Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Toby Keith, “We Were in Love”

“We Were in Love”

Toby Keith

Written by Chuck Cannon and Allen Shamblin

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 29, 1997

Toby Keith’s final No. 1 single of the decade is an emotional epic.

The Road to No. 1

“We Were in Love” followed “Me Too,” the final single from Blue Moon that topped the charts earlier in 1997.

The No. 1

This is one of the best songs that Toby Keith ever recorded, and he performed it with a dramatic flair that showcased his deepening talent as a vocalist.

The chorus is brilliantly constructed, building in intensity each time out and requiring both power and control for it to work.  Keith  is more than up to the challenge, and considering the direction so much of his music would go in the near future, it’s especially impactful to hear him tackling a song about a mature relationship with the wisdom and perspective that only come with time.

Dream Walkin’ was Keith’s strongest album for Mercury, and their inability as a label to get him to break out on a larger scale with it made his transition to a new label inevitable.  It’s worthy of rediscovery for curious listeners who know him best as the Red, White, and Blue Red Solo Cup guy.

The Road From No. 1

Dream Walkin’ produced two additional top five hits: “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” (with Sting) and the title track.  A final single, “Double Wide Paradise,” just nicked the top forty.  Keith closed out his tenure with Mercury with Greatest Hits Volume One, which included the fantastic top twenty single “Getcha Some.”  When we cover the 2000s, Keith will feature heavily with songs from his tenure at DreamWorks.

“We Were in Love” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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11 Comments

  1. Yes. This is a good one, though not in my regular rotation. I do love “Getchya Some” and wish it had been a bigger hit. I like Toby’s silly side the best, which is why “Red Solo Cup” is a guilty pleasure.

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      • I think the reason why White Trash with Money is my favorite Toby Keith album is because it really showcases his sillier side, especially after his 9/11 bravado, which Lari White’s production really enhanced.

          • Yes, I agree! (When I re-read my previous comment, I worry that it looks like I’m saying that she enhanced his bravado. So, to clarify, I meant that she enhanced his sillier side, which was a
            breath of fresh air after all of his 9/11 bravado.) I still wonder how she ended up producing an album for him, but I wish she had produced more of his albums.

          • To partly answer Leeann’s question about Lari producing Toby, I believe they had both been friends since the 90’s at least, and they collaborated frequently back then. She got a co-write on his 1996 Blue Moon album with “The Lonely,” which she sang backup on, and she even later covered “Tired” in 1998 which was originally on Dream Walkin’. I believe her first Lyric Street album also included a duet with Toby. Oh, and Chuck Cannon, Lari’s husband, was also a frequent songwriting partner of Toby’s in the 90’s, as well. It’s kind of neat that her and Toby somehow managed to suddenly work together again for that album in the mid-late 2000’s.

            As for White Trash With Money, I never did check it out, but it sounds like I might have to. Admittedly, I was turned off by the album’s title when it came out (which I know I shouldn’t do, since you can’t always judge an album by its title), and I never liked “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” either. Still, learning that Lari White produced it has me intrigued.

      • I really love “If A Man Answers.” It’s too bad Mercury had pretty much pulled the plug on promoting him when that one was a single.

  2. “We Were in Love” was pretty good.

    “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” should have been a #1, but the Sting version – the Toby cover was lacking a little in comparison. Sting’s solo version was a much better country song than most of the hat acts were churning out in the late 1990s.

    I guess I’ll have to listen to “Getcha Some” again. I didn’t like it back in the day.

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  3. I really, really LOVE this song so much! It’s my personal favorite Toby Keith song of all time, with “Dream Walkin'” being a close second.

    I consider this to be one of Keith’s finest vocal performances of his career, and I absolutely love how much passion and emotion there is in his delivery, not to mention it’s a great showcase for his vocal range. As the review mentions, it’s such a breath of fresh air to hear him this mature, passionate, and emotionally invested in such a great nostalgic, lost love ballad after knowing what he’d mainly be having hits with in the next two decades. I love how he makes great use of his lower register in the highly detailed verses as he paints a picture of him and his past love’s younger, wilder, and carefree days. And when he gets to the chorus, I love how his voice grows with intensity and passion as if he’s got that “fire down in his soul” once again if only for a brief while as he’s excitedly recalling those glory days. I even love the song’s beautiful bridge as he’s now admitting to her that she’s “still the one” after all these years and is pleading for them to try to rekindle that fire once again. I just love his emotional delivery of the line “I know, I know it sounds crazy, but baby you’re still the one.” And then his vocals intensify with passion once again when he sings “So let’s find a way to bring back the days when our hearts were forever young.” It’s just simply a perfect performance from Keith, and he’s hardly sounded better than he does here, imho. I’ve also noticed that vocally, this is when he started sounding more like the modern day Toby Keith that we’d be more accustomed to in the following decade, as his voice noticeably sounds a lot richer and deeper here than it did on previous albums.

    Sonically, “We Were In Love” is also simply gorgeous, and it probably has one of the most beautiful and memorable melodies featured in a Toby Keith song. Even the song’s signature guitar hook has been known to stay in my head long after I’ve listened to it. The classy and sophisticated production by Toby and James Stroud is also flawless, and it perfectly blends contemporary and traditional country styles, imo. The smooth sounding lead guitar, the lovely crying steel from Dan Dugmore, and the song’s overall contemporary feel all compliment each other so well. It’s also sort of a preview of the sound he’d continue with on his first two Dreamworks albums (especially the album cuts). And also, I can’t help but wonder if we would’ve gotten more great sounding records like this on the radio from Keith and Stroud if Mercury hadn’t dropped the ball on pushing his career to the next level and if 9/11 never happened.

