sticking to the original, which is an entertaining representative of the country music from that time.
It’s a testament to Strait’s star power that he got this to go higher on the chart the second time around, but I can’t imagine he recorded it with the idea that it was anything more than album filler.
The list of distinguished artists who have recorded “Song for the Life” is a long one, but Alan Jackson is the only one who managed to make a hit out of it.
That radio played this pensive and philosophical ballad at all is a testament to Jackson’s incredible popularity at the time. Its mere presence on the airwaves elevated the genre for the handful of weeks it was in heavy rotation.
When you have some time, check out the other versions of this by the Seldom Scene, Johnny Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alison Krauss, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Kathy Mattea, and its writer, Rodney Crowell. It’s one of those songs that reveals quite a bit about where a singer is in their life and how they feel about the meaning of it all.
For my money, Jackson’s reading is the best, though I suspect he’d hit it even further out of the park if he recorded it again today.
So, Alan Jackson is at the peak of his first wave of popularity, and he partners up with a still-potent George Jones to cover one of the Possum’s greatest singles.
I qualify that statement with “one of”, simply because “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, “The Window Up Above”, and “She Thinks I Still Care” exist, but in my personal opinion, the original recording of “A Good Year for the Roses” really is the best George Jones single.
So the two traditionalists pairing up to resurrect this classic couldn’t possibly go wrong, with Jackson being an heir apparent for Jones, who was creatively resurgent at the time. But they don’t go quite as right as they could have. The tempo is a bit too slow, and the dramatic strings are conspicuously missing.
Maybe they didn’t want too much production getting in the way, but for all that Jones is praised for being pure country, what made his best seventies and eighties records soar were those big strings and layers of backing vocalists. Jones is a big enough singer to maintain a commanding presence amidst all of the bells and whistles. That approach wouldn’t play to Jackson’s strengths, so maybe that’s why they kept it simple.
But even though both men are in fine form and they perform the song well, it sounds like something is missing.
A tribute to her versatility as a vocalist, “Love is Like a Butterfly” also reflects her lyrical creativity.
The lilting melody is enhanced by a production that is country at the core, but has sprinklings of the psychedelic pop that the Beatles experimented with on Sgt. Pepper.
All in all, it’s an ambitious effort, so much so that it’s a bit disappointing that all this went in to a song about butterflies. There were tracks on the album that were far more compelling, especially “You’re the One who Taught Me How to Swing” and “Blackie, Kentucky”, so this pretty piece of fluff isn’t representative of the project as a whole.
But if you like Dolly Parton and love butterflies, it’s a keeper.
Awkward in the sense that the melody doesn’t have quite the same pull, and in the sense that, well…it’s a song called “Let’s Make Love,” performed in earnest by a real-life married couple. And as fantastic as Hill and McGraw sound together, it’s hard not to feel a little voyeuristic when they sigh, “I want to feel you in my soul!” It’s just hard.
Still, the record is not without its – ahem - adult-contemporary charms. Really, it’s worth it just for the weirdly engrossing “Look how hot we are!” music video. But it’s the kind of thing you probably wouldn’t want to listen to/watch with anyone else in the room. Unless maybe, I guess, if they were in the room with you because, like…y’know.
Written by Marv Green, Aimee Mayo, Chris Lindsey & Bill Luther
Shania Twain reached her creative peak on Up! , and it’s reflected in the singles released from that project.
Completely drenched in just the sweetest steel guitar, producer “Mutt” Lange manages to get a gorgeous pop sound out of the most country of instruments.
Yet it’s easy to overlook the instrumental perfection, thanks to what still stands as Twain’s finest vocal performance ever committed to tape. Even her most ardent fans had always praised her for vocal style more than range. But unless you were familiar with “Amneris’ Letter”, you’d never have suspected she could pull of something so dynamic.
A beautiful song, a powerful vocal performance, and so country by today’s standards that you can’t imagine country radio playing it now.
Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain
Next: Thank You Baby! (For Making Someday Come So Soon)
Their only chart-topping duet served as the mid-point between five consecutive #1 singles for Parton, while earning Wagoner his first #1 single since 1962.
As their remarkable partnership was beginning to break apart, the duo wrote this song together, and it speaks just as well to the impending doom of their professional life together as “I Will Always Love You” did.
Perhaps that’s what helped make it such a powerful song, with genuine desperation captured in the lyrics. From this point on, Wagoner’s few remaining hits would come only through his duets with Parton, while this entire era of her career would soon be overshadowed by her phenomenal success as a crossover singer and media personality.
But at least on record for just under three minutes in 1974, it sounded like they both needed each other equally.
Another one of Strait’s smoothest pop performances, with just enough country touches in the production to keep his traditionalist credentials intact.
It’s widely assumed that Strait was drawn to this song because of the death of his teenage daughter Jennifer in an automobile accident, which adds a bittersweet tinge to the proceedings. But even taken literally as a love gone wrong song, it’s a beautiful piece of work.
Of the three #1 singles from the album, this is easily the best.