“Is That a Tear“
Written by Kenny Beard and John Jarrard
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
January 24, 1997
Tracy Lawrence’s final No. 1 single of the decade.
The Road to No. 1
“Is That a Tear” followed “Time Marches On” and “Stars Over Texas” to No. 1, making Time Marches On the fourth Tracy Lawrence album to produce at least three No. 1 hits.
The No. 1
“Is That a Tear” is an exercise in wishful thinking.
A scorned ex-lover gets an answering machine message from his old love. She’s just saying hi, but upon repeated listens, he moves from irritation that she’d dare to call him after breaking his heart to serious concern that there might be something wrong.
Well, he’s only concerned that what might be wrong is that she feels bad for leaving him and wants to come back home. He’s hanging his entire heart on a thin, dangling thread that is more than likely just a figment of his imagination.
It’s a difficult song to perform convincingly, given the range of emotions that the protagonist must feel over the course of the song. Lawrence again demonstrates why he’s one of this decade’s underappreciated MVPs, as he is able to deliver the song with ease.
The Road From No. 1
Lawrence’s fifth album, The Coast is Clear, produced two top five hits: “Better Man, Better Off” and “How a Cowgirl Says Goodbye.” The final two singles from the album were his first Atlantic releases to miss the top ten entirely. His label released The Best of Tracy Lawrence afterward, but it didn’t include any new material that was sent to radio. He resurfaced in 1999 with “Lessons Learned,” his final top five single for Atlantic Records.
We’ll see Lawrence again with an award-winning collaboration when we cover the 2000s.
“Is That a Tear” gets a B+.
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