“How Was I to Know“
Written by Cathy Majeski, Sonny Russ, and Stephony Smith
#1 (1 week)
March 29, 1997
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
March 21, 1997
Reba repeats at No. 1 with another excellent single.
The Road to No. 1
After returning to No. 1 with “The Fear of Being Alone,” Reba McEntire repeated this success with her second single from What if it’s You.
The No. 1
“How Was I to Know” confirmed what “The Fear of Being Alone” had suggested: Reba McEntire had noticed the sophisticated and compelling work being produced by her female peers and adjusted her approach to material accordingly.
It’s a nervy and complicated lyric, featuring McEntire in a familiar role of heartbreak, but now demonstrating resilience in the face of it. The song works as well as a standalone record as it does as an interrogation of her earlier material. She certainly had expressed feelings of helplessness around being left alone, but unlike with most of her earlier hits, this time she’s doing just fine without the man who left her behind.
Her reading of the second verse line – “I gave up on myself” – is revelatory, the sound of a woman directing ire at her own underestimation of herself, and ultimately becoming her own greatest champion.
The Road From No. 1
What if it’s You just missed out on a third No. 1 single, with “I’d Rather Ride Around With You” peaking at No. 2 on both charts. This was followed by the title track, which went top twenty. What if it’s You went double platinum, and is still her most recent multi-platinum studio album. After a top thirty charity single (“What If”), Reba returned to No. 1 with a unique dual label release. We’ll cover that in 1998.
“How Was I to Know” gets an A.
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