Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Tim McGraw, “She Never Lets it Go to Her Heart”

“She Never Lets it Go to Her Heart

Tim McGraw

Written by Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters


#1 (2 weeks)

August 31 – September 7, 1996

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 23, 1996

A weak vocal performance derails a decent song.

The Road to No. 1

After topping at least one chart with “I Like it, I Love it” and “Can’t Be Really Gone,” Tim McGraw released “All I Want is a Life” as the third single from his third album, All I Want.  It went top five. He returned to No. 1 on both lists with the fourth single from the album.

The No. 1

I’m not sure why Tim McGraw decided to co-produce his fourth album, Everywhere.  Perhaps his success producing Jo Dee Messina inspired him.  What I am sure about is that after he stepped into that role, he never committed this weak of a vocal performance to tape again.

The song itself is nice, with a message that resonates: Jealousy reflects your lack of trust in your partner, not her potential suitors.  But McGraw’s performance is painful to the ears, a prolonged and strained whine that is agony to listen to.

He does so much better when he taps into his lower register.  That lesson already surfaced on the stronger tracks on All I Want and it’s all over Everywhere.  It’s hard to believe, listening to this record, that he’s got an era-defining album chock full of brilliant singles right around the corner.  But he does.

The Road From No. 1

“Maybe We Should Just Sleep On it” was the final single from the album, and it went top five.  He launched his next album with his new wife by his side, and together, they released the biggest hit of both of their careers up until that point.  We’ll cover that hit in 1997.

“She Never Lets it Go to Her Heart” gets a C-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. To me, he still sounds better here than he did on “Don’t Take The Girl,” at least. Plus, I love the catchy melody and the overall sentiment in the lyrics, which I always found to be endearing. I also enjoy the muscular, guitar and drum heavy production style here that Byron Gallimore and James Stroud would be mainly known for throughout the latter half of the decade. It’s overall another one of my all time favorites of Tim’s 90’s singles. You do bring up a good point, though, about Tim’s vocal performances getting better when he became a co-producer on his records.

    The first time I heard this one was when we were on our way back home from Maine in ’96. It came on while we were on the interstate driving through New England. My mom was imitating Tim’s whiny vocal style in the opening verses, and my step dad and I both thought it was funny, lol. However, after hearing it more times after that, I started finding it to be a pretty nice song.

    I actually grew to love it more when hearing it as a steady recurrent on the radio throughout the late 90’s and early 00’s. I remember really enjoying it on more than one occasion while in the car with my dad after he picked me up after school. It was just one of those songs that was always enjoyable for me whenever it came on, and even today, it still has a certain comforting appeal to it.

    I also really love “Maybe We Should Just Sleep On It” which is another one of my favorites of his 90’s singles. I especially love the guitar work on that one.

    Speaking of Jo Dee Messina, I thought it was pretty cool to learn that her debut album was recorded during the same time Tim’s All I Want album was done, with the same producers, musicians, etc.

  2. I can’t disagree with the rating. In the first record thread, I mentioned that my first CD was All I Want. This is a decent album cut but I wouldn’t have released it as a single – “Maybe We Should …” was a better song and they’re very similar musically. In a previous thread I said I would have released “When She Wakes Up (And Finds Me Gone)”; I’d maybe even have released “Don’t Mention Memphis” – but that’s also why I’m not in A&R, I’m sure.

    • “When She Wakes Up (and Finds Me Gone),” along with “Can’t Be Really Gone” and “I Like it, I Love it,” are excellent harbingers of what’s to come. He really came into his own just as the stalwarts of the early nineties were starting to sound tired and redundant.

  3. Thin and whiny vocal performances like this are exactly what drove McGraw deep into my country doghouse.

    This is an uninspired run of largely forgettable chart- toppers from 1996.

    As Jonathan shared a few posts back, this kind of inconsistency was when I similarly began exploring alt.country. Oakland, California’s HighTone Records, the Dead Reckoning roster, and Austin’s Watermelon Records opened new doors into country for me at the time.

    • I love a lot of the No. 1 singles from 1996. We’re deep into my favorite era of the nineties, although No. 1 singles isn’t the best measure of why that is, given that even when women (permanently) started selling more records than men, the mediocre male material still got as much airplay as it did when the content was stronger a few years earlier. For me, the genre peaked from 1993-1997. Tim McGraw’s a big part of that with his album next year. He goes from hit or miss to the most consistent male artist of the genre, in terms of material selection, with his next album.

      I never went the No Depression route, though I did like some of the albums that would eventually be considered Americana, like the releases from Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and Patty Griffin from around this time. My tastes always lean more toward a mainstream production, and I prefer artists that weave in influences from other genres into their country music. It’s the primary reason Kane Brown is my favorite mainstream artist now: he’s one part Alan Jackson, one part Shania Twain, with a sprinkling of blackbear and John Legend in the mix.

    • I was still into country music at this time, though I’m noticing that I’m adding a lot fewer songs to my Number One Songs of the Nineties playlist as we go along than I had been before now. I didn’t start dropping off from mainstream country music until around 2005-2006, definitely 2008.

    • Since I was only eleven in 1996, I wasn’t quite aware yet that there were other country options besides what I heard on mainstream radio, lol. Americana/Alt Country wouldn’t even be on my radar until I started noticing more people bringing it up on various country forums in the early 00’s. As much as I’ve tried getting into it, my tastes still lean heavily towards the mainstream country sound from the 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s, in general.

      I really enjoyed mainstream country as a kid in 1995 and 1996 for the most part, though for some reason, the mid 90’s are an era I don’t revisit quite as frequently as I do the early 90’s or late 90’s. My personal musical sweet spots for country music are from 1990-early 1993 and from 1997-2001. This feature has done a good job in reminding me that the mid 90’s also had a lot of good stuff to offer, though, at least as far as number ones go. I especially think 1995 and 1996 are when the genre started developing more of a nice mix of traditional sounds along with songs and artists that blended rock and pop influences into their sound, which is a trend that would carry over into the late 90’s, but with a more clean and smooth production style, overall. It’s also reminded me that the awesome streak of singles I love from artists like Patty, Martina, Trisha, George, Tim, Alan, Clay, etc. started around this era, as well.

      I personally love how mainstream country was from around 1995 to about 2002ish. It successfully borrowed from other genres with just enough rock and pop influences to make it sound modern and hip enough without losing its identity as country music like it nearly has today, imo. You could still clearly hear fiddle and steel on most songs during this period, despite these added influences. Also, for the most part, the lyrics were still well written and the subjects were mostly still relatable and made for adults. And of course, the women were doing the best commercially that they have ever done. Unfortunately, it all came crashing down after the Chicks incident in 2003, imo. Around the summer of 2004 is when I noticed for the very first time that I really disliked the majority of the current singles on the radio, and that the genre was quickly moving away from my personal tastes and becoming something much different than what I was used to hearing on country stations for the past several years.

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