Proving that the airplay charts don’t tell all of the story, this part of the countdown features several singles by nineties stars that didn’t reach the top but have stood the test of time.
400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties:
I Wish I Could Have Been There
1994 | Peak: #4
This is the country equivalent to “Cats in the Cradle”, but more tender and less selfish. – Leeann Ward
Sometimes She Forgets
1995 | Peak: #7
Tritt gives a surprisingly but fittingly subdued performance on this cover of a Steve Earle song, telling the story of a woman who sometimes forgets that she’s sworn off men. I can never get enough of the incredibly cool arrangement. – Tara Seetharam
Forget About It
1999 | Peak: #67
A realistic, messy goodbye, as Krauss’ words tell her old flame to just “forget about it” while her pained whisper mourns that the situation has come to such a point. She’s waking coolly out the door now, but knows it won’t be long before the recent past becomes memories that haunt the both of them. – Dan Milliken
Believe Me Baby (I Lied)
1996 | Peak: #1
Kim Richey co-wrote this bright pop-country hit that recalls the very best of sixties pop. Check out how Yearwood lets the chorus revel in Wall of Sound goodness while she saves her trademark wail for the verses. Any man who could turn her down after that “If there’s any way…” is stronger than most. – KC
Love Can Build a Bridge
1990 | Peak: #5
“Love Can Build a Bridge” may be a record that’s historically and musically stamped by its artists, but the lyrics are potent enough to stand on their own, built on a beautifully-written fundamental truth: “I would whisper love so loudly, every heart could understand/That love and only love can join the tribes of man.” – TS
Dance With the One That Brought You
1993 | Peak: #55
A wise piece of motherly advice set to a dazzling waltz. Very few contemporary country artists can sound as earnest singing timeless gems like this one as they do on wall-shaking pop-country hits. – TS
I Got it Honest
1994 | Peak: #15
As Tippin fiercely growls his principled convictions, it sounds like the final gasp of country music’s long-standing solidarity with the working class. Thanks to Tippin, it went down fighting. – KC
I’d Love You All Over Again
1991 | Peak: #1
No grandiose professions here – just an unaffected, intimate affirmation of love. I can’t get over how nakedly sincere country music sounded in the nineties. – TS
Let Me Let Go
1998 | Peak: #1
It’s been over for some time, and he seems to have moved on. But she’s trapped, always thinking of him, still seeing little glimmers of hope that maybe they’re supposed to be together after all (“If this is for the best / Why are you still in my heart?”). All she wants now is a way out. – DM
New Way Home
1993 | Peak: #64
It was always a great song, but the synthesizer-drenched, slow-paced arrangement on Love in a Small Town masqueraded its strengths. When Oslin recorded it again for inclusion in her greatest hits collection, it was finally fully realized. The premise is simple: she’s finally moving on from a heartbreak, but she’s changing the way she drives home so she doesn’t accidentally see how he’s moving on as well. – KC
Nothin’ But the Wheel
1993 | Peak: #20
There’s not a nineties artist who could emote mournfulness more convincingly than Patty Loveless. Throughout the song, we naturally think that she’s leaving in the lonely cover of darkness in order to escape a relationship that she doesn’t want anymore, but we soon discover that it’s even sadder as it’s revealed: “The only thing I know for sure is that you don’t want me anymore.” – LW
She Is His Only Need
1992 | Peak: #1
A man’s work ethic traced back to pleasing the woman he loves. It’s clear that she’d be just as happy if he didn’t keep buying her things that she wanted, but he’s only happy if he keeps doing so. – KC
1994 | Peak: #1
Tritt offers a straightforward primer on how not to let a marital spat spiral out of control. It all starts with checking pride at the door. – LW
My Baby Loves Me
1993 | Peak: #2
A bold anthem for women whose men have accepted them for who they are, flaws and all. This is anything but a love song; rather, it’s a fierce declaration to the world. – TS
What’s It To You
1993 | Peak: #1
