Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: George Strait, “True”


George Strait

Written by Marv Green and Jeff Stevens

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

August 28 – September 5, 1998

George Strait completes a run of six consecutive No. 1 singles.

The Road to No. 1

George Strait’s late nineties dominance culminated in the fall of 1998 with his third consecutive CMA Male Vocalist of the Year trophy and his sixth consecutive No. 1 single at radio.

The No. 1

“True” has the same breezy delivery and sophisticated phrasing that was present in all of Strait’s recent hits, but lyrically, it’s a step downward from his usual standards.  The songwriters didn’t quite stretch past the tolerable limit of using the title in the lyrics, but they came close, with Strait being required to say the word “true” no less than eleven times in 3 and 1/2 minutes.

It was his first single in a while where it sounded like he was going through the motions, checking all of the boxes that radio expects from him but not doing anything particularly interesting with what wasn’t much more than a conventional, solidly constructed song.

His next single was one of his very best, but it unfortunately broke his streak of No. 1 hits. It was an early indicator of what will be a trend for him moving forward, where his most compelling singles missed the top spot while his frothier fare made it to the top.

The Road From No. 1

Strait pulled a third and final single from One Step at a Time, the brilliant “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This.”  It went top five.  Strait then previewed his next studio album, Always Never the Same, with another one of the best singles of his career.  “Meanwhile” also went top five.  Strait returned to the top with a borderline novelty song which served as his 1999 album’s second single. It will mark his final appearance of the decade at No. 1.

“True” gets a B.


Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Brooks & Dunn, “How Long Gone”



  1. I adore this song, and it’s another one of my personal favorites of Strait’s late 90’s singles.

    When I first heard this one in the Summer of 1998, what struck me about it right away was that it was the most modern and contemporary sounding George Strait song I’d ever heard up to that point. Looking back, I still consider it to be one of his most progressive sounding songs of the decade. It carries on the trend of lighter mid tempo material that he began recording with songs like “Check Yes Or No” and “Blue Clear Sky,” but “True” is even more modern sounding with the alternative feel of the main electric guitar and the pop feel of the melody. I also noticed Strait’s delivery being a bit less twangy and more sophisticated (as you say) which was appropriate for the song’s more contemporary feel. I particularly remember being quite impressed with how he smoothly and effortlessly sang the wordy and fast flowing second verse. When he sang “It’s written on my face, you can see it in my eyes,” I instantly pictured George’s face with literally scribbles of cursive writing all over it, lol.

    I do disagree with you on him sounding like he’s going through the motions, because another thing I first noticed about this song was how joyful and even a bit more youthful he sounded while singing this song. I don’t know if it’s just the song’s bright and upbeat modern style that made him sound like that, but to me, he does sound like he was gladly up for the challenge of singing something a bit more out of his comfort zone this time out and trying something a little more hip. Either way, when he sings about his love being true here, I believe him, and his typical charm is most definitely still in tact.

    What made this slight change to a more modern style with this single even more surprising for me back in ’98 was that he had previously released a string of singles that had influences of older sounds and styles all over them. Listening to “True” in more recent times, it’s the perfect kind of contemporary country to my ears. I just love the entire production of this track, especially how the fiddle and steel guitar are still front and center despite the more modern sounds of the electric guitar and melody. Paul Franklin’s steel just sounds so good here, especially, and again, I truly miss his steel playing being a main stable on country radio. Even Eddie Bayers’ drumming here has always sounded perfect to me on this track.

    Overall, “True” still sounds just as fresh, energetic, and joyful to me as it did in the Summer of ’98, and like Clint Black’s “The Shoes You’re Wearing” and Jo Dee Messina’s “I’m Alright,” it’s another perfect song from this time frame that I love to hear while taking a walk outside on a beautiful day. There’s also something about these feel good late 90’s songs that has the power to instantly brighten my mood and make me feel as young and carefree as I was back then (Though I honestly still feel the same age I was back then most of the time, even without the music, lol). :)

