“Here I Am”
Written by Tony Arata
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
February 10, 1995
In the year of the woman, a veteran female artist moves to the head of the class.
The Road to No. 1
After topping the chart with her Epic debut single, “Blame it On My Heart,” three more singles were released from Only What I Feel: “Nothin’ But the Wheel” went top twenty, “You Will” went top ten, and “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” went top five. Loveless then released her second Epic album, the critically acclaimed When Fallen Angels Fly. After its first single, “I Try to Think About Elvis,” went top five, the next two singles from the eventual platinum seller went No. 1.
The No. 1
Radio would never embrace women when they became the top sellers of the genre to the same extent that they supported the superstar men from the first half of the decade. As encouraging as it may seem that Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, and Patty Loveless all had No. 1 singles in the first six weeks of 1995, we will only see male artists at number one for the last five months of the year.
That being said, “Here I Am” is as big a signifier of women taking the creative lead in country music as the first No. 1 from a Canadian superstar will signal their coming commercial dominance in the summer of 1995.
“Here I Am,” simply stated, is a masterpiece. Patty Loveless gives a nuanced performance that gradually reveals an unreliable narrator, as her chilly observations of her struggling ex not being able to get over her is slowly replaced by her revelation that she’s not over him, either.
The way her guard momentarily drops in the second verse as she notes, “You know I’ve seen them all unravel…I’ve been watching it all along,” is easy to miss upon first listen, but impossible to miss once you’ve heard it a second time.
This segues into the guard being dropped completely with the nakedly vulnerable bridge and final chorus: “My pride was stronger when I was younger, now I’d rather have you to know….that here I am, here I am. I still carry a flame for you, burning me like a brand. Here I am.”
Emory Gordy Jr.’s production of Loveless truly comes into its own on this album, and this track is the perfect showcase of how instrumentation can be used to support a stunning vocal performance without getting in the way of the singer or the song.
With “Here I Am” and the album that houses it, Loveless moves to the head of the class of female country artists in the nineties, putting her in the same league as Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. It’s the best No. 1 single of 1995 and one of the very best of the entire decade.
The Road From No. 1
Gretchen Peters finally returns to No. 1 with the next Loveless single, which will top the chart later in 1995.
“Here I Am” gets an A.
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