Wasn’t there anyone who could tell him that this wasn’t going to work? It’s a terribly awkward effort to force a classic concept into a current framework. (See also: Lorrie Morgan, “1-800-Used-To-Be”)
Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson, “Because of You”
This could’ve been great. Two great singers, one great song. The fatal flaw is that it just doesn’t work as a duet. The lyrics don’t make sense when it’s two people singing to each other.
Lonestar, “Mr. Mom”
Mr.Mom was the first movie that I saw in theaters. Back then, the concept of a stay-at-home Dad was novel. By the time this song rolled around, it was hard to even take the conceit of the song seriously. This guy’s not struggling because he’s a guy. He’s struggling because he’s a bumbling fool.
Kenny Chesney, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”
The song that made Chesney a superstar doesn’t involve him lounging around on a tropical island, but it sure does make me thankful that he stopped singing about country living.
Kellie Coffey, “When You Lie Next To Me”
It’s rarely the prototypes that are terrible. It’s usually the copies. By the time “Where Were You” became “I Raq and Roll”, the post-9/11 song was insufferable. Here’s what “Breathe” finally devolved into: a schlocky mess that is such a lazy copy that “Just breathe” becomes “Just be.”
Toby Keith, “Stays in Mexico”
Though it’s a fairly tasteless song to begin with, production choices sink this one in the end. Silly sound effects and a backing track that makes “Hot! Hot! Hot!” seem subtle and understated push this dangerously close to novelty status.
Rascal Flatts, “Bob That Head”
A desperate attempt to come off like edgy rockers.
Taylor Swift, “Picture to Burn”
Criticizing Swift for being an irrational teenager is like criticizing water for being wet. But this really is Swift at her absolute worst. Not only is a juvenile lyric coupled with a disastrous vocal performance, both of which are bad enough in their own right. But the underlying message that most of Swift’s songs send to her teenage girl audience is on most naked display: Your happiness and self-worth are solely determined by the men and boys in your life.”
John Michael Montgomery, “The Little Girl”
The most horrific “inspirational song” that I’ve ever heard is directly ripped off from an urban legend that showed up in songwriter Harley Allen’s inbox.
Chad Brock, “Yes!”
Nothing captures how country music embraced mediocrity better than this Chad Brock single, which actually spent three weeks at #1. The storyline is completely unbelievable, the production is as generic as a Karaoke track, and Brock’s performance is so faceless that it might as well be a demo recording.
As awful as some of the other songs on this list are, they at last aspired to make a larger point. Spectacular failures can still demonstrate a noble ambition. “Yes!” aspires to be nothing more than radio filler, and it succeeded in dulling down the radio dial during its entire run. Hearing it again on satellite radio last month was the inspiration for this list. The song’s only indication of personality being the exclamation point in the title? That secured its place atop the list. It truly does represent country music being drained of all of its heart and soul until just a token fiddle is all that’s left to identify it as such.
Reba McEntire already has 56 top ten hits to her credit, and her new single, “Strange”, just entered the chart at #39, a career-high entry for the legendary singer. She's been a presence on the country charts for 23 years, has more gold and platinum albums than any female country artist, and she's a multimedia star, finding great success on Broadway and in television and film.
But for those who know her best as a sitcom star or Kelly Clarkson's and Kenny Chesney's duet partner, trying to tackle her catalog is a daunting task. This Starter Kit will get you going, as it includes ten of her most essential tracks. Those of you looking to learn more about McEntire are highly recommended to check out the excellent My Kind of Country blog, which gives frequent and always high-quality coverage of McEntire's music, past and present.
“Somebody Should Leave” from the 1984 album My Kind of Country
Even though she was won her first CMA award for Female Vocalist before this album was released, My Kind of Country is widely credited as being the first truly great Reba McEntire album. She exerted creative control for the first time, and instantly became one of the genre's most significant new traditionalists.
This Harlan Howard classic is achingly, heartbreakingly beautiful, a description that fits most of McEntire's best work. Here, a couple is aware that it's time to part ways, but aren't sure how to go about it, so worried are they for their children: “If it was only you and me, goodbye might come more easily. But what about those babies down the hall?”