    The first time I heard and really got into “We Were In Love” was shortly after I graduated from elementary school and summer break began. I was watching GAC religiously by then, and they started showing the video for “We Were In Love” quite often. I really enjoyed both the song and the video every time it came on, though as I recall, I wasn’t hearing it quite as much on the radio just yet. I’d get excited as soon as I’d see those bubbles floating over the water in the beginning of the video because I knew I’d get to enjoy my new favorite song/video once again. Even back then, that signature guitar riff alone would stay in my head for hours, lol. Also as a now 12 year old by then, I was beginning to mature a lot more and I started noticing and understanding the lyrics to certain songs than I ever had before, with the music videos also helping. I was pretty much very happy in those times, but somehow this sad, lost love song really appealed to me. In the video, I wanted to see Toby reunited with the short haired blond girl from his past by the end, but it sadly never happened. Instead, he’s still alone holding the picture of the blonde with a look of sorrow on his face. Speaking of the video, it’s very surprising and disappointing that UMG or Vevo still hasn’t yet uploaded a high quality version of it after all this time. Someone actually had it on YouTube not long ago with lower sound quality, but it has recently disappeared it seems.

    The best memory that “We Were In Love” brings back for me, though, is the vacation to Maine that my parents and I went on later in August of 1997. We went there almost every year in the 90’s for my mom’s birthday, but the 1997 trip is still one of the most memorable ones for me, and that’s when my love for being up north truly began. My mom and step dad always loved the lobster, while I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the weather, the unique restaurants and shops, the putt putts, and the Maine Mall in Portland. This song is yet another that’s like a soundtrack to the beautiful and noticeably cooler overcast days that we experienced up there during that time. Even today, whenever this song starts, it’s like I’m suddenly back there again. :) I especially remember hearing it a few times while we were around the South Portland area where the mall is. We even heard it on the way back home just before we stopped at the Hampton Inn in Fishkill, New York and stayed there for the night. I remember it going through my head while we were in the hotel lobby and I was looking at their indoor swimming pool area through the window, lol. When we finally returned to Maine in 2008 after many years of not coming back, we again stayed at that Hampton Inn in Fishkill, NY, this time on the way up, and it was such a cool blast from the past! The place had not changed one bit since 1997, and it immediately made me think of Toby Keith’s song. Whenever we stayed at that hotel again, it was almost like a tradition for me to listen to “We Were In Love” while hanging around the lobby and lounging/breakfast area, lol. Also, on those later trips to Maine we went on in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, I always either brought a mix cd or created an iPod playlist of all those Summer of 1997 country songs I associate with that ’97 trip, including “We Were In Love,” to listen to whenever we got there for nostalgia sake. :)

    Unfortunately, “We Were In Love” pretty much disappeared from our stations not too long after its chart run was done. I heard it a bit more during the beginning of my 6th grade year, but then that was it. Fast forward to 2004 when I picked up Toby’s Dream Walkin’ cd while at a book store in Fredericksburg, VA. When I first played it, and “We Were In Love” started, the memories just came flowing back immediately, and I was once again reminded how much I really liked it. And I also noticed Toby’s excellent singing right away, and how that voice had not been put to as good use lately. Overall, it just made me miss and long for late 90’s country all that much more, and it especially made me long for the sensitive and mature Toby of the 90’s as well, especially when he was putting out obnoxious and/or cringey stuff (imo) like “Stays In Mexico,” “Whiskey Girl,” and “I Love This Bar” at that time. “We Were In Love” became a huge favorite of mine all over again, and it’s been one of my top favorites from him ever since. I also still think Dream Walkin’ is one of his best albums, with favorites of mine being the title track, “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” “Strangers Again,” “Yet,” “You Don’t Anymore,” “I Don’t Understand My Girlfriend,” and “Double Wide Paradise.” The latter two songs even show some of his humor that would show up more often during the 2000’s.

    I also really wish the next two Dream Walkin’ singles went number one! As I mentioned above, the song “Dream Walkin'” is another one of my most favorites from Toby, and it especially brings back great memories of hearing it in the Winter of early 1998 during my 6th grade year and seeing the video many times on GAC come Spring. In my opinion the video for “Dream Walkin'” is still one of the coolest and most creative videos he’s ever done! :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GamEBPbHac

    I also personally love his cover of Sting’s “I’m So Happy,” which zaps me back to the Fall of 1997 every time. I think Toby gives it a great performance, and I love Dan Dugmore’s steel playing all over it. Even Sting and Toby’s performance of it together at the 1997 CMA’s was kind of neat and a creative way to give out the Musician of the Year award. Also gotta love Vince asking Sting after the performance: “Since we’re country here, can we call you Stang?” lol https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEkd5dmGKRQ

  4. This song announced Toby Keith’s arrival as Nashville’s premiere male vocalist from the mountaintop of mainstream country music. As has already been pointed out, this song’s emotional build and dramatic crescendo were mesmerizing to listen to. The progressive intensity was inescapable, I still feel caught in the flow of the song when I listen to it again today.

    It is worth pointing out that even as Keith adopted a more aggressive, political, and bombastic persona, he never abandoned this side of his personality and ability. Each of his Deamworks albums had at least one song that celebrated his skills as singer capable of both tenderness and emotional heavy-lifting. Keith really was/is outrageously good. I think his most recent album, “Peso in My Pocket” still captures all his best contradictions and gifts.

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