Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Garth Brooks, “Rodeo”


Garth Brooks

Written by Larry Bastian

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 27, 1991

Garth Brooks launches his third album with a familiar theme.

The Road to No. 1

With seven consecutive No. 1 singles under his belt, Brooks previewed his third studio album, Ropin’ the Wind, with “Rodeo.”

The No. 1

Ropin’ the Wind is the first studio album that Brooks recorded as an established superstar.  The project strikes a balance between pushing his sound forward and delivering what fans had demonstrated an appetite for, with the lead single falling into the latter category.

And herein lies the rub: Brooks had already sung about the rodeo on his debut single, “Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old),” which was superior to “Rodeo” in every way.

Here, he shifts from the compelling first person perspective to the third person point of view, talking about another cowboy instead of himself.  Where “Much Too Young” evoked sympathy for its lonely, struggling protagonist, “Rodeo” is content to just list a series of descriptive phrases as about the rodeo itself.

We never get around to caring about the rider or the woman who loves him, because the song is too busy trying to tell us what rodeo looks like, as if “Much Too Young” and “Amarillo By Morning” didn’t already exist.

“Rodeo” also heralds the arrival of Garth’s tendency to oversing, as if he’s forgotten he’s in a studio and not a stadium.

Ropin’ the Wind will produce a handful of great singles, but this simply isn’t one of them.

The Road From No. 1

Brooks will cover Billy Joel on his next single, with a little help from his future wife.

“Rodeo” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Yeah, I pretty much have to agree with this for the most part. This is one of Garth’s singles that hasn’t aged quite as well for me. Even the way he says the word rodeo on this one gets a bit grating after a while. Also, as I got older I grew to prefer Garth’s more traditional leaning material, and this one’s just a bit too rock leaning for my tastes with zero fiddle or steel featured. Finally, it’s another one of his singles I also eventually got tired of due to radio still playing is so much well into the 00’s.

    It sort of pains me to say all that because the Ropin’ The Wind album as a whole brings back great memories for me from when my step dad brought it home during the Fall of ’91. I do like the rest of the singles, though, even a certain controversial one I’m sure we’ll be getting to soon.

    Speaking of Garth’s rodeo songs, another one I’ve always loved is “Wild Horses,” which I’ll also take over this one anytime.

    So far, this is the weakest of the 1991 number ones for me.

  2. If nothing else, I learned what “latigo” was because of this song.

    I think the intensity and affectation of his vocals capture the raw energy of an rodeo animal in the chute as opposed to a more reflective take on the wider rodeo lifestyle after the ride. The song crackles with the intensity and insanity before the ride. As such, it is the perfect song for Brooks to take over the top stylistically. It also announces the arrival of Brooks the arena performer.

    I remember not being crazy about the single when it was released, but then I saw Brooks
    with Lorrie Morgan at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand in September of 1991 and it suddenly all made sense.

    Brook’s show had that same unhinged energy I always imagined cowboys had to have to be a rodeo rider.

    This from a suburban guy whose equine experience was relegated to riding quarter hoses at the K-Mart.

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