Single Review: Tim McGraw featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, “Me and Tennessee”

Three better Tim McGraw duets:

  1. I Need You
  2. Over and Over
  3. Cold, Cold Heart

Three better Gwyneth Paltrow duets:

  1. Cruisin’
  2. Forget You
  3. Just My Imagination

Three bad country star/Hollywood star duets:

  1. Bar Room Buddies
  2. Stay Outta My Bedroom
  3. Me and Tennessee

One duet that is eerily similar to this one:

  1. Don’t You Want Me

Written by Chris Martin

Grade: D

Listen: Me and Tennessee


  1. I might have been overly generous with this one, but I wasn’t feeling it either. I might have given it a C at best, though D was a little more severe than I would have expected. It didn’t seem offensively bad to me, but I don’t think the song is very well-written, and the record as a whole just seems kind of boring. Very mediocre.

  2. “Me and Tennessee” comes off a prefabricated song written for a movie opposed to a heartfelt duet between two singers.

    This song stands little chance of a long chart life because it isn’t believable out of the context of the film. You don’t believe Tim and Gwyneth’s roles as lovers here.

    Also, and Ben pointed this out in his review, but it’s a pretty bad sign when the title of a song doesn’t appear in the lyrics nor has any meaning to the song. Where did the phrase “Me and Tennessee” even originate?

    While Tim’s vocal is okay, this whole recording is largely forgettable. I have a difficult time believing Gwyneth as a country singer on this track. She’s more than proven her singing abilities with her much better non-country work, but her vocal here is very weak and forced. She seems much livelier when she isn’t singing country, her duet on “Forget You” was very good.

    Another thing, this doesn’t bode well for Chris Martin’s writing abilities. I’m not a big Coldplay fan or too familiar with their work, but to think he wrote this is kind of shocking. I thought he was artistically better (and he is with Coldplay) than he proves himself here.

  3. I wouldn’t have given it a D, C prob; just compared to most country songs out nowadays this feels just slightly above them, so giving it a D feels wrong. But it’s no Faith/Tim duet, that’s for sure.

  4. I generally like Chris Martin’s songwriting, being a Coldplay fan myself, but this song left me wanting and expecting more. This isn’t a bad song, but it’s not interesting nor does it have much going for it.

  5. I remember reading a quote from Merle that went something like, “I told Clint I’d never try to act again, if he promised no to sing any more.”
    I wonder what he would say about this song?

  6. Sigh.

    I find this annoying. It almost seems like this was just tossed aside and wasn’t given an adequate/professional review. What I got from this was… ok, you didn’t like it. You like x, y, and z songs more implying that this song sucks… Not only do I disagree that this is a bad song, I also find it just short of offensive that you say the song is just short of offensively awful. I enjoy the it thoroughly. The dual perspectives being sung by the two individuals are well written, and makes the song more personal and easy to relate to. Tim’s performance sounds like the man in the story is emotionally numb and exhausted from all the stress the couple has been facing in the story. And the “together we’re singing||forever we’re singing” line just shows that although they cannot be together anymore, deep down in their hearts, they will always have the shared love they once had. Both of the narrators are lost in this mess of unforgiving and trust breaking actions–and you can sense it in the record. To me, that makes a good song. However, I do feel that Gwyneth’s performance seemed over done. A bit forced.

    I also think that people need to not judge songs based on the artists who sing in them. Yes, Tim is a country singer, and yes, Gwyneth is a film actress. So what? That shouldn’t make any difference in when a song is receiving criticism both negative and positive. I see that happening far too often. (Not necessarily here, but other places that have reviewed this song)

  7. I can’t figure out how to write this in a straight-forward way so please be forgiving as I ramble…

    First off, I’ll just say that I like the sound of this.

    Jonathan, mostly I’m addressing what you had to say because part of it I get and part of it I don’t. Kind of like the song actually. I know it was written for the soundtrack. That made it possible for me to accept Tim singing a love song with someone other than Faith. But, on the other hand, I saw the movie and it doesn’t follow the storyline at all. Thus my confusion when I listen to the lyrics. So I’m most interested in the following comment – “This song stands little chance of a long chart life because it isn’t believable out of the context of the film. You don’t believe Tim and Gwyneth’s roles as lovers here.” Does that mean you accept Jason and Kelly roles as lovers in their duet? Or will accept Brad and Carrie roles as lovers in their (rumored upcoming) duet? Is the fact that it is from a soundtrack a factor in your thinking? Or just the fact you don’t like the lyrics? I’m not trying to be argumentative. I think most every song (not just the duets mentioned) has role playing in it and I was curious about what makes one believable to you and not another.

    Also, I have to admit that I feel like I’m going kind of crazy here, but I hear the phrase “Me and Tennessee” in the lyrics. At the 2 minute mark she sings “baby you told me you loved me and Tennessee where we were gonna live.” I’m not a writer so maybe that’s not what you all are meaning.

    Mitchel – I don’t know if you are a regular reader or not, but don’t be offended by Kevin’s review. I find him to be one of fairest reviewers even when I don’t agree with him. As he’s shown in the past, he’s not going to spend a lot of time on something that he sees no merit in. Setting aside your comments on the review itself, you did a good job defending your viewpoints on the song. As I said above I like the sound of this song. I just can’t love it because 1) my own confusion with the roles and the movie and 2) I don’t think it is particularly well written. It would be confusing to me even without bringing in the movie’s storyline. But the sound alone makes it an enjoyable listen for me.

