Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Reba McEntire, “Forever Love”

“Forever Love”

Reba McEntire

Written by Deanna Bryan, Liz Hengber, and Sunny Russ

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 30, 1998

Reba’s final No. 1 single of the nineties.

The Road to No. 1

Reba McEntire’s final two No. 1 singles of the decade came from her studio album If You See