Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, “Heartbreaker”


Written by Carole Bayer Sager and David Wolfert

Peak: #1 Country | #37 Pop | #12 Adult Contemporary

And here is where we start running into trouble.

Dolly Parton’s first overtures to the pop market worked both musically and commercially.  With “Heartbreaker,” the title track for her next album, she was tasked with maintaining her success on both the country and pop charts.

At first, the record is promising, with a gorgeous vocal performance that highlights her upper range. But we get the first warning signs when backing vocals echo the word “lovers,” right before the song moves into a remarkably bland chorus.

The biggest mistake that “Heartbreaker” makes is to surround her sweet, lilting vocals with a sugary production.  The overall effect is too sappy because there isn’t enough contrast between the vocal and the backing music.  If the chorus had a better hook, it might have all worked out. But it doesn’t, so it doesn’t.

Grade: C

Next: I Really Got the Feeling / Baby, I’m Burnin’

Previous: It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right / Two Doors Down


  1. I actually like this song. I agree, it’s certainly not Dolly’s best by any stretch. But the vocal is good. It’s interesting to me that her best songs during her Pop years were the ones she wrote but often those were not released as the singles. I would give this a B- myself.

  2. Good point about the lack of contrast between the vocal and the arrangement – now that Kevin mentions it, I do think that that is one reason why this song tends to leave me cold. I definitely also agree that the hook is weak.

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