“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”
Written by Ed Hill, Mark D. Sanders, Kim Williams
#1 (1 week)
April 15, 1995
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
April 7, 1995
McEntire’s return to radio dominance continues.
The Road to No. 1
McEntire’s commercial success was at its peak in the early-to-mid nineties, and Read My Mind‘s sluggish start at radio turned the corner with “Till You Love Me,” the third single and first of three consecutive No. 1 hits from the album. The fourth single, and second No. 1 hit, became McEntire’s first solo No. 1 on the Billboard chart since “Is There Life Out There.”
The No. 1
That’s the only connective tissue that can be built between “Is There Life Out There” and “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Really, the best thing about this record is its title, which is borrowed from a classic piece of literature.
Everything else about it grates on my nerves. The main character is a cardboard cutout more worthy of a Brooks & Dunn number, though I suspect if B&D had written this song, something might have actually happened in it.
“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is all build-up, introducing us to a woman who doesn’t care “about right or wrong, she’s been alone way too long.” The guitar hook reinforces this “predator on the move” atmosphere, hinting that due to her loneliness, she’s going to do something that she shouldn’t, so controlled she is by lust and loneliness.
So she meets a married man who tries to pick her up, she notices the ring mark, but the chorus reminds us again, “the heart is a lonely hunter,” setting us up for a payoff that doesn’t even happen.
Yes, by the time of the bridge, this predatory woman tells the man no, and turns away so he doesn’t see her tears.
I almost want to congratulate the writers for pulling off this pivot from one hollow female stereotype to another so shamelessly: “See, you thought she was a tramp but she’s really just an emotional wreck! Girl power!”
Look, I love Reba McEntire, and I’m looking forward to writing about her next three No. 1 singles. But this was the peak of her style over substance era, where she chose theatrical songs that she could sing in her (wonderfully) over-the-top stage shows. Her concerts of this era were arguably the best that country music has ever seen. The records? Not so much.
The Road From No. 1
McEntire aims for the heart with her next No. 1 single, which we’ll cover later this year. (It’s a winner.)
“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” gets a D.
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