Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Alan Jackson, “Wanted”


Alan Jackson

Written by Charlie Craig and Alan Jackson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 24, 1990

Alan Jackson enjoys the second of many consecutive No. 1 hits.

The Road to No. 1

After his debut single, “Blue Blooded Woman,” peaked outside the top forty, Alan Jackson enjoyed his commercial breakthrough with his second single, “Here in the Real World.”  Next up from the album of the same name: “Wanted.”

The No. 1

“Here in the Real World” was the earliest indication that Alan Jackson was going to be a songwriter for the ages.   “Wanted,” on the other hand, shows how he was still refining his skills.

Using the metaphor of a man placing a classified ad, “Wanted” is limited by the effectiveness of its framework.   The chorus works well, thanks to Jackson’s already fully realized ability to emote.    But the verses are a slog to get through, with Jackson forced to repeat the other side of the conversation so the listener knows what’s being said by both the protagonist and the woman responsible for placing the ad in the paper.

If he’d conceived this idea further down the road, he might’ve used the third person voice to better capture the scene.   More likely, he’d have picked a better framing device for a heartbreak song.

The Road From No. 1

Jackson’s run of No. 1 hits won’t be interrupted for three years, so we’ll be seeing him again in just a few weeks.

“Wanted” gets a B-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. This song challenged me at the time because I thought it was trying too hard to be traditional. I always associated the phrase “good-hearted woman” with Waylon Jennings and the past. It seemed like a reach in 1990. Throw in the recitation and I didn’t trust it.

    Turns out the problem was mine. I fell in love with this song. In my head’s catalogue, I partnered it with Ricky Van Shelton’s 1987 cover of Conway Twitty’s “Somebody Lied.”

    I learned to love the conversational aspect of the verses in the Jackson song. The character felt real. Were there any similarly structured songs on the charts at the time? It stood out.

  2. This is probably gonna be a case of nostalgia getting the best of me, but I always enjoyed this song as a kid, and I still really like it now. Yeah, the verses could’ve been done better, but still, it’s so sonically pleasing to the ear for me, and the chorus is still very good. Always loved the opening fiddle, too. Perhaps not one of Jackson’s strongest efforts, but it’s still pretty good to me.

    Another one of the things I always loved about early 90’s country was how some songs hung on to the old tradition of reciting some of the lyrics in the verses. Some others that come to mind are “Today’s Lonely Fool,” by Tracy Lawrence, “I Buy Her Roses” by Sammy Kershaw, “Is It Cold In Here,” by Joe Diffie, and “Someone To Love You” by Martin Delray. Songs with recited lyrics seemed to pretty much go out of style by the mid 90’s until Jackson brought it back again in 1998 with “I’ll Go On Loving You.”

  3. You explained your fondness for the song perfectly, Jamie, and I couldn’t agree more. “Wanted” will probably always rank among my 10 favorite Alan Jackson tunes, critically-acclaimed or not.

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