“Here in the Real World”
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.
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