Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Jo Dee Messina, “Bye Bye”

“Bye Bye”

Jo Dee Messina

Written by Rory Bourke and Phil Vassar


#1 (2 weeks)

April 18 – April 25, 1998

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 10, 1998

Jo Dee Messina launches her multiplatinum breakthrough album.

The Road to No. 1

Jo Dee Messina is one of those rare country stars from the northeastern United States, growing up in Massachusetts.  She was heavily influenced by the female country artists of the eighties, especially Reba McEntire and the Judds.  She performed locally on the club scene, then moved to Nashville at the age of 19.   She won a talent contest that led to a radio gig, which helped her to be discovered by Byron Gallimore.  Tim McGraw recommended her being signed to Curb Records, and both men teamed up to co-produce her debut album, Jo Dee Messina.  It produced the top five hit “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” and the top ten hit “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore.”

Messina previewed her second album, I’m Alright, with “Bye Bye.”

The No. 1

Jo Dee Messina’s ability to deliver a rapid fire, literate lyric made her the perfect artist to record songs written by Phil Vassar.  His song are wordy and require precise phrasing, but his lyrics are also conversational, so there needs to be a breezy delivery of those precisely phrased words.

It’s a tough tight rope to walk, and Messina did it far better than anyone else on record, including Vassar himself.

Just look at what she has to deliver in the second verse:  “Baby, what did you expect me to do? Just sit around and wait on you? Well, I’m through watching you just skate around the truth, and I know it sounds trite – I’ve seen the light!”

As June Carter Cash once sang, this song has “no swallerin’ place,” not even in between the end of the verse and the start of the chorus.  Her ability to pull this off so well established Jo Dee Messina as an essential artist who managed to stand out as uniquely skilled, even among the most distinguished and crowded field of female artists that the genre has ever seen.

And guess what? The b-side, sent to radio next, is even better.

The Road From No. 1

“Bye Bye” is the first of three multi-week No. 1 hits from I’m Alright.  The title track is up next.

“Bye Bye” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Trisha Yearwood, “Perfect Love” |

Next: Shania Twain, “You’re Still the One”


  1. JDM was so refreshing and so very talented. She’s one of the few female artists I can get my male friends to listen to and enjoy.

  2. Man to think how big Jo Dee Messina was back then. All the singles from the “I’m Alright” album outside of “Because You Love Me” were still being player on my local radio station in Richmond. “Bye, Bye”, “I’m Alright”, “Lesson in Leavin” and “Stand Beside Me” all classics.

  3. This has always been one of my top favorites from Jo Dee Messina! It’s such a great feel good, kiss off song that still sounds fresh today and still gets me pumped and excited! Love that little “whoo!” Jo Dee does at the start, too. I really enjoy Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw’s signature late 90’s muscular production style here, with the lead guitar and drums sounding great in particular, and Sonny Garrish’s steel complimenting them very well. I especially love the sound the steel makes at 0:16 with the cool echo effect just before she starts singing. Jo Dee’s performance is also full of energy and attitude that is simply perfect for the song’s narrator who’s had enough of waiting around for commitment from her now ex boyfriend and is taking a ride and “never looking back.” She was absolutely perfect for songs like these! And I don’t know if this is just me, but the part when she sings in the second verse “You’ll find what’s left of us in a cloud of dust on Highway 4,” always gives me feelings of comfort, warmth, and nostalgia. That’s always been one of my favorite lines, too!

    In more recent years, I’ve also really come to appreciate a lot of Phil Vassar’s songs around this time that either other artists sang and ones he recorded himself. I especially like his conversational writing style, as you mentioned, and his often highly detailed lyrics, which I took for granted back then. Not to mention, he also came up with some of the most joyful sounding melodies, as well! Likewise, I’ve also really come to appreciate Jo Dee’s often energetic and enthusiastic style, along with many of her upbeat songs that are perfect for taking a drive or escapism, in general. On “Bye Bye,” and the next Messina number one after this, she most certainly proves to be an excellent interpreter of Vassar’s material, with those songs fitting her like a glove.

