Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “The Fear of Being Alone”

“The Fear of Being Alone

Reba McEntire

Written by Walt Aldridge and Bruce Miller

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

December 6, 1996

Reba rebounds with her best single of the decade.

The Road to No. 1

After Read My Mind sold three million copies and produced three No. 1 hits, Reba McEntire celebrated her twentieth anniversary as a recording artist with Starting Over, a collection of cover songs that performed below her usual standards at country radio.  Her cover of Lee Greenwood’s “Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands” went top ten, while covers of Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald’s “On My Own” and Dolly Parton’s “Starting Over Again” barely made the top twenty.  The most successful release was actually a remix of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” which went to No. 2 on the Dance/Club Play chart.  The album was ultimately her first release of the decade to fall short of a multi-platinum certification.

In response, McEntire switched producers and hired her road band to back her in the studio for her next album, What if It’s You.  This release would eventually go double platinum on the strength of three big hit singles, two of which went all the way to No. 1.  The first release is her best single of the entire decade.

The No. 1

“The Fear of Being Alone” is crisply produced, effectively performed, and brilliantly written.

Telling the story of two wounded souls having another go at a relationship, McEntire is the voice of caution during the first two verses and choruses, as she sees the guy she’s with convincing himself that he’s already in love with her:  “Don’t say that word,” she warns.  “You may think you do, but you don’t. It’s just the fear of being alone.”

By the end of their first night together, she stops warning him and turns her attention inward, as her own heart is starting to flutter: “If this is real, time will tell, so let me bit by tongue and remind myself: Don’t stay that word…”

It’s the kind of song that requires maturity and years of lived experiences under one’s belt to sing it well, and McEntire draws on her deep reservoirs of talent to knock it completely out of the park.

It’s her best single of the entire decade, and one of the best by any artist, period.

The Road From No. 1

What if It’s You kept the hot streak going with another No. 1 single, which we will cover when we get to 1997.

“The Fear of Being Alone” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine” |

Next: LeAnn Rimes, “One Way Ticket (Because I Can)”

 

3 Comments

  1. My favorite Reba album is What if it’s You! This song sounds as fresh today as it did 25 yrs ago. I’ll always remember it as the song and album where Reba cut her hair off. Lol. The emotion throughout gets right to the heart.

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  2. The What If It’s You era consists of some of my all time favorite Reba singles! “The Fear Of Being Alone” is definitely one of them. :)

    This song is yet another great example of what I miss about mid-late 90’s country. It’s mature, well written, and very relatable for many, but it also has a great catchy, hummable melody and a slightly contemporary production style that gives it a wide appeal. I also love that radio was still not afraid to play women who were well over 30 and mature songs that fit their age (not that it wasn’t also such a joy to hear more lighthearted and fun tunes from those same women, as well). While I enjoyed this song as an eleven year old when it came out, I didn’t yet fully grasp just how lucky I was to be living in a time when mature songs from mature women could still be heard on the radio. Around 2004, when the landscape, the lyrical content and sound of the music, and the overall attitude of the songs and the genre’s audience started changing drastically (and not for the better, imho), that’s when I fully realized how damn lucky I was to have been around when mostly great stuff like this was still being heard regularly.

    As Kevin and Truth have already pointed out, Reba absolutely nails this one, but I particularly always loved the emotion in her voice as she sang the line in the bridge: “Like a child in the night with no one to hold you and tell you everything’s gonna be all right.” I love how she sings the final verse. I also fully agree that this song still sounds so fresh and timeless today! I love Reba and John Guess’ production on the What If It’s You album, especially the energy on the upbeat and mid-tempo cuts.

    I first heard “The Fear Of Being Alone” while recording it on to a tape, and I got it on at least one more after that. It mostly takes me back to when I was in fifth grade, though, especially since my history/English teacher had a hair style that reminded me a bit of Reba’s then new shorter haircut.

    I also love the song’s video, and while it’s fairly simple, it’s also quite effective, especially since it takes place at night. I especially love the shots of Reba standing by the window, and from a distance, you can see headlights and taillights going up and down the highway, which I always thought was beautiful. I myself always think of this as a night time song, and it’s especially great when taking a drive in the night.

    Unfortunately, all of the What If It’s You singles seem too often overlooked in more recent years when looking at Reba’s body of work. Again, when the genre started changing for the worse around 2004 is when I began realizing that it had been forever since I heard any of them on the radio, nor did anyone on any of the forums back then seem to bring them up that often (Wish I knew about CU back then ;) ). But sadly, that’s when I began noticing generally a lot of 1995-2001 country songs and artists being forgotten about already as if they never existed (especially a lot of stuff by the women). I can’t thank you guys at CU enough for continuing to give the great music from that time period the recognition and exposure it deserves so it will never truly be forgotten.

    Btw, every time I see Walt Aldridge’s name, I always think of one of my all time Conway Twitty songs, “She’s Got A Single Thing In Mind.”

  3. Jamie, any comment mentioning Conway Twitty is immediately noteworthy! I love “She’s Got a Single Thing in Mind.” Then again, I can honestly listen to Conway Twitty’s four disc box set straight through and still want more. I am a HUGE Conway Twitty fan.

    As for this Reba single, she sounds so wise and confident here, even in her hesitation and caution. I keep ringing the “maturity” bell with the best songs of this era. It is consistently the obvious factor separating the wheat from the chaff. I believe what Reba is singing and that trust makes for a compelling listening experience.

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