This clearly isn’t country music’s finest poetic moment, and I’ll admit I don’t really know what love is to Walker –something along the lines of two hearts beating as one? But here’s the deal: he sure knows. He infuses his performance with such raw, electric energy that the song becomes an invigorating anthem for those who couldn’t be more convinced of their love for someone. And that final clap-along chorus? Pure joy. – TS
Three Chords and the Truth
1997 | Peak: #44
Many country songs pay tribute to music’s sublime ability to evoke buried memories and emotions. Evans takes it a step further, suggesting that a song, even one heard for the first time, can invoke action; in her case, it pushes her to reconcile with her loved one. How appropriate that this record is firmly focused on the music, with its bare-bones arrangement and pure, straightforward vocals. – TS
We Tell Ourselves
1992 | Peak: #2
After a brief hiatus, Black returned with the lead single from his third album, The Hard Way. For the first time, he truly let his rock roots show. It’s a growling performance of a lyric that warrants it. – KC
Eagle When She Flies
1991 | Peak: #33
As sensitive and fitting a description of womankind as I’ve ever heard. There’s not a voice in this world that can match this song’s message the way that Parton’s does. – TS
1990 | Peak: #2
Here’s an inspirational song that’s just so full of life and energy that it somehow rises above the cringe/cheese factor. – LW
Keith Whitley & Earl Thomas Conley
1991 | Peak: #2
The love that is sung about in “Brotherly Love” is something that I see between my own brothers. It’s quiet, but fierce, just like the emotion of this song, which became ever more poignant after its posthumous release. – LW
Cry On the Shoulder of the Road
1997 | Peak: #26
Once upon a time, Martina McBride sang songs with emotions that ranged beyond peppy, motivational clichés. From her strongest album to date, “Cry on the Shoulder of the Road” is among the finest and quietest exhibits of such a time. – LW
You Were Mine
1998 | Peak: #1
Maines sings the fire out of this song about a broken marriage, but the show-stealer is the crushing bridge, in which she wonders how she’ll tell her two-year-old and four-year-old that their father changed his mind. – TS
Let Go of the Stone
1992 | Peak: #7
Backed by a beautifully sympathetic piano-driven production, Anderson delivers a heartfelt plea to a friend, or potential lover, to let go of the emotional baggage (the stone) that is holding her down. He counsels, “If I’m ever gonna save you, let go of the stone.” – LW
When You Leave That Way You Can Never Go Back
1993 | Peak: #14
This is a dramatic example of being one’s worst enemy. He starts by being a rebellious/troubled young man who unceremoniously leaves home, then becomes a deadbeat father who leaves his soon-to-be bride at the alter, and finally ends up killing a man and going to jail. Only in a country song! – LW
Midnight in Montgomery
1992 | Peak: #3
One of the spookiest songs of the nineties, Jackson sings of seeing Hank Williams’ ghost at his grave site. The thrilling whine of the steel guitar only intensifies the already vivid imagery in the song. – LW
400 Greatest Singles of the Nineties (2010 Edition)
#400- #376 | #375- #351 | #350 – #326 | #325 – #301
#300 – #276 | #275 – #251 | #250 – #226 | #225 – #201
#200 – #176 | #175 – #151 | #150 – #126 | #125 – #101
#100 – #76 | #75 – #51 | #50 – #26 | #25 – #1
I really like “I Wish I Could Have Been There” , but I think the knock on “Cat’s in the Cradle” is both gratuitous and nonsense – “Cat’s In The Cradle” is much the better song, whether performed by Ricky Skaggs or writer Harry Chapin
I actually didn’t say it was superior to “Cats in the Cradle”, but I I’ll say that I prefer Chapin’s version of the song to Skaggs.
…when he writes songs about bisquits that ain’t like mama fixed ’em – he’s good. when he writes a song about the unspeakable – he finds the right words and when he wrote this song about hank williams – he created the most artful and most beautiful tribute to hank ever.
Absolutely great compiliation of singles in this part, I love a whole bunch of these singles…. Wow, I miss the 90s.
I love “Three Chords And The Truth,” a little tidbit of interesting info: I was watching the CMT Top 100 Videos countdown (most recent one, either 2008 or 2009) and the video for this song made it to #77. Anyways, one of the people they interviewed was Wynonna Judd, and I just loved what she said: “She [Sara Evans] wasn’t just singing, she was SANGing.”