“Whoever's in New England” from the 1986 album Whoever's in New England
A country ballad on the surface, a power pop ballad below the surface. This epic of suspected cheating turned her into a record seller, and earned her the CMA award for Entertainer of the Year.
“One Promise Too Late” from the 1986 album What Am I Gonna Do About You
McEntire's recorded quite a bit of traditional country, but rarely as pure as this track, where the musical hook is provided by twin fiddles and her voice is even twangier than usual.
“You Lie” from the 1990 album Rumor Has It
There were quite a few solid singles off Reba's lesser-known but still platinum-selling albums from the late eighties. But when she teamed with Tony Brown for Rumor Has It, the lead single “You Lie” blew them out of the water. The full range of her voice was on display for the first time, and it was a force to be reckoned with.
“Fancy” from the 1990 album Rumor Has It
Bobbie Gentry's original was tinged with sadness and regret, but McEntire turned it into an empowerment anthem, a full force assualt on the “self-righteous hypocrites that call me bad.” She did what she had to do, and she stayed true to her mother and herself. She could care less what anyone else thinks about it.
Paul W. Dennis of The 9513 said that his Randy Travis Starter Kit could begin and end with the entirety of Storms of Life. I could say the same about McEntire and her masterpiece For My Broken Heart.
Recorded in the wake of the plane crash that killed her road manager and several members of her band, the album is somber without ever becoming too morose. The title track was originally planned as a duet with Clint Black, but McEntire did it alone in the end. Her performance on the CMA Awards was one of her finest moments, even as her voice visibly cracked with emotion at the end.
“The Greatest Man I Never Knew” from the 1991 album For My Broken Heart
A daughter looks back on the man who sacrificed everything he had to make a better life for his family, but in so doing, never got to know his daughter. “I never really knew him,” she laments, “and now it seems so sad. Everything he gave to us took all he had.”
“If I Had Only Known” from the 1991 album For My Broken Heart
Her finest moment on record, as she looks back with sad regret on the things that she never said to a loved one who has died. “If I had only known it was my last night by your side, I'd pray a miracle stop the dawn. And when you smiled at me, I would look into your eyes and make sure you know my love for you goes on and on.”
“The Fear of Being Alone” from the 1996 album What If It's You
This strikingly intelligent hit finds McEntire warning her new beau not to rush into saying “I love you.” She warns him that “you may think you do, but you don't. It's just the fear of being alone.”
“Moving Oleta” from the 2003 album Room to Breathe
This one's so painfully sad that it could've been on For My Broken Heart. A man moves his wife into a nursing home because he can no longer care for her, so advanced is her Alzheimer's.
On Tuesday, January 13, 2008, the eighth season of American Idol commenced. As the highest-rated show on television, American Idol‘s produced an immeasurable impact on the entertainment industry, with film stars (Jennifer Hudson), pop superstars (Kelly Clarkson) and publicity magnets (Clay Aiken) all sprouting from the competition.
A number of Idol participants adopted country music as their main mode of career transportation. In addition to Season Four champion Carrie Underwood, finalists Josh Gracin, Bucky Covington and Kellie Pickler have achieved varying levels of success on Music Row. Phil Stacey, Kristy Lee Cook and Bo Bice continue to polish their craft in the hopes that they’ll find favor with country listeners as well.
The best Idol contestant to date is Kelly Clarkson. Her blend of balls-to-the-wall rockers and fall-to-your-knees ballads were a magic potion to angry tween girls (and fans of pure pop bliss), and her ensuing success legitimized Idol as a cultural institution. Then, the floodgates opened. Kudos came from all corners of the musical universe with 2005′s “Since U Been Gone,” a sing-in-your-hairbrush salvo that Clarkson fires off with the strength of a gale force wind. Hip and happening, fueled by a melody that was half Strokes, half Swedish pop genius, “Since U Been Gone” gained a rare thing for mainstream radio songs: credibility. A change in her musical muse (Clarkson delved into deeper, darker tones on 2007′s My December) was met with turbulence; in June 2007, she shared her public “feuds” with famed record exec Clive Davis, she dumped her management team and she canceled a stadium tour.
