Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Neal McCoy, “Wink”


Neal McCoy

Written by Bob DiPiero and Tom Shapiro


#1 (4 weeks)

June 18 – July 9, 1994

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

June 17, 1994

Neal McCoy spends a month at the top with his biggest hit to date.

The Road to No. 1

It took McCoy a long time to get his first No. 1, but after “No Doubt About It,” he repeated the feat with his next single.

The No. 1

There were so many artists competing for top drawer material by this time.  Acts who were less established had to settle for middling material, even when written by A-list songwriters.

So Kathy Mattea got “Walking Away a Winner” from the songwriting duo of Bob DiPiero and Tom Shapiro, and Neal McCoy got “Wink.”

And because it’s 1994, the inferior record spent four weeks at No. 1.

“Wink” is pleasant radio filler.  McCoy’s captivating stage presence elevated it when he performed it live, but on record, it’s dull and flat.

Why did it spend four weeks at No. 1?  Because we’re getting to the point of the nineties when country radio was peaking as a commercial force, and “Wink” was perfect for accomplishing the primary goal of the format at the time: don’t change the station.

When the format was growing, it needed captivating material to get people to tune in.  Once it plateaued, it needed people not to tune out.  So we’re going to get a lot of material like this moving forward:  lightly twangy background music that you barely notice was playing at all until they go to commercial.

There are still some outstanding records on deck, so it’s not all doom and gloom.  But records this boring are becoming commonplace.

The Road From No. 1

McCoy went top five with “The City Put the Country Back in Me,” and then released three singles from his next album, You Gotta Love That! “For a Change” and “They’re Playing Our Song” both went top five.  The third single, “If I Was a Drinkin’ Man,” was far and away his finest work to date, and it peaked outside the top ten.  He returned to the top with the title track from the album.  We’ll cover it in  1996.

“Wink” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. I always have thought this song stinks. Look at the number ones flanking it and tell me how it measures up. It awkwardly sits there like the mess your old family dog unexpectedly leaves on the carpet in the middle of the family room.

    It’s not the end of the world, but it sure is disappointing.

    As a fan in the moment, I always hoped that the insane run of classic songs from the start of the decade would continue every time something like Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around” hit the top of the charts. I would rub my hands and excitedly dream “Here we go again!,” but as we have seen, songs like “My Love” and “If Bubba Can Dance” and now “The Wink” consistently interrupted that optimism and hoped for momentum.

    In sports jargon, songs like this are playing not lose. The decades best songs took risks. Songs like this play to the lowest common denominator of the “new” country music demographic. As Kevin points out, delivering the listeners to the advertisers was the goal at radio.

    For a while country music genuinely felt like art, but now it increasingly feels like a commodity or a product.

    I always wanted to get behind Neil McCoy, but for me this song will always represent a golden era in country music history meeting it’s Waterloo.

  2. Yep. I consider this to be yet another one of the many line dance friendly “hot new country” songs that were clogging up the charts in 1994. And unfortunately, it’s another one that ended up having quite a long shelf life at radio, and one I eventually got sick of hearing. Barry Beckett’s production has also not aged too well here, imo. Neal McCoy actually has a pretty good voice, especially on ballads and mid tempo numbers, and it’s too bad that he (and many other male artists in the mid 90’s) often wasted it on fluff like this.

    I even remember my step dad referring to this as “Rock and Roll that’s called country” one time when this was playing on the radio in the car. And every time a Neal McCoy song was about to come on, he’d say “Is it the Wink or the Shake?” As you can probably tell, those were the two McCoy songs that got most of the recurrent airplay in our area (even on friggin’ Sirius!), and they’re the ones he seems to be mainly known for. It’s too bad because he has quite a few more superior songs, like the already mentioned “If I Was A Drinkin’ Man,” “Where Forever Begins,” “No Doubt About It,” “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” “Party On,” “Love Happens Like That,” and “I Was.” I even really like “They’re Playing Our Song,” which was the McCoy song I heard the most when I was listening to country radio regularly again in 1995 and 1996.

    I personally think he got better at picking material in the late 90’s, especially the Life Of The Party (1999) and 24-7-365 (2000) albums, which showed him maturing a bit. Even 1997’s Be Good At It has quite a few album cuts I really enjoy.

    Peter – I concur with how disappointing it is to see the great run of classics and solid cuts that dominated in the early 90’s come to an end. It’s funny how the music becoming more of a product than an art sounds exactly what’s been happening in mainstream country for the last decade and a half. Yet, I’ll still take 1994 over 2004-today any day. Another big factor for me personally, as I’ve mentioned on several occasions, is that I simply wasn’t into country radio in 1994, so the nostalgia factor is just not there for me, like it is for most of the 1990-early 1993 songs or from mid 1995-1999. I wonder if I would still think some of these songs suck compared what came before them if I were actually listening to them as a nine year old when they were new.

    • I’ve always enjoyed “Wink” for what it is, but I had no idea it was #1 for 4 weeks! I agree Neal McCoy had much better singles that he should be remembered for (especially “No Doubt About It” and “They’re Playing our Song”).

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