It was a great countdown, because they included a lot of videos that streched back from the 90s and 80s, of course, some of the inclusions were just rediculous!
I was happy & surprised to see “Walk On” by Reba on here, that is one of my favorite upbeat singles of hers.
Re. “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)”–does it not seem ironic that Trisha, via good friend Kim Richey, puts the blame for a relationship going haywire on herself and not the man? I’m not snickering at that notion, because even Trisha herself once pointed this irony out. Also, the cover pic of EVERYBODY KNOWS, which is the album that song comes from, has a slight resemblance to the cover of Trisha’s idol Linda Ronstadt’s 1973 album DON’T CRY NOW.
Re. Martina’s two entries here–once more, they illustrate just how good she can be when she goes for edgier kind of material, and when she realizes that subtlety can often be a good thing.
Re. “You Were Mine”–It’s kind of weird to say, but when the Chicks suddenly burst onto the scene in 1998 with this song and the whole of the WIDE OPEN SPACES album, I kept reading wisecracks in the media about how they sounded merely like a twanged-up Texas version of the Spice Girls. Clearly, there was far more to Natalie, Emily, and Martie than that, as evidenced by this song (IMHO).
“You Were Mine” was the first song that I liked by the Dixie Chicks.
I love “Nothing But The Wheel”!!!!!!!!!!!! I would have thought it would have been higher!!!!!!!!! Also pleasently surprized to see “Walk On”!!!!!!!!!
Another fine group of songs. My favorite Faith song, Wynonna, Trisha, Patty, Travis, John Anderson’s “I Wish I Could Have Ben There” …
Five years before Alison Krauss released it as a single, “Forget About It” was an album track on “Simpatico”, a Suzy Bogguss cd with Chet Atkins. Hard to believe that AK’s version only made it to #67.
“Dance with the One That Brought You” was one of Shania’s best. I love the soft bouncy beat, the steel guitar, and Shania’s pleasant laid-back delivery.
I’m glad to see another Sara song on this list. Even though her greatest success came in the new millenium, she did put out many great though underappreciated singles in the nineties. (By the way, “Three Chords and the Truth” was not actually her debut single – that was “True Lies.” “Three Chords” was the second single from her debut album)
Dixie Chicks – a twanged up version of the Spice Girls? Big difference: the Chicks can sing; the Spice Girls can’t.
I like all of these songs so I guess I’ll comment on my favorite writeups. Great job on the blurbs for “Love Can Build a Bridge”, “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)”, “What’s It To You”, “You Were Mine”, “Sometimes She Forgets” and “Eagle When She Flies”. You guys are really able to capture the way I feel about these songs (and why I love them so much) and put it into a few words.
Thanks for the correction, Ben – fixed it!
another great set
So glad to see Patty Loveless represented on these lists. I agree with the reviews that she has that gift to really nail a song and a moment/feeling in a way that is too rare in country music.
LOVE the Keith Whitley / ETC “Brotherly Love”. Two greats of country music, no doubt.
Sidebar: These lists have to encourage a “cheeziest album covers of the ’90s” list! Clint Black’s “here, hold this harmonica and wear this white hat (even tho you always wore a black hat)” pose is … well, special.
And Reba’s “Sweet Sixteen”… really? LOL!
I can’t believe how hard you’re all being on Martina. I know many think her material is too happy, not unorthodox enough, but you’re all talking like she’s a mediocre vocalist.
I’m only 16, part of the “country is for old people” generation, but I know there are few vocalists in the world who can match Martina McBride. Even with fair material, her performances are flawless. Her live performances say all there is to say.
She is way to underrated thanks to whiny writers like you who don’t know a high C when they hear it.
This is nice reading this post. Based on the contents, I can obtain that you really have a great sense of music. Actually I am also a big fan of those songs, especially those by Travis Tritt and Shania Twain. This is great arranging them in a page so we can remember nice moments related to the songs.
The posthumous release of songs like “Brotherly Love” make me certain that Keith Whitley would have been destined to be right up there with other 90’s Country heavyweights like Garth, George and Alan. Such a shame that his demons got the better of him so early. I’d love to have heard another 30 years of music out of his voice; a voice and artist that would surly stayed true to real artistry.