    While “I Just Want To Dance With You” takes me back to the first trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania that my mom, dad, and I went on in June of 1998, “True” on the other hand, reminds me of the second Trip to Lancaster that we went on with my step dad later that summer. I remember all of us hearing “True” in the car on several occasions during the trip, and at the time, I still couldn’t believe it was George Strait releasing something this contemporary sounding. Even my parents seemed to think it was something different from George, but they nonetheless still seemed to enjoy it. For me, I also thought this was a slight step down for him, at first, though I did still like it. It just wasn’t what I was used to hearing from him. It wouldn’t take long for it to really grow on me though, since after all, I had more admiration and respect for George Strait at that time than I ever did before. Like Clint Black’s “The Shoes You’re Wearing,” this song also reminds me of us going to the Rockvale Outlets in Lancaster, where my mom loved going to the QVC Outlet. I particularly remember “True” being on the radio one sunny afternoon just when we had arrived at the main Rockvale entrance and were about to go through the parking lot. I still often picture the Rockvale Outlets on a sunny summer day when I hear both this song and “The Shoes You’re Wearing.”

    “True” also definitely reminds me of the vacation to California that we took later that summer in August, which is another trip we took that I still cherish today. I also still sometimes picture us being in Orange County, CA whenever I hear this song, which is where we mainly hung around. That California trip just seemed full of George Strait, actually. While still in Virginia, right before we got to the airport, we heard a recurrent of “You Look So Good In Love,” which was still going through my head on the day we were at Universal Studios. And while on the plane to CA, the country program in their music selection featured a “double play” of George Strait with “I Just Want To Dance With You” first and then “Unwound” for the “throwback” selection. As I stated in the “..Dance With You” entry, it totally surprised me to learn that he had been on the scene since the very early 80’s, which only made me admire and respect him even more. And finally, while in California, in addition to his current hits, we also heard a recurrent of “One Night At A Time” while we were on our way to the Country Inn in Orange County and then later a recurrent of “The Chair” while we were on one of the main highways in the area. The country station we mainly listened to in Orange County actually had amazing variety, and it played not only recurrents from the 90’s I hadn’t heard in a long time, but also a lot from the 80’s, as well, which really fascinated me and took me back. :)

    One Step At A Time is actually another one of my personal favorite albums from George, which I got for Christmas in 2002 when I collected quite a few albums from 1997 and 1998. It still very much sounds like modern George Strait to my ears today, and I so wish it was still the sound of modern mainstream country. Besides the singles, I love every other song on it, especially “That’s The Breaks,” “You Haven’t Left Me Yet,” “Maria,” “Remember The Alamo,” “Neon Row,” and the title track.

    I totally agree with you on “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This,” which returned Strait to tackling vintage styles, with that one particularly reminding me of Elvis and 50’s and early 60’s rock & roll, in general. It was certainly his most unique (not to mention fun) sounding song to me yet when I first heard it in the Fall of 1998! It still reminds me of my 7th grade year today, especially my math class and teacher I had that year, Mrs. Kainer. I remember when hearing that song early in my 7th grade year, after Dad had picked me up and we were arriving my house, when he sang the line “This chance encounter has to be the last,” the way he sang the word “encounter” sounded like “Kainer” to me, which reminded me of my math teacher, lol. Btw, I still really love his performance of it on the 1998 CMA’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0YhT4XUgjM I just love the typical classy way George is dressed here. Even Vince mentioning Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in the intro really takes me back and gets me all nostalgic. :)

    Speaking of the late 90’s CMA’s, George’s big comeback on the awards show circuit during that time is nothing short of impressive, especially when considering how long he’d already been in the business by then and that mainstream country was slowly heading more towards pop influenced sounds. I love it when he exclaims “I love everybody!” after picking up the Male Vocalist trophy in the 1998 CMA show. :)

  2. Oh yeah, I forgot to add that I totally agree with you on “Meanwhile,” as well! That’s personally one of my top favorite songs of his to this day, and I hate that it’s seemingly become one of his most forgotten singles in more recent years. It’s a stunningly gorgeous waltz featuring one of Strait’s finest performances, yet, imo, and it’s one of my favorite songs about not being able to let go of a past love. It also brings back great memories from early 1999, especially when we went back to Pennsylvania during that time. It particularly takes me back to when we went to the York Galleria Mall in York, PA during that trip, with it being stuck in my head as I wandered around the JCPenney there. :)

  3. Kevin, you may have started something with listing your five most played Strait songs!

    My five:

    1. I Can Still Make Cheyenne
    2. Amarillo by Morning
    3. The Chair
    4. High Tone Woman
    5. God and Country Music

    If “True” is Strait going through the motions, it is still something special. He elevates damn near everything he records.

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