Here’s a feature I’ve been wanting to start for a long time, since the good folks at Entertainment Weekly do it so well with the pop charts. How do yesterday’s hits sound today? Lets’ take a look back to the hit parade from thirteen years ago today.
Top 20 Country Songs
June 25, 1994
“That’s My Baby”
Lari White would eventually score her first of three top ten hits with this breakthrough single, which is so light and fluffy that it is hard to even take seriously. C-
“It Won’t Be Over You”
A clever kiss-off number that I’d completely forgotten about. Wariner just might be the king of forgotten hits. B
“How Can I Help You Say Goodbye”
A three-act masterpiece that rivals “Where’ve You Been” in the pantheon of heartbreaking country story songs. As poignant today as it’s ever been. A+
“I Wish I Could Have Been There”
Country music’s very own “Cat’s in the Cradle”, delivered by one of the genre’s finest vocalists of all-time. A
“One Night a Day”
Ugh. Garth Brooks tries to channel Billy Joel and ends up with a very irritating record. I’d forgotten how bad he sounded when he did that operatic thing with his voice. D
“Lifestyles of the Not-So Rich and Famous”
Just in case you think the current redneck anthem craze is bad, here’s a timely reminder that it was much, much worse in the nineties. D
“The Cheap Seats”
A fun and entertaining celebration of minor league baseball. One of their best singles from the nineties. A-
“Every Once in a While”
Breathtakingly, deliciously arrogant. B+
For all of his outlaw bombast, Tritt’s greatest strength was always his killer ballads. This is one of his best. A
“Don’t Take the Girl”
Good Lord, Tim sounds so darn earnest, as if being close to tears himself will make the listener cry. Excessive and over the top, but still pretty darn entertaining. B-
“Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind”
This may be the closest father-son equivalent to “Coat of Many Colors” that ever was. Good life lessons here. A-
“I Take My Chances”
Mary Chapin Carpenter
“I found a speaker who spoke of the light but there was brimstone in his throat. He’d show me the way according to him, in return for my personal check. I flipped my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette.” Find something that wickedly smart on today’s country radio. Go on. I dare you. B+
“That Ain’t No Way to Go”
Brooks & Dunn
The women in Brooks & Dunn songs are pretty much always unrealistic. Here, the woman leaving writes it in lipstick across the mirror. No woman I know would ever waste lipstick like that. It’s pretty expensive. Ronnie Dunn can still make you believe it with that voice of his, though. B
“Why Haven’t I Heard From You”
She’s easing in to her shameless pop phase, and it hasn’t dated well. I dug “Take it Back”, but this one always seemed too silly. C
“They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore”
It didn’t sound so great back then, but it’s aged even worse. Among the least impressive hit singles of the entire decade. D
A touching conversation between two friends after a misguided one-night stand, full of empathy with just the tiniest drop of righteous judgment. Oh, and she sings the hell out of it. A
A phenomenal power ballad from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic. Raye never sounded better, and the song is a timeless classic. A+
“Walking Away a Winner”
Her last big hit is also one of her best, an empowering anthem that is clear-eyed and free of bitterness. A
“Whenever You Come Around”
I usually love his ballads, but for some reason, I’ve never been able to get into this one. It just leaves me cold. B-
How funny that a top twenty full of heavy songs starts and finishes with silly records. There’s a charm to this single, mostly because of McCoy’s personality, but even reasonably well-performed fluff is still fluff. B
These were the songs that helped me become a country fan. Sure I liked Garth and Vince and my mother LOVED Reba but it was Collin Raye’s “Little Rock” that hooked me. Since then it’s been my genre of choice (although I do like other stuff, country is the mainstay).
Cheers and great walk through memory lane,
I don’t consider 1994 to have been an especially good year for Country Music but compared to recent years, this was classic stuff . I largely agree with your song-by-song assessments although I would give the Tracy Byrd number a C+ , the Tim McGraw effort a B+, Brooks & Dunn a C and Blackhawk a C
Great idea for a feature here.
I didn’t realize that Boy Howdy actually managed any top 10 singles, and looking back on their stuff, I really wonder why Jeffrey Steele is such a hot commodity as a songwriter. I haven’t liked any of the recent hits that he’s written for other acts, but they’re at least a small step up on things like “Thanks for the Ride” and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore.” Eesh.
The singles from Lari White’s debut were great, and I always felt like, vocally, she was one of the few newcomers who could really hang in there with Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless. “That’s My Baby,” though, was just too insubstantial, and she seemed to disappear after the video for “Wild At Heart” a few years later. Except, of course, for her cameo in Castaway and for producing Toby Keith’s record.
Not a fan of that Vince Gill single at all– the melody just dies in the first two lines of the chorus.
And I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to get over McGraw’s one-two punch of “Indian Outlaw” and “Don’t Take the Girl,” two of my least favorite singles ever. How anyone can take “Don’t Take the Girl” seriously is beyond me– it’s even campier than “Why Haven’t I Heard from You” and most of Reba’s other singles from that era.
Loveless’ single is definitely the class of this group, but it’s a pretty strong countdown overall.