Written by Paul Brandt
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
October 11, 1996
A Canadian superstar scores his only stateside No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
Paul Brandt was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and though music was always his passion, he was practical and also pursued a nursing degree. When he scored a record deal in the mid-nineties, he was working as a pediatric nurse. His debut album, Calm Before the Storm, went platinum in Canada and gold in the United States on the strength of its first two hits: his debut single, “My Heart Has a History,” which went No. 1 in Canada and top five in America, and “I Do,” his only stateside No. 1 hit.
The No. 1
All of the bland ballads we’ve been covering this year would’ve sounded so much better if Paul Brandt was singing them. “I Do” isn’t even as strong lyrically as some of those No. 1 hits, but it works better than them because his delivery is sincere and his voice is distinctive.
“I Do” suffers in comparison to its predecessor and successor: “My Heart Has a History” and “I Meant to Do That” are two of the best singles by any artist during this time frame. But it gets the job done, and he gets to claim an American No. 1 hit, a distinction enjoyed by more Canadian women than by Canadian men.
The Road From No. 1
For whatever reason, country radio in America ignored Brandt after “I Do,” despite the excellent singles that followed, like “I Meant to Do That,” “A Little in Love,” and ” What’s Come Over You.” He is still a country music superstar north of the border, where he has won several major industry awards and had a long string of gold and platinum albums. More so than any other Canadian artist that had limited success in America, Paul Brandt’s catalog is worthy of a deep dive by selective country music fans.
“I Do” gets a B+,
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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“My Heart Has A History” still sounds so fresh today! Always preferred it to “I Do” but he really came out swinging with this album! His work remained consistently strong until just after his album ‘Risk’. He’s still put out some good stuff afterwards but never reached those highs again for me.
I always wished he had more success states side.
Definitely agree that “My Heart Has A History” still sounds fresh today! I remember liking it the first time I heard it on the radio, with his unique deep voice standing out to me, especially. Even the organ in the intro made it really stand out on the radio during that time. But besides still sounding great, I also now appreciate how boldly and refreshingly honest it is lyrically with the narrator’s unreliability.
Paul Brandt is one of my many favorite artists from the mid-late 90’s! I’ve always loved his unique baritone, which still impresses me with its wide range (Just listen to those insanely deep notes he sings on the verses of “My Heart Has A History” and then hear him soar with ballads like “I Meant To Do That”). So many cuts from his first three albums (1996’s Calm Before The Storm, 1997’s Outside The Frame, and 1999’s That’s The Truth) are still a part of my regular rotation, as well. I agree with Kanenrake that I really wish he had more success in the States, but I’m also glad he was able to find huge success in his native Canada.
I agree with you all the way on Brandt’s vocals alone making “I Do” stand out from the pack of mid 90’s country love songs. This one also just feels a tad more sincere and authentic, maybe because Paul also wrote it himself. I actually think the chorus is creatively written, and I like some of the lines in the verses, like “I rescued you. You rescued me. And we’re right where we should be when we’re together.” I also really like how it’s produced, overall, with Sonny Garrish’s steel guitar complimenting the otherwise more contemporary arrangement. Most of all though, I just love the song’s beautiful melody. While it may be true that country radio was getting a bit oversaturated with love songs by this time in the 90’s, the truth is, I really miss the days when songs about love and loss were the main themes heard on country radio instead of endlessly hearing about how “country” each singer’s lifestyle is. (And yeah, I know we have Boyfriend Country now, but it’s got nothing on the much more superior 90’s love songs, imho. And at least in the 90’s, not every love song had to be a sex jam).
I actually remember seeing him singing a small portion of “I Do” when my mom had the 1996 CMA awards on. I immediately recognized him as the singer of “My Heart Has A History,” and from seeing his Calm Before The Storm album everywhere in stores. On the same night, I also remember seeing fellow Canadian, Terri Clark, come out to perform “Poor Poor, Pitiful Me.”
I also really enjoy this song’s music video, which is another thing that’s helped make it stand out from other love songs of this period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW_y5MQJD-k Besides being cute, original, and occasionally funny (Love the dude with the fish at the end lol), I just love the fact that it takes place during a poetry slam event in the city, which is a setting that’s not usually thought of going together with country music. Once again, it just makes it seem like country music was everywhere and for everyone in the 90’s. I also remember my step dad watching this video on GAC one night somewhere in the late 90’s/early 00’s after I had not heard the song in a long time. I really enjoyed getting to see/hear it again, and it reminded me how much I always liked the song. He seemed to be enjoying it, as well. :)
Paul’s Calm Before The Storm album is another one of the mid 90’s country albums that I got for Christmas in 2001. Besides being very nostalgic for mid 90’s country during that time, it was also hearing “I Do” on GAC that night with my step dad that made me add it to my Christmas list that year. :) Besides this and “My Heart Has A History,” I also love several other cuts like “I Meant To Do That,” “Take It From Me,” “Calm Before The Storm,” the swinging “All Over Me,” “On The Inside,” and “One And Only One,” which is another song that shows off his impressively deep voice. It’s still one of my favorite albums to listen to today, and it truly shows that he deserved to stick around longer in the States than two singles. Sadly, I didn’t even know “I Meant To Do That” was a single until after getting the album.
I also really love his two follow up albums 1997’s Outside the Frame and 1999’s That’s The Truth, and it’s too bad U.S. radio had already abandoned him by then.
From the second album, my favorites are “A Little In Love” (How was it not a hit?! So fun and catchy), “What’s Come Over You,” “One,” “Yeah!,” “I Believe You,” “We Are The One,” and “Dry Eye.”
From That’s The Truth, I love the title track, “The Sycamore Tree,” “Really And Truly,” “A Love That Strong,” “That Hurts,” “Add ‘Em All Up,” and the ultra cool swinging, “Let’s Live It Up.” I even prefer his version of “It’s A Beautiful Thing,” over the Phil Vassar version that was a hit in the following decade.
I haven’t dug as much into his post 90’s work, but other songs of his I’ve heard and enjoy are “What I Want To Be Remembered For,” “Canadian Man,” “Alberta Bound,” “Leavin’,” and his version of “Convoy.” He even did a hilarious takedown/parody of the bro-country trend in 2014 called “Get A Bed” that I enjoyed. Even the video is pretty funny, lol.
Finally some grit and character again from a male single. Rather than hiding in the pack, Brandt stands alone with his big voice and sound. I always gang Brandt with Wade Hayes and Jesse Hunter in my mind as 90’s singers with rich, booming baritones.
Having lived in Canada since 1998, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to his career as it continued to grow and mature. I love “I Meant to Do That,” “Alberta Bound,” “Small Towns and Big Dreams,” and “Canadian Man.”
Why Nashville moved on from him so quickly is a mystery. Despite singles and sales success, the runway for these new artists was impossibly short for their careers to ever catch air and truly take flight.
I don’t know where or why country radio went wrong on Paul Brandt. About a decade ago I purchased a twenty track Best of Paul Brandt collection that featured seven songs that went to #1 in Canada including one song, “Canadian Man” that went to #1 on the Canadian pop charts. His run as a top ten artist ended about 2018, meaning that American radio missed out on a lot of really great recordings