Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Patty Loveless, “You Can Feel Bad”

“You Can Feel Bad

Patty Loveless

Written by Matraca Berg and Tim Krekel

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

March 23 – March 30, 1996

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 15, 1996

A departing lover gets eviscerated on his way out the door.

The Road to No. 1

After When Fallen Angels Fly produced back-to-back No. 1 hits with “Here I Am” and “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” Loveless went top ten with “Halfway Down.”  While that song was at radio, Angels won the CMA Award for Album of the Year.  Loveless kept her hot streak going with the lead single from The Trouble With the Truth, one of two chart-toppers from the album.

The No. 1

All those ex-boyfriends of Taylor Swift who complain about their shortcomings showing up in her songs should thank God that they never dated Matraca Berg.

Berg co-wrote two consecutive Billboard No. 1 singles, which is no small feat for a songwriter.  “Wild Angels” was all about a relationship at its best.  “You Can Feel Bad” is an eviscerating takedown of an exiting lover who is the worst.

The genius of the lyric is the jujitsu employed, weaponizing his patronizing concern for her well-being and turning it against him.   This exposes the hollow cynicism of his feigned worry about the woman he is leaving behind.

“Your head is hanging and you look real sad,” Loveless sings with mocking disregard. “Maybe you should have called?”

Loveless is the perfect vehicle for this song, with her ability to communicate vulnerability, resilience, and bemusement all in one line reading. Paired with Berg’s poison pen, the chorus is relentless in its cutting dismissal of her wannabe heartbreaker:

You can feel bad if it makes you feel better
Picture me crying, reading all your love letters
Walking around in your old sweaters, baby
You can feel bad it makes you feel better

He really should have called.

The Road From No. 1

Loveless followed this No. 1 hit with “A Thousand Times a Day,” a George Jones cover that went top fifteen.  She returned to the top later this year with her final No. 1 hit to date.

“You Can Feel Bad” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Wynonna, “To Be Loved By You”

7 Comments

  1. Two excellent Matraca Berg compositions that were back to back number ones sung by two of the best female vocalists of the decade. Man, was this a great time for the genre or what?! Just another reminder on why I always liked this late ’95/early ’96 Fall/Winter period (other than the huge amount of snow we got, or course). :)

    This is still one of my all time favorite Patty Loveless songs, and it’s another one of my favorite Matraca Berg penned hits of the 90’s. As a ten/eleven year old, I didn’t quite get the genius of Berg’s biting lyrics just yet, but as I got older and started listening closer, it just made me love the song even more. Besides the lines you’ve already mentioned, I also love the bridge where she sings: “Take another look at these tears I’m crying. They’re not falling on your shoulders. They’re falling on mine.” Just brilliant! I also love when it’s revealed in that bridge that she had already seen his leaving coming a mile away, and she’ll “be just fine!” And as you’ve mentioned, Patty delivers every line perfectly. Even by the final chorus, when she gets to the “walking around in your old sweaters line” she sounds like she’s had about enough of the guy, and just wants him to get back in the car and leave already, lol. (As a side note, that “sweaters” line always put a funny image in my mind as a kid. I always pictured her literally walking around the streets slumped down in an oversized sweater with the sleeves too long, lol). I also love how she sings “If it makes you feel……something” during the instrumental break.

    I also just love how this one sonically pairs a catchy, mid-tempo contemporary approach with the more traditional sounds you usually expect on a Loveless record. As a result, just like “Wild Angels,” this song has also aged incredibly well and still sounds just as fresh today as it did when it came out. I especially love the almost dark, constant fiddling throughout, especially during the break. And this is also the second Matraca Berg song in a row to feature some excellent crying steel guitar from Dan Dugmore (and Mr. Dugmore, I believe, will make yet another appearance when we get to “Strawberry Wine”). I even love the piano featured on the second verse.

    This was one of the new catchy female mid-tempo songs that I always enjoyed hearing on the radio whenever it came on in early 1996, along with Mandy Barnett’s “Now That’s Alright With Me.” Both songs take me back to the snowy scenery we still had after the Blizzard of ’96, and I even occasionally got the two mixed up at the time. Besides Patty’s song getting noticeably more airplay and Barnett’s song criminally getting much less soon afterwards, part of what made this song stand out more for me was the sound of the triangle (?) in the chorus. A little while later on a cloudy day, my step dad and I were on our way to one of his favorite computer stores out of town, and when he flipped on the radio, this song was playing. He started singing along to the chorus, and I remember being surprised and thinking it was neat that he knew the song already. During the summer of that year, I even got it recorded on to one of my favorite tapes I made in 1996. :)

    This song didn’t exactly get a ton of recurrent airplay as some other 90’s hits did for us, but whenever it did come on, it just made it all the more of a pleasure to hear. One afternoon in early 1999 during my 7th grade year, my step dad picked me up from school. I believe we were on our way to meet Mom at the mall. Just when we had left the school, this song came on, and I remember thinking it had been forever since I’d actually heard it on the radio, yet I still knew it so well from the many times I’d enjoyed it a few years earlier. It was a neat song to suddenly be hearing after having a good day at school, and what made it even cooler was the SCV feature on our still fairly new Chevy Malibu, in which the radio’s volume increased whenever you drove the car faster, and vice versa. We were still getting used to it, and he was just having fun with it. That day still stands out as one of my favorites of my 7th grade year. :)

    The Trouble With The Truth album is another one of my most favorite female mid 90’s country albums, along with Martina’s Wild Angels, Trisha’s Thinkin’ About You. It’s also one of my personal favorites of Patty’s Epic albums. I’m sad that there’s only one more number one coming off of it, but I know it’s definitely a good one, and I’m really looking forward to it. :D I also love “A Thousand Times A Day,” which I do remember hearing often, despite the lower peak.

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    • I remember the blizzard of 96 and this song vividly too! At my home here in Virginia we had some 10 foot snow drifts and we’re stuck in for 3 days till the roads could be opened. Was so much fun to play in!

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  2. I really dived head first into country music in late 95 early 96 when we finally got cable tv and cmt! I was 12 at the time! This song and The Trouble With the truth Album made me a Patty Loveless superfan, hence my chosen screen name! Out of all Patty’s songs if I could only have one on a deserted island it would be You Can Feel Bad. From the instrumentation to the way she sings and the biting lyrics this song is perfect. I also love that Party loveless hum throughout the song. I consider ttwtt Patty’s best album of the 90s and 80s. I’ve always been shocked that A thousand Times A Day wasn’t higher on billboard but it did make the top 10 on radio and records. That song is another perfect song that comes in as a close 2nd favorite song. It’s a Shame it didn’t go number one but for 1996 it was far to traditional to achieve that. I’ve seen patty in concert twice and what a show. So intimate you feel every note she sings! It’s been far to long Patty how bout another album!?

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  3. Although aware of her as a songwriter from her success with earlier singles like Loveless’ “I’m That Kind of Girl,” Suzy Bogguss’ “Hey Cinderella,” and Trisha Yearwood’s “Wrong Side of Memphis,” it wasn’t until I purchased Berg’s 1997 album ” Sunday Morning to Saturday Night” that I was opened up to her full power as a stand alone artist. That album floored me and I quickly hunted down two of her earlier RCA albums.

    Loveless is the perfect, mature singer to validate the strength of Berg’s lyrics. Loveless was so outrageously good and this performance is proof of that.

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