    “Bye Bye” is another song that instantly reminds me of the Saturday nights I spent in my bedroom in early 1998 listening to Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Countdown from the clock radio on my dresser right next to my bed. I remember it being one of the newer songs on the countdown that I was really enjoying more and more every time it came on. I especially always liked how she sang the last “Bye bye, bye bye, my baby, bye bye!” at the end. Sonically, it even reminded me a bit of Chely Wright’s “Just Another Heartache” (another song I really liked on the countdown around the same time) the first few times I heard it. Both of those songs remind me of when we actually played bowling in my first period PE class in 6th grade around that time, which I loved since it was pretty much the only sport I was good at, lol. I even remember “Just Another Heartache” going through my head that morning while waiting for my turn and watching my other classmates bowl. In turn, when I’d hear “Bye Bye” on the countdown, it would also remind me of that morning in PE. :)

    As I’ve mentioned in a couple other threads, I also happen to have two of those early 1998 Weekly Country Countdown shows hosted by Chris Charles. The first one that aired in late February has “Bye Bye” as #21, ahead of Toby Keith’s “Dream Walkin'” at #22 and behind Clay Walker’s “Then What” at #20. Jo Dee’s song is preceded by a recording of Messina herself introducing it on the countdown, which is pretty neat. And the thing is, I actually DO remember listening to this show when it originally aired! It also has Trisha Yearwood as the feature artist and her doing little interviews about her past singles and talking about her and Matraca Berg having a lot in common musically. :)

    For those who may be sick of my mentioning of Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA by now (or perhaps have started a drinking game, lol), I apologize, but this is definitely another song that takes me back to when my dad took my mom and I to Fair Oaks every Sunday throughout early ’98. In fact, it was on one of those Sundays when it was still fairly new on the radio that I remember my dad really enjoying it and singing along to the “I ain’t ever looking back, and that’s a fact!” line with enthusiasm just when we were on our way to Fairfax. :) And despite being a “driving song,” there is also a certain contemporary feel to the production (especially that cool echoing steel in the intro) that always made it sound great to hear on my ipod whenever I was walking around in Fair Oaks in more recent years.

    My dad and I were also enjoying the music video for “Bye Bye” one Saturday afternoon while they were playing it in Best Buy’s TV section. Best Buy was another store where I’d also enjoy playing Diddy Kong Racing, which was the game I was most obsessed with throughout late ’97 and early ’98. After I was through playing and met my dad at the TV section of the store, they started showing “Bye Bye” which was part of their rotation during that time. I remember my dad once again raving about Jo Dee and the song as we both watched it. He especially loved it each time she grabbed the rearview mirror and tossed it out, lol. I had also been enjoying the video myself whenever it came on GAC, and it was pretty cool this time to be seeing it on all kinds of TV sets of all sizes.

    It’s still one of my favorite videos of hers today, and I especially always liked how they continued to show the rearview mirror being thrown out and smashing on the ground to pieces. I still wonder how many of those mirrors were destroyed in the video’s making, lol. I also love how she sings the second chorus right into the camera with a victory grin as she’s backing out of the dude’s driveway, and does a Ring around the Rosie on him during the “cloud of dust” lyric. Even the way she occasionally taps the heel of her shoe to the song’s beat and does that little “whoo!” in the beginning as she dodges the traffic is still cute. :) These kind of late 90’s videos just have a certain feel good charm for me that’s missing in a lot of the more recent videos.

    And thankfully, this one also remained a steady recurrent on the radio for us up to the mid 00’s when I started giving up on country radio.

    Btw, it’s still hard to believe that “Heads Carolina, Tails California” was actually not a number one! Talk about another classic, and another perfect “road song.”

  4. Hopefully, Cole Swindell’s current charting nostalgic single “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” will bring Messinna’s music to a new generation of country listener. It is hard to describe how much potential and punch Messina brought with her earliest singles, so much sincere energy and fun, a relatable real persona.

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