Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Billy Ray Cyrus, “Could’ve Been Me”

“Could’ve Been Me”

Billy Ray Cyrus

Written by Reed Nielsen and Monty Powell

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 11, 1992

Billy Ray’s roots are showing on his second No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

“Achy Breaky Heart” was the longest-running Billboard No. 1 hit in over a decade, but Cyrus never returned to the top of their country singles chart again.  However, he had two more No. 1 hits on the Radio & Records survey.

The No. 1

One of the refreshing things about Billy Ray Cyrus when he arrived on the scene was that he didn’t hide his real roots: seventies and eighties arena rock.  Plenty of his contemporaries had the same influences, but they still put on the hat and the boots, while Cyrus showed up in sleeveless vests and white sneakers.

“Could’ve Been Me” is nineties country via eighties Springsteen. Cyrus growls his way through a damn good song about missing the opportunity to be with the girl of your dreams because you held off on telling her, and someone else won her heart.

“You know dreams move on if you wait too long,” he rues, “it took me ’til now to see it could’ve been me.”

His best single without Lil Nas X?  I’d say so.

The Road From No. 1

Three more singles from Some Gave All resulted in one more top ten hit, “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore,” an early indication that radio was building an immunity to the Cyrus Virus.  But his next Mercury album would produce a third and final No. 1 single.  We’ll get to it in 1993.

“Could’ve Been Me” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: George Strait, “So Much Like My Dad”



  1. This has always been my favorite Billy Ray single! Not a fan of Achy Breaky Heart at all. Im glad his chart run was short, he’s really not a good vocalist. I considered him mom country when I was a kid.

  2. Absolutely love this song! Both this and “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” are my favorite singles from this album, and are two of my favorite Billy Ray songs of all time. I really love the Springsteen influence he proudly showed in this song, and he makes great use of his growly voice here. His voice always kind of reminded me of T. Graham Brown as well on this particular track, actually. I’ve heard some criticize him for not putting enough emotion in his performances, especially early on in his career, but I think he does real well in emoting here, especially on the second verse where we find out that he actually bought a ring. I especially love how he sings the lines “I pulled it out the other day, but the diamond had lost its shine” and “I know how it feels, cause my eyes grow dim when I think you could have been mine.” I just love how this song is produced overall, as well, and I’ve especially always loved the little hints of accordion heard throughout and the backup vocals near the end repeating “could’ve been me.”

    This is one of the songs that really brings back a lot of great memories of my parents and I’s earliest times living in our current house, not long after we moved in. Billy Ray’s Some Gave All and Brooks & Dunn’s Brand New Man are two of the albums that immediately come to mind when I think of late Summer and early Fall of 1992, and being that this is the first track on BRC’s album, this is one of the songs that’s stuck with me the most and brings back the most memories from that time period. I had also recorded that album on to a cassette tape by then, and I especially remember playing that tape while I was helping my step dad do all sorts of things in our new garage and while he was cleaning up the driveway. It was also the first garage we ever had that had a door that automatically opened and closed when you pressed a button, and I remember thinking then how cool that was. It’s those particular memories in our garage that always come to mind whenever I hear this song. :)

    It also pretty much stayed a steady recurrent on at least one of our stations for most of the 90’s (while “Achy Breaky” ironically did not), and I remember still hearing it a few times in the late 90’s, particularly one time when my dad took me back home from school.

    It’s too bad “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” was not also a number one, as that’s also one of my all time favorites from BRC. I loved it when he occasionally dipped into more traditional sounds such as that song, too.

  3. I remember Country Music Magazine giving Cyrus crap for shouting his lyrics rather than singing.

    I didn’t pick up on the Springsteen influences upon its release primarily because I had some misguided sense of country purity and didn’t listen to any Springsteen music!

    This song has aged well and is a much better peek into who Billy Ray Cyrus was musically as he wrestled to manage the burden of “Achy Breaky Heart”

  4. My reflective wonder after my initial response to this song is how much, if at all, Kip Moore identifies Billy Ray Cyrus as an influence? It seems like a pretty direct path between what I hear here and what I hear now with Moore’s vocals.

  5. Peter – You’re not the first one I’ve heard compare Kip Moore to Billy Ray. That’s actually probably one of the biggest reasons why Kip Moore has always been one of my favorite modern mainstream country singers, because he’s also got that Springsteen and overall heartland rock influence like Cyrus did.

    I also never made the Springsteen connection with Billy Ray until after I started exploring a lot of 80’s music around the mid 00’s, including a lot of 80’s Springsteen.

  6. This might be my favourite BRC songs (either this or “Words By Heart”). I never noticed the Springsteen influences but now that it’s been brought up I can definitely see it!

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