Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Tim McGraw, “Just to See You Smile”

“Just to See You Smile”

Tim McGraw

Written by Tony Martin and Mark Nesler


#1 (6 weeks)

January 17 – February 21, 1998

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

January 30 – February 6 1998

Tim McGraw enjoys one of his longest runs at No. 1.

The Road to No. 1

As noted before, Everywhere will produce five consecutive No. 1 singles.  This third chart-topper matched “It’s Your Love” with its six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard listing.

The No. 1

Mark Wills passed on this song twice.

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? It’s easily one of the best Tim McGraw singles ever released, and it’s also the best among a bumper crop of excellent hits from Everywhere.

It’s even harder to imagine Wills releasing a version anywhere near as good as McGraw’s.   Not because he isn’t in the same league as a singer, but because McGraw’s production team was operating on an entirely different level than most of their contemporaries at the time.

There are so many catchy hooks to follow on this record, with the mandolin track complementing the fiddle track beautifully.  They intertwine seamlessly throughout the track, joined by a stellar steel guitar that is also woven throughout the record.

McGraw gives a sophisticated performance with shades of sadness, anger, and wry amusement.  His deadpan delivery of “I told you that I was happy for you, and given the chance I’d lie again” is so subtle that listeners can easily miss it on the first couple of playthroughs.

“Just to See You Smile” is peak McGraw.

The Road From No. 1

Two more No. 1 singles from Everywhere, plus a duet with wife Faith Hill, are still on deck for 1998.

“Just to See You Smile” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Brooks & Dunn, “He’s Got You” |

Next: Sammy Kershaw, “Love of My Life”


  1. I mentioned in the “Everywhere” entry that both “Everywhere” and this song tend to trade places often as my top favorite McGraw songs. But now after hearing “Just To See You Smile” again, I can now confidently say that this IS, in fact, my all time favorite Tim McGraw song!

    I simply love everything about it. Sonically, it just hits the spot every single friggin’ time, no matter how many times I’ve heard it by now. Once again, this is a fine example of successfully bringing the neo-traditional sound from earlier in the decade into the more modern late 90’s. This cut still has some of the best fiddle and steel guitar I’ve ever heard! I especially love the fiddling throughout the second verse and during the instrumental faded ending. And these singles from Everywhere have some of Sonny Garrish’s best steel guitar work, as well. Again, the steel playing during the song’s ending is simply gorgeous (It still gives me chills today), and it nicely wraps up what’s already a classic country record. Even the “shivering” sound of the steel during the choruses is once again very effective and made the song sound all the more better during the chilly months. I also love the song’s rolling beat which makes it a perfect listen when taking a nice little drive through a scenic route in the countryside, yet there is also enough of a pop sensibility and sophistication to the record to make it also as good of a listen in a more urban setting. Finally, this was also a great showcase for the beautiful melodies that Mark Nesler and Tony Martin usually came up with throughout the late 90’s and early 00’s.

    When I heard the song regularly in late 1997 and early 1998, I always felt sorry for McGraw’s character in the song, in which despite doing everything he could to make her smile, he still ended up losing the girl. McGraw’s emotional performance with a likeable regular guy and underdog sort of charm certainly always helped make me feel that way, as well. While I definitely still hear the sadness of him not wanting her to leave him in his performance, he also sounds like he’s resigned and content with the outcome, knowing deep down that there’s really no way she would’ve truly been happy with him in the long run, but he at least gave it his best shot, anyway. For me, the part in the second verse when she approaches him with a new man and him lying that he’s happy for her has always been truly heartbreaking. Talk about a punch in the gut! I’ve always liked the “When all is said and done, I never count the cost. It’s worth all that’s lost.” lines in the chorus, as well. Again, I hear a mixture of feeling both content and sad when he sings those lines. It’s pretty interesting that you also hear anger and amusement in his performance, which I never thought of until reading this review and one of your earlier reviews of the song. I can certainly understand the narrator also having those feelings towards the overall situation!

    The first time I heard “Just To See You Smile,” was on a cold and cloudy weekday evening when we just got back to my house after my dad had picked up up from school and had taken me out to eat. We were just pulling into our driveway, when it came on the radio. I remember loving it right away just by how it sounded, and it became yet another traditional sounding song that was new on the radio that I always enjoyed hearing. In early 1998, on just about every Saturday night in my bedroom, I’d always love hearing “Just To See You Smile” whenever it came on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Music Countdown show (which followed the R&R charts). On one of those Saturday nights, just when McGraw’s song was starting, it began with Tim himself announcing the song with a recording that said: “Hey, this is Tim McGraw, and I’m on my way to number one!” I believe “Smile” was in the top ten at least by then, and fortunately, Tim ultimately ended up being right in a big way! On that same night, I also remember enjoying Patty Loveless’ “To Have You Back Again” on the countdown. On a following Saturday night, just before Dad and I got back home, we heard Mark Chesnutt’s “It’s Not Over” earlier in the countdown with him also announcing at the start that he was on his way to number one. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be quite as lucky (Though the song was certainly deserving). Anyway, back to McGraw, I do also recall hearing the two countdown shows when “Smile” was number one and being so happy for both him and the song! This song also just sounded SO good during those Winter months in early ’98! It honestly couldn’t have been released at a better time, and even today, whenever I hear this song, I’m suddenly back there again. :)

    And besides “Everywhere,” THIS is the main single from that album that also makes me remember the times when my parents and I regularly went to Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA throughout late 1997 and early 1998. What’s even more cool is that in the mid-late 2000’s, someone actually once played “Just To See You Smile” on the jukebox one night at the Bennigan’s restaurant in Fair Oaks when my dad and I were there, which really took me back, and it was just so neat hearing it at the mall I always associated it with. Even on the more recent times we went back to Fair Oaks, “Just To See You Smile” was a song I always loved to listen to on my ipod whenever I was there. It and so many other country songs from this late 97/early 98 period are just perfect for the mall’s more classy, “upscale” feel.

    This is also one of those rare cases in which I STILL totally love the heck out of a multi week number one song, even though I’ve heard it countless times as both a recurrent and on my ipod. I’ve honestly never once gotten tired of it. This one very well deserved its long stay at the top of the charts AND its popularity as a recurrent!

    McGraw was simply on a roll and on fire during this album era, and once again, I’m REALLY looking forward to his next entry coming up!

    By the way, I LOVE reading these little tidbits about who passed on certain songs, such as Mark Wills passing on “Just To See You Smile.” It was totally his loss, and while I can’t imagine it being quite as good as McGraw’s, I do bet it still would’ve sounded pretty good and would’ve fit in nicely on his Wish You Were Here album.

  2. Reading about how great this song still sounds has me increasingly seeing the light about McGraw, especially with the run of singles from this album. I know he will massively disappoint me later on, but for now I get the excitement.

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