Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “Till You Love Me”

“Till You Love Me”

Reba McEntire

Written by Gary Burr and Bob DiPiero

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 20, 1995

Reba goes full diva with a romantic power ballad.

The Road to No. 1

After her Grammy-winning duet with Linda Davis, “Does He Love You,” went No. 1 in 1993, Reba McEntire went top ten with “They Asked About You,” the second single from Greatest Hits Volume Two.  She then previewed her next studio album, Read My Mind, with the top five hit “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” which was followed by the top twenty hit, “She Thinks His Name Was John.”  This made 1994 the first year since 1984 that McEntire didn’t have a No. 1 single.  She made up for lost time quickly in 1995, rattling off three consecutive No. 1 hits.

The No. 1

This is one of Reba’s strongest vocal performances.  She cracks with emotion at all of the right places, solidly selling the emotional desperation of the lyric.

Tony Brown got confused somewhere along the way though, and thought he was recording a Whitney Houston ballad, complete with dramatic crescendos that distract from McEntire’s performance.

It’s telling that the only No. 1 single from Read My Mind that really works is the one that keeps things more grounded in country instrumentation.  McEntire is not a pop singer, and trying to present her as one undermines her peerless strength as a pure country vocalist.

“Till You Love Me” is held back by the production choices made by Brown and McEntire, but my God, that vocal is a still a wonder to behold.

The Road From No. 1

Two more No. 1 singles are on the way from Read My Mind in 1995.

“Till You Love Me” gets a B-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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10 Comments

  1. I can already tell we’re going to disagree on the next two Teba entries on this list, but that’s part of the fun of this.

    Even though it’s probably the same recording just mixed a little differently, the video’s mix with crowd noise added isn’t nearly as good as the album version – I’d give the video version a B- and the album version a B+.

  2. …hardly any clip of reba beats this one when it comes to displaying her superstardom adequately. on second thought, perhaps the one with that red dress in it. what a magnificent choice of color that was.

  3. A feature of its own could be written on how so many country stars miss when they intentionally reach for the brass ring of pop crossover success. A companion piece would simultaneously look at how badly pop stars confuse what country music is all about when they try to revive a sagging career in Nashville.

    I think Kevin’s point regarding production values would quickly show itself, like it does with this song for Reba.

    • Pop crossover is very difficult to do. Too many Nashville producers define pop as an absence of country. They just strip out the fiddle and steel and call it a day. They don’t know how to structure a pop record properly.

      The ones who have done it well in either direction – Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Glen Campbell, Olivia Newton-John, as well as a few big crossover artists with hits still to come in this feature – have a good handle on what makes a good pop record and what makes a good country record.

      Case in point, to use an example that I shared with a CU colleague recently. On the surface, “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” sounds like a country record, but it’s structured like a pop one:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkMkHpKpLkM

      So when a country singer and producer tried to cover it, despite good intentions, it was a mess:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVEdQ1QBYP8

      Loretta and Owen did not understand how the lead vocal and harmonies were fully intertwined with the instrumentation. They recorded it like a standard country song and it simply didn’t work.

  4. A lovely waltz, and one of my favorite singles from this album! It probably could’ve done without the pop touches Tony Brown added to it, but the steel guitar and Reba’s performance somehow makes it still country enough for me, and I actually like the strings. I admit that Read My Mind isn’t really one of my favorite albums from Reba, though, because of the overall heavier pop influence featured throughout. I do really like the next two singles coming up, as well, though.

    Lovely pic of Reba, too, btw. I love her big hair and outfits from back then!

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