Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Alan Jackson, “Here in the Real World”

“Here in the Real World”

Alan Jackson

Written by Mark Irwin and Alan Jackson

Radio & Records 

#1 (1 week)

April 6, 1990

The biggest traditional country artist in history breaks through in a big way.

The Road to No. 1

Born and raised in rural Georgia, Alan Jackson first cut his teeth singing gospel music, until he discovered country music through a friend who turned him on to new traditionalists like John Anderson and Gene Watson.   Determined to pursue a career in this style, Jackson moved to Nashville in 1985 and promptly got a job in the mailroom of The Nashville Network.

He paid his dues in local clubs, auditioning for You Can Be a Star and recording an independent album in 1987 called New Traditional.  A chance meeting between Glen Campbell and Alan’s wife Denise proved fateful, as Campbell put the Jacksons into contact with his business manager.

By 1989, Jackson was the flagship new artist for the Nashville division of Arista Records.  While the label would sign established acts like Exile and Steve Wariner in its early years, it made its name by breaking through developing artists.   “Blue Blooded Woman,” Jackson’s first single for the label, died an early death.  But the second single got him all the way to the top.

The No. 1

What is there to be said about “Here in the Real World” at this point?  Even in a time when it felt like every new artist was breaking through with a modern classic, this one stood out.  It was a thoroughly modern interpretation of traditional country music, establishing Jackson’s signature sound that many would imitate but none could duplicate.

Part of the reason is because of his songwriting style.  Jackson has a way of writing songs that seem so obvious once you hear them that it’s hard to believe nobody had ever written them before.   His metaphor here, comparing the happy endings on the movie screen to his real life heartbreak, is in service to the emotions that he is trying to convey.   He sings about the movies, but the song is about his broken heart.

It’s the first classic record of many for Alan Jackson.

The Road From No. 1

Nearly every Alan Jackson single of the decade topped at least one of the two major country singles charts, so we will be seeing a lot more of him as time goes on.

“Here in the Real World” gets an A. 


Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Garth Brooks, “Not Counting You”

Next: Ronnie Milsap, “Stranger Things Have Happened”



  1. In some ways, Alan Jackson was the most significant country artist of the “Class of ’89”. After awhile Clint Black’s career derailed somewhat by his reluctance to use material that he did not pen himself and Garth Brooks drifted more toward the arena rock form of country and disappeared for extended periods of time, but Jackson hung in there for a long period of time and was open to good material from outside sources. He hit the Billboard top 40 every year from 1990 through 2012 and hit the top twenty every year through 2010.

  2. Hard to believe this was Alan Jackson’s make-it-or-break-it moment. This is the sort of song that can define a career … yet it just got his started. Forever grateful this song led to so many more classics. Also, Kevin, I’m loving this feature!

  3. Still one of my all time favorite AJ songs after all these years! Even to this day, as soon as I hear those twin fiddles at the start, I stop whatever I’m doing and just listen to this great song. And once again, it brings back some good memories, since my parents got me the Here In The Real World album on cassette when I was six. As I believe Kevin put it in another review of this song, it’s scary how he was already this good on his second single and breakout hit. Such a great start to an amazing career!

    On a bit of a side note, it’s pretty neat to hear how much higher his voice was back then compared to now.

  4. Ha, thanks Leann! :) Unfortunately, that tape ended up getting messed up a few years later, but luckily I made a copy of it before that happened. lol

    I also had Garth’s No Fences tape back when I was in kindergarten, and I specifically remember giving it to the teacher so she would play it, but she never did. lol!

  5. Maybe the “Big Bang” moment of 90’s country. Almost too country to be true. So many of these #1’s one-upped the previous one in what was possible. Such an exciting and hopeful time in country history. I remember being so excited to hear what the next single would be from these artists.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.