Retro Single Review: George Strait, "Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye"

1988 | Peak: #1

Back in the early nineties, CMT used to run videos 24/7.  It was very predictable.  Three videos, commercial break.  Three more videos, commercial break.

Occasionally, they’d do a “Triple Take”, where they’d play three videos in a row by the same artist.  It was a good way to discover an artist’s catalog.  I didn’t know “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” existed until CMT did a Triple Take for Pam Tillis, who I’d first noticed with the ridiculous video for “Put Yourself in My Place” and fell in love with when she released “Maybe it was Memphis.”

When it was an older artist like Alabama or Reba McEntire, Triple Takes could feature any number of videos stretching back several years.  But even back then, George Strait loathed making videos, and

he had only three of them in rotation by the summer of 1992, when I spent hours on end watching CMT.

The end result?  I saw the video for “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” at least a hundred times, making it a far bigger classic in my mind than it would be if my primary exposure to country music had been through radio instead of video.

This single is so closely associated with my discovery of George Strait’s music and country music as a whole that I can’t separate the experience enough to give “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” an objective evaluation.  It was my first favorite song by one of my most favorite artists, and the only one of his that I can’t listen to without picturing every frame of the video.

Seriously.  The girl with the bad eighties perm is always carrying that saddle and counting her pawn shop money in my head, every single time I listen to the record.  Which is something I still do quite often, because it’s awesome.

Written by Tony Martin and George Martin

Grade: A

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  1. Ahhh, the good ole days of CMT. I, too, fondly remember the three videos/commercial break format and triple takes as well as Signature Series and their 8pm hour of current videos, which name escapes me at the moment (hot ticket? or something close to that).

    I vividly remember a triple take with Trisha Yearwood – “The Song Remembers When”/”She’s In Love With The Boy”/”Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” in that order. GOOD stuff! I could wax poetically about the golden age of CMT all day.

    Anyhow, “Baby’s Gotten Good At Goodbye” is my all-time favorite single of George Strait’s career. No particular reason, but I love the song so much. I can’t describe it, but it’s just my kind of song.

    I haven’t seen the video as much as you have, Kevin, but I vividly remember it as well. I remember watching it with my grandmother and thinking I had to get the song on CD. For a 1980s video, it’s very well done and holds up well today.

    I really, really miss this era of both country music and of CMT.

  2. When I was a kid, my dad had a copy of Ten Strait Hits that got played constantly. That was my introduction to George Strait and this was definitely one of my favorite songs on it.

  3. Nice connection between song and CMT memories! I had begun to grow sick of country music around the time this song came out, entering adolescence and certain I’d outgrown the hokey old genre, but I loved this recording. There’s a cleanliness to its sound that’s just perfect. Every part of this recording, whether the lyrics themselves, Strait’s vocals or the instrumentation, feels entirely right every step of the way. There’s not a single word or note out of place, that feels forced, rushed, contrived or in any way incongruous.

    Today, of course, the song would have at least twice as many words – many of them espousing cliches and banalities – and it wouldn’t be nearly as mellow as it is. Either it would be “punched up” with more forceful percussion, or it would be given that maudlin, faux-intimate production arrangement to make us feel sad.

    In 1989, though, an artist like King George could take a song like this and record it in a casual, almost conversational, manner and allow the content to speak for itself. I never imagined I’d reflect on “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” and characterize it as an example of thoughtfulness whose kind we rarely see anymore, but that’s exactly what it’s become.

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