  8. Libby – Thank you for acknowledging my comment. I often come here when it concerns my favorite artists. McGraw, Sugarland, Urban, Nichols etc. I understand not spending time on something that one doesn’t see merit in…but I just have a difficult time in this case, being it’s a professional reviewing site that many people come to for insight. I think any song released to the radio should receive the full attention of its critic, and he or she should be professional enough to fairly dissect it step by step, rather than do as I saw here. I’m not trying to start an argument or anything of the sort–I just felt I needed to say it.

    Anyway, in the song’s defense, I haven’t seen the film. I obtained this song as soon as the soundtrack was released and was attached to it immediate. I, as a listener, wasn’t confused by what was occurring in the story of the piece and thought it was a great song both lyrically and musically. Which brings up another possibility of those who dislike it as much as they do: unintentional bias based off of comparison of the record versus the film.

    Either way, I’m not saying everyone must think it’s good, or you only don’t like it because you saw the movie, and the two conflicted. It’s just down to simple taste. I still feel bringing in the movie at all is irrelevant for a review.

    Sorry for rambling! :)

  9. Libby – I really appreciate you calling me out because you’ve given me a lot to think about here. I’ve been going over in my head as to what I meant by the comment so I can see why you’re confused.

    I’m not trying to suggest this song works in the context of the film. Without having seen it, I can’t speak to that. But what I meant by context was I know Tim and Gwyneth’s characters are married in the film so the song makes sense in that context. When you take the song out of the movie it falls apart. “Me and Tennessee” is a song that needs the film to explain its existence. It wasn’t written as a universal love song that can stand on its own.

    Also, I didn’t believe their roles as lovers here because they weren’t convincing. The chemistry between Tim and Gwyneth on this song isn’t real. Her vocal is so flat and non emotive, that it makes it hard for me to believe what she’s singing. Their is nothing in her vocal performance to suggest she even cares (or cared) about Tim in that way. The way she mailed in her vocal keeps her role from being authentic.

    Plus, the song isn’t transformative enough to work as a single. It was written for use in a movie and it comes off that way. It won’t have a long chart life because it cannot stand on its own merits. “Me and Tennessee” comes off as two lead actors from a movie singing a love song together. The lack of believability and chemistry is why this song doesn’t work.

    Now that isn’t to say it couldn’t work. The pairing of lead actors from a film on a duet happens all the time. Look back to Grease, for example. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta’s duets from the soundtrack worked outside the context of the film because they were believable. Those songs (“Summer Nights,” “You’re The One That I Want”) were constructed to have a life beyond the movie. To listen to them on their own, you wouldn’t know they were from a film. They are transformative enough to work outside the context of the movie and the chemistry between the actors is real.

    Libby, you made another really good point. I wasn’t even looking at the larger picture of country love duets such as “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” I’ve never even thought about it. Do I accept Jason and Kelly’s roles as lovers? Yes, I do. Love songs have been sung for ages by people who aren’t romantically linked. In terms of “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” I accept their roles because they make it believable. They have the chemistry to pull it off convincingly and it works. Plus, Kelly sings the fire out of her lines in the song. She has the power to make it work. Gwyneth doesn’t.

    I won’t speak to Brad and Carrie’s rumored duet unti I’ve heard the song. As for their other duet, “Oh Love,” it worked because the magic was there. Brad and Carrie play off each other really well and pulled the song off. It didn’t get the best reviews, but they and their voices work well together. As we’ve seen from their hosting duties at the CMA awards, they have a genuine chemistry.

    And as for the title of the song, thank you for pointing out it does appear in the lyric sheet. I hadn’t caught that. But that doesn’t make it any more baffling. That phrase has nothing to do with the hook of the song, and doesn’t make sense, to me at least, as a title. “That Old Country Song” or something along those lines would’ve spoken better to the meaning of the song.

    Bottom line for me – Tim and Gwyneth are playing roles here. Their chemistry isn’t believable mostly because Gwyneth’s vocal is so flat. I don’t accept their roles as lovers for that reason. “Me and Tennessee” doesn’t have a long chart life because, this song isn’t transformative enough to work out of the context of the film. You really need the film (i.e. to understand they’re married in the movie) to explain what’s going on here because outside of Country Strong, this song makes little sense.

    So it really did come down to chemistry for me. In “Me and Tennessee” they don’t have it, and the whole thing falls apart.

  10. Thanks for the replies.

    Mitchel, I do agree with you about Tim’s delivery. I’m a fan of his and I do think he does a good job. But between the lyrics and Gwenyth’s delivery I would give this a C. I wouldn’t listen to this if Tim wasn’t singing.

    Jonathan, the main reason I was asking about believability was because I realized that was the reason I don’t like a song that is both popular and critically acclaimed. Blasphemy I know, but that song is “The House That Built Me’. I think it was well written and Miranda does a great job with it, but I just can’t buy into it because I don’t think that’s the “way” she would have “said” it. Usually when I don’t like a song it is mostly because of the sound or lyrics that don’t set with me. Granted, I haven’t always paid a whole lot of attention as to why I like/dislike a song, but this is the first time I can say that it was strictly the believability factor that makes me dislike a song.

    I guess we all have “baggage” that comes along when hearing a song. :)

  11. Oops! :( I saw the post to the THTBM thread and then read it all. (I could have sworn I’d read everything posted here at CU…) So it isn’t blasphemy to not love this song, on this forum anyway. But it was still an eye-opener for me to dislike a song for a “believability” issue. It may not have literally been the first time, but it was such a high profile song with most people loving it that I was trying to identify the reason I didn’t buy into it. This is why I don’t post more – I put my foot in my mouth every time I do…

  12. Why Top 40 radio is the only one I listen to now, compared to country radio, I just don’t have the patience to wait for my favorite songs anymore.

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