Recent developments advance the notion that she’s ready to conquer the Top 40 parade again. Hailed as the return of pop’s prodigal daughter, Clarkson’s new album All I Ever Wanted (slated to ship on St. Patrick’s Day) is being positioned as a bounce back into the shinier rhythms of Clarkson’s earlier work. The bright, beaming colors of the album art (not to mention her goody-two-shoes, glammed-out pose) and the light, breezy feel of its first single, “My Life Would Suck Without You” signal a renewed energy. Lyrics like “Maybe I was stupid for telling you goodbye/Maybe I was wrong for tryin’ to pick a fight” hint coyly at the contretemps behind the black curtain. A masterstroke of marketing or an earnest ditty of devotion? No matter. The quasi-comeback kid kicks the tail out of a tale of resistant rapture.
There’s your Kelly Clarkson update. Now, who is your favorite Idol contestant, country or otherwise?
P.S. Who, in my view, is the best country Idol contestant so far? Well, Carrie Underwood, of course.
This is not a country single. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s one of those pop songs with enough of a rock flavor to make it palatable to adult top 40 radio stations. The only reason this is being marketed to country is because Jessica Andrews has had some country hits. It would fit in better on the radio in between Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson, the latter of which had a country hit by recording one of her own songs again as a duet with Reba McEntire.
See, that’s where we are now. Artists can send songs to country radio that are indistinguishable from what’s being played on top 40 radio, and quite frankly, it’ll fit in just as well at country as it does at top 40. If they’re lucky, it’ll get played on both, like “All Summer Long” and “Teardrops on My Guitar.”
Anyway, the grade below isn’t because it’s a pop song trying to pass itself off as country. It’s because it’s not a very good pop song. Derivative melody, flavorless vocal, busy production with everything going on and nothing going on at all. Not even fiddle and steel could make it interesting.
Last night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Dave Berg was named Songwriter of the Year and Alan Jackson took Songwriter-Artist of the Year at the 46th annual ASCAP Country Awards.
Jackson earned a songwriter prize from the performing rights organization for the sixth time, having claimed Songwriter of the Year in 1993, 1994 and 1997, and then shifting to the Songwriter-Artist category for wins in 2002 and 2003. Berg received his first Songwriter of the Year honor for writing “Don’t Make Me” (recorded by Blake Shelton), “It’s Good to Be Us” (Bucky Covington), “Moments” (Emerson Drive), “These Are My People” (Rodney Atkins) and “What Kinda Gone” (Chris Cagle).
The most-performed country songs of the past year were also recognized, and “Good Directions,” Billy Currington’s #1 hit from 2007, was named Song of the Year. The award was presented to ASCAP writer Rachel Thibodeau (Thibodeau and co-writer Luke Bryan, a BMI songwriter, performed the song at the ceremony). Other performers included the SteelDrivers and Dierks Bentley with the Grascals.
ASCAP also paid tribute to Reba McEntire, recipient of this year’s ASCAP Golden Note Award for her outstanding career achievements. McEntire was enjoying her 25th year as an ASCAP member, and Brooks & Dunn, Kelly Clarkson and LeAnn Rimes sang some of her biggest hits in honor of the music legend. Clarkson, notably, was greeted with a standing ovation from a mostly placid crowd following her soulful performance of McEntire’s “Why Haven’t I Heard From You.”
Fans of Reba McEntire who have been following her for the past two decades or so know that two things are true. One, she’s an effortlessly outstanding vocalist, who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the legends of any genre. Two, she’s been all about diversifying her portfolio since the mid-nineties, which means on those increasingly rare occasions that we get new music from her, we never know whether it will be an album worthy of her talents, or just a vehicle for her latest marketing tie-in.
Reba McEntire featuring Kelly Clarkson, “Because of You”
“Because of You” is one of my favorite pop songs of the past few years, a dark and powerful ballad of family dysfunction. I was nervous when I heard about this becoming a duet, but it had the potential to be reworked into an interesting mother/daughter confrontation. McEntire is one of the strongest vocalists in the history of recorded music, and God knows she could pull this off on her own and make it a country classic. Unfortunately, she chose to make this a duet without changing the viewpoints of the song. McEntire sings the first verse, and then Clarkson takes the second. The end result is the song doesn’t make any sense, and is just confusing to listen to.
Stick with the original, and pray that this is the worst thing that McEntire’s promising duets project has to offer.