Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Trisha Yearwood, “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)”

“XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)”

Trisha Yearwood

Written by Matraca Berg and Alice Randall

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

September 10 – September 17, 1994

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 9, 1994

Three legendary women pool their talents to create one massive hit.

The Road to No. 1

After “The Song Remembers When” went No. 1, MCA pulled only one more single from the album of the same name. “Better Your Heart Than Mine” peaked outside the top twenty.  Yearwood’s only album release in 1994 was her Christmas set, The Sweetest Gift.  But she still managed to earn a No. 1 hit, thanks to an ill-fated network pilot needing someone to sing its theme song.

The No. 1

“XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)” is the first nineties No. 1 from one of the decade’s most essential songwriters, Matraca Berg.   She co-wrote it with author Alice Randall, who made it a personal – and successful – goal to be the first black woman to write a No. 1 country hit.  The song was originally intended for Wynonna, but Trisha Yearwood stepped in when Wynonna fell ill when the time came to record it.

The song captures the role of women in transition, as they are now expected to be breadwinners but are also still responsible for all of the domestic duties.  Capturing the story of a woman trying to make it “in her Daddy’s world,” she’s gone from ribbons and bows to mowing the yard, fixing the sink, and relying on God, good wine, Aretha Franklin, and Patsy Cline to get her through the day.

Yearwood sings the fire out of it, as should be expected.  In retrospect, at least in terms of this feature, “XXX’s and OOO’s” is the most important mile-marker for women in the genre since “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” in 1991.  There is a perspective shift here, with the real life experiences of modern women taking center stage for the first time, with their male partners present but relegated to the background.

There’s been a lot of chatter in the comments about how 1994 marked a steep decline in quality, and when you’re looking at the male acts still dominating the radio, that’s indisputably true.

“XXX’s and OOO’s” signals that the women are ready to take it from here, and for the remainder of the decade, women will dominate the genre creatively and commercially in a way they never had before and haven’t done since.   Yearwood and Berg are two of the most essential contributors to this golden age of women in country music, and this classic record strongly showcases both of their formidable talents.

Meanwhile, Alice Randall moved on to an award-winning literary career, highlighted by her stellar The Wind Done Gone retelling of Gone With the Wind from the perspective of Scarlett’s half-sister Cynara, an enslaved woman with a very different take on the events of the original book.

The Road From No. 1

Yearwood would include this stopgap single on her 1995 studio album, Thinkin’ About You.  We’ll see that album’s title track in early 1995.

“XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)” gets an A.

 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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8 Comments

  1. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and Yearwood’s ” XXX’s and OOO’s” are the best examples of when the women of the nineties decisively, bravely, and confidently took the reins of country music, making sure their working class voices and perspectives were told and heard. I think this energy and momentum is what Miranda Lambert was getting at with her song “If I Was a Cowboy (I’d be the Queen).”

    Songs like this were flipping the country and cowboy script. All hail the queens of country music going forward!

    Hard to beat a line as loaded and loose as,”Well she’s got her God/ and she’s got good wine/ Aretha Franklin and Patty Cline.”

    Yearwood begins to stand alone here as a generational vocalist.

    This song is outrageously good. It is righteously good.

    1
  2. Trisha turns in a phenomenal performance as always, but the song for some reason always felt incomplete to me – I guess probably since it was written as a theme song. Plus, even though the fiddle is one of my favorite instruments, for some reason I’ve always found this persistent part incredibly difficult to listen to. I understand why others like the song, it just never did anything for me.

    • The fiddle is also one of my most favorite instruments in country, and the persistent fiddle part in the beginning of this song was actually one of the things that made me get tired of hearing it all the time on the radio as a kid. I don’t mind it too much now, though.

  3. I know of some people who thought of this as an advancement on some of the themes touched on in “She’s In Love With The Boy”. One can make the argument either way, though the songwriters are different. Still, Trisha was indisputably one of the top female country artists of that entire Golden Age of the 1990’s.

  4. As someone who adores both Yearwood and Matraca Berg, I admit that I got tired and even a bit annoyed at this song as a kid throughout the 90’s because it was played so much back then, similar to “She’s In Love With The Boy.” It really seemed to come on every time one of us had the radio on, and it got to a point around the late 90’s in which I’d either change the station or turn the radio off, because I just didn’t want to hear it yet again. Personally, there were other Yearwood songs that I liked better, as well. Of course, back then, I still had no understanding or appreciation of what the lyrics were getting at or how significant it was for a female artist in country music to be having success with a song with such lyrics. As my fandom for Yearwood grew in the early 00’s, though, this song began to grow on me a lot more to the point in which I actually DID like hearing it on the radio again. I also eventually grew to really appreciate the excellent performance that Yearwood gives it. While it’s still not personally one of my top favorite Trisha songs, I respect it a lot more now than I did back in the day, and reading the interesting new info in this review has actually given me an even higher level of respect for it, as well. Funny how it’s now two Trisha songs in this feature so far that I’ve mentioned being overplayed back then, because now, I’d give anything for Trisha (or any other 90’s country woman) to be played on country radio at all today.

    I really love the Thinkin’ About You album, overall, and I’m definitely looking forward to us getting to the title track in the future!

    Though there were still some men putting out good stuff, I also agree that it’s mainly the women who were taking the biggest creative risks and making some of the more interesting music by this time in the 90’s. One of the many things I admire about artists like Yearwood, Loveless, Tillis, Carpenter, Mattea, Bogguss, etc., is how they mostly followed their hearts, and for the most part, managed to avoid making records that pandered to the novelty/linedance/HNC trends of the time, even if that meant less chart success for some of them.

    Btw, love this pic of Trisha, and I especially love her jacket and boots!

  5. I don’t think this song gets enough credit for women in country music. I can’t really think of anything that sounded like it up to that point. Mary Chapin Carpenter was definitely breaking the mold at the time, but the others were all using a similar formula. Even Trisha went through a massive evolution in musical styling from just 1993-1994. That phrasing and attitude was so rare to hear in early 90s radio or I am failing to remember some of the highlights. Then “Thinkin’ About You” was launched and Trisha really mastered that country root loyalty and AC sensibility.

    Also, as a 7 year old that opening fiddle that annoyed everyone else hooked me immediately. I remember exactly where I was when we heard this song because it was so unique in 1994. I has asked my dad who was singing and when he said Trisha Yearwood that sealed the deal for me to be a lifelong fan.

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