Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Collin Raye, “What the Heart Wants”

“What the Heart Wants”

Collin Raye

Written by Michael Dulaney

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

September 19, 1997

Collin Raye previews his first hits collection.

The Road to No. 1

After topping the chart with “Not That Different,” I Think About You produced two more top five hits: the title track and “On the Verge.”  In between those two hits, Raye went top fifteen with “Love Remains” and top thirty with “What if Jesus Came Back Like That.”  Raye then returned to the top with the first single from The Best of Collin Raye: Direct Hits.

The No. 1

This storyline concept was so much better realized by Gretchen Peters with “Ships,” which appeared on the Patty Loveless album When Fallen Angels Fly.

On “What the Heart Wants,” the storyline is in service to the chorus, and the characters are broadly drawn and barely incidental to the record.  The arrangement goes for light Calypso but comes off sounding more like child Xylophone.  Raye undersings the verses and oversings the chorus.

I didn’t care for a second about these characters and hadn’t even remembered the song until revisiting it for this feature.  It’s going back down the memory hole.  It’s as dull as dishwater.

The Road From No. 1

Raye followed this with one more single from his hits package, the top five “Little Red Rodeo,” sparing country radio from his ridiculous cover of Journey’s “Open Arms.”  He gets back on track with his next studio album, The Walls Came Down, which includes his final two No. 1 singles of both the decade and his career to date.

“What the Heart Wants” gets a C-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: John Michael Montgomery, “How Was I to Know” |

Next: Lee Ann Womack, “The Fool”


  1. Man this was one of those songs for me that I couldn’t believe it was a hit. Just never liked it. “Little Red Rodeo” on the other hand is a song I’ve always loved every time I hear it. I def think it’s a signature 90’s country song

  2. Raye sounds so utterly conflicted and confused as a vocalist here, a singer still resisting his persona/image. I didn’t remember a single thing about this song, and you could have knocked me over with a feather sharing it reached the top of the charts.

    To date, perhaps the most forgettable number one of the decade for me.

  3. Ooh, gotta disagree with you guys on this one. This is actually one of my all time favorite Collin Raye songs, and personally, I’ve NEVER forgotten it because it’s yet another one of the songs from the Summer of 1997 that I remember hearing countless times on the radio during the trip to Maine my parents and I went on that year. Perhaps, I may be biased because it brings back such great memories of such a great time in my life, but I still think it’s a good song, nonetheless.

    I’ve always loved the quietness of the verses, along with the continuous light plucking of the guitar, which kind of always gave it a neat mysterious feel to me. It also added to the night time atmosphere that the song’s verses describe such as the couple meeting at the laundry mat at 3 AM, and later on a following night, being together on the rooftop making a wish on an “evening star.” Speaking of the second verse, that’s always been one of my favorite parts. The couple meeting on the rooftop “high above the boulevard” and gazing up at the twilight sky always put a neat image in my mind, and I love how the instrumental backing in that verse occasionally intensifies with both the percussion (those cool thundering drums) and the electric guitar. I personally love how the quiet verses start building up to give way to the loud, energetic, wall of sound chorus as Collin declares “It ain’t the mind that calls the shots round here!” I also really enjoy how even more intense the instrumental backing gets near the end before it fades out, with the beautiful steel guitar right there in your face along with those loud, explosive drum beats. Just that ending alone always really gets me pumped! As for Collin’s performance, I mostly think it’s fine, and I personally like his hushed, quiet delivery of the verses, which again to me, fit the atmosphere of those verses perfectly. I also think his vocals and the backup singers sound great together on the choruses. The only criticism I’d give is that the high note he does at the end of the first chorus (in which he sings the song’s title) does sound a bit awkward, though I’ve gotten used to it by now. Overall, for me, it’s another example of the stylish and melodic kind of contemporary country from the late 90’s that I miss.

    The first few times I heard “What The Heart Wants” was actually not too long after I graduated elementary school. The opening line “She met him down at the laundry mat” always stood out to me right away back then, and from that point on, I always thought of it as the “laundry mat” song in the back of my mind, lol. I also remember hearing it on the radio in my dad’s car one day while we were in Fredericksburg, VA and a bunch of storm clouds were closing in on us. We had just left his house and were on the two lane road on the way back to town, when dad looked up at the dark clouds and said he thought one of them looked like a funnel cloud. At that time, both of us were still obsessed with tornadoes and looking at storm clouds thanks to the movie Twister, lol. It was after Collin sang the opening “laundry mat” line that Dad told me about the possible funnel cloud, and I got excited. Luckily, it wasn’t a funnel cloud, or at least if it was, it didn’t touch down in Fredericksburg, thankfully. Alabama’s “Dancin’ On The Boulevard” is another song we heard on that day as we continued to look at the dark and menacing storm clouds that did very much look like a tornado sky.

    Of course, as mentioned earlier, the fondest memory “What The Heart Wants” brings back for me is the trip to Maine that my mom, step dad, and I went on later that Summer in August. Besides Trisha’s “How Do I Live,” this is another song that seemed to come on every time we found a new country station while driving through New England on the way there and on the way back home. The line “Nothing on earth can interfere” stood out to me then and it made me think of a different kind of interference: The interference from other stations that we had to deal with when a good station was starting to fade away, lol. Of course, this was also another song that just sounded great to me while up in Maine enjoying the cooler, cloudier weather and beautiful scenery. And also like “How Do I Live” this is another song that reminds me of the day we all had breakfast at The Breakfast Room, a neat little independent restaurant that was somewhere south of Portland. “What The Heart Wants” also brings to mind the various hotels we stayed in during the trip, and even more recently, whenever my parents and I took longer trips up north and stayed in hotels, this is one song that would always come to mind. Even listening to it today, “What The Heart Wants” immediately takes me back to being in Maine and various other New England states from the very first note. :)

    I also remember still hearing it frequently while starting 6th grade in September, and it also brings to mind when my mom, step dad, and I saw the movie, The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, and Bart The Bear. :) I still think of this song whenever I watch that movie, along with Vince Gill’s “You And You Alone,” and other late summer/early fall hits from 1997.

    The previous single, the excellent Hugh Prestwood number, “On The Verge,” is also another Collin Raye song that I remember hearing while in Maine in 1997. I actually remember it going through my head while we were in the Maine Mall. :) It’s music video was also the first video I saw of his on GAC when I was watching that channel a lot more often in ’97. It really brings back great memories from that time, and I wish it had also been a number one!

    I also agree with Tyler that “Little Red Rodeo” is a classic, and I’m shocked it didn’t reach number one on either chart, especially since it remained one of his most popular recurrents going into the early 00’s. That one especially brings back great 6th grade memories from when I’d often hear it on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Countdown every Saturday night before falling asleep, and when my parents and I usually hung out at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA almost every Sunday. :) Btw, anyone have a clue why “Little Red Rodeo” is pretty much Collin’s only hit not available on Spotify, while the Phil Vassar version is? :/

  4. Oh yeah, I also meant to add: Not only does this song remind me of when we saw The Edge, but it also brings to mind when we saw the movie Conspiracy Theory (starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts) shortly after we got back from the Maine trip. AND it also reminds of when I was reading my latest favorite Goosebumps book, Deep Trouble II.

    So yeah, this song was quite a part of the soundtrack to my life in ’97, lol. :)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.