Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Aaron Tippin, “That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You”

“That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You

Aaron Tippin

Written by Sally Dworsky, Paul Jefferson, and Jan Leyers

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

December 23 – December 30, 1995

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

December 8, 1995

Aaron Tippin’s final No. 1 single of the decade is creepy as hell.

The Road to No. 1

After enjoying his first No. 1 single with “There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With the Radio,” Tippin went top five with “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way” and top ten with “My Blue Angel,” all from his platinum-selling set, Read Between the Lines.  Tippin’s next two albums – Call of the Wild and Lookin’ Back at Myself – both went gold, despite only producing one top ten hit between them with “Workin’ Man’s Ph.D.”  So RCA decided he needed an image change, and pushed him to record what became his second of three No. 1 hits.

The No. 1

Part of the reason that “That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You” comes off so skeezy is that Tippin is hopelessly miscast in the role of a man quietly crushing on a woman from a distance.

Tippin’s identity up until that point had been the proud working man who provides for his family.   The idea that he’s obsessing night and day over a woman unaware of his existence, while he gets off on brushing up against her and taking “that moment home” is as implausible as it is inherently repulsive.

This song is so far beneath his dignity that I still can’t believe he recorded it, let alone that radio chose to embrace this over fantastic singles like “I Got it Honest” and “Whole Lotta Love On the Line.”

The Road From No. 1

This was Tippin’s last big hit for RCA, but he resurfaced on Lyric Street in the late nineties and had three major hits with them: “For You I Will” went top ten in 1998, his final hit of the decade.  He then enjoyed his final No. 1 hit to date in 2000 with “Kiss This,” featured on his most recent gold album, People Like Us.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he went top five with “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly.”

Tippin has since remained a popular draw on the road, recording occasionally as well.   His most recent single, “All in the Same Boat,” was a collaboration with fellow nineties stars Sammy Kershaw and Joe Diffie.

“That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You” gets a D.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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11 Comments

  1. Up until reading this, I always heard this song as being sung to the narrator’s former love. But now I see it completely different. I guess I should have noticed that he never says the word “again” in any of the verses, and they’re all absolute nevers.

    Definitely changed my opinion of this one.

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    • I never thought of that interpretation. I think this section is where I get the icky stalker vibe:

      Maybe I’ll never watch you dressing
      I won’t sound too familiar on the phone
      But I can touch your hand accidentally
      And take that moment home

      Ugh, so skeezy.

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  2. B. I guess I can see why it would come off as skeezy even though there’s no indication this person is ever acting on any of these thoughts, but regardless this is one of the more interesting songs, musically and melodically, we’ve seen on the list in a little while.

  3. I hear mature infatuation in this song. Tippin is still in character insofar as it takes loads of self-restraint and ego-strength not to act on a crush this strong.

    Rather than skeeziness, I hear unrequited obsession. There is a palpable tension to this song and Tippin appropriate delivers one of his most dynamic vocal performances.

    Gary Allen’s “Sand in my Soul” and Sam Hunt’s “Single for the Summer” come to mind when I think of skeezy songs.

    This is a standout song from this part of the 90’s and warrants an “A” in my world. The song does not sound like anything else we have heard on this feature lately.

    Tippin pulls a Ray Price here and begins to transition from hard country hillbilly to a crooner with twang.

    The original video is obscene with all its sweaty and wet innuendo. It’s three minutes of sexual tension and drama all shot in black and white.

    I love this song.

    • For me, the music video only heightened the creepiness factor. If I recall the plotline correctly, this guy is working for a married woman and lusting after her. Can sexual tension exist when only one person is feeling it and the other is oblivious and completely disinterested? I’d call what’s going on in the video sexual frustration, not sexual tension. I have no doubt if the lady of the house was aware of what was going through his mind as he was working for her, she’d feel incredibly uncomfortable and find someone else to do the job.

      I’m all for unrequited love songs and crush songs and all that. “When You Walk in the Room” and “You Don’t Know Me” are two of my favorite songs of all time. I wish I could read this one the same way, but there are too many lines that scream out to me, “Get a restraining order.”

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  4. Sorry, Kevin, but I also have to disagree with you on this one.

    I loved this song when I first heard it in the car with my dad when it first came out, and it’s still one of my all time favorites from the mid 90’s. I love the new, deeper, smoky sounding voice Aaron displayed on this track, along with the super cool sounding fiddle and steel guitar playing featured here. I just really love the overall dark atmosphere and feel of this song. I also really enjoy the passion in Aaron’s vocals here, especially on the last two choruses. I love how the tension builds with each chorus (along with the key changes), and by the third one, you can really hear the pain in Aaron’s vocals of him not being able to have that woman he desires.

    This first time I heard it in the car with my dad, we were on our way back to my house and it was about dusk, which was perfect for the song’s dark feel. The second time I remember hearing it was in early 1996 on a Saturday afternoon when we were just pulling into the parking lot of the indoor mini golf place we regularly went to. It had snowed some earlier that morning, and I remember watching Dad cleaning and removing snow from his car. When we first drove off and left the house, a rare John Conlee recurrent came on (Friday Night Blues, I believe), and I remember him going on about how he liked Conlee and the song, and how he always had such an unmistakable voice. When we were pulling into the plaza where the mini golf place was, the Aaron Tippin song came on, and I exclaimed to Dad “Oh, I like this song!!” Then Dad said, “Oh yeah, Aaron Tippin has another one of those unmistakable voices like John Conlee.” We just sat in the parking lot and listened to it until it finished. :)

    That little connection between Aaron Tippin and John Conlee my dad made just kind of stuck with me, and many years later, I’d come to realize that the latter day, deeper voiced Aaron Tippin does in fact remind me a lot of Conlee vocally. Heck, there’s even a song on this Tool Box album called “Ten Pound Hammer” that definitely reminds me of something that John Conlee would’ve recorded during his commercial peak in the 80’s.

    Lyrically, this song may not seem like something ideal for Aaron Tippin to sing, but that’s actually one of the reasons why I’ve always liked it, because it stands out very much from the rest of his material. This is an Aaron Tippin song for those who are not lucky enough yet to have the family life that he usually sings about. I personally never heard it as creepy (though I can see how the “touch your hand accidently” and “watch you dressing” lines may come across that way to some). For me, it’s pretty darn relatable. I mean, who hasn’t at least once in their life, had a crush on someone they know very well is out of their reach? Even though it’s sung by a man, I can still relate to it as a lesbian who’s had a hopeless crush on a straight girl or two in my lifetime. As a couple of others have mentioned already, what’s important is that the narrator doesn’t actually act on his thoughts and desires and shows admirable restraint.

    I’m bummed that this is the end of the Aaron Tippin entries, because I also love the singles from his underrated 1998 album, What This Country Needs. “For You, I Will” has always been a favorite of mine, especially, that brings back wonderful memories from the Fall of 1998. That another one that made me take notice just how deeper and smoother his voice had gotten. I also love early 1999’s “I’m Leaving,” which has still been known to put a lump in my throat, and is another excellent performance from him.

    Oh, and I do love the early 1996 follow up single to this, “Without Your Love,” which I had recorded on to a tape when it came out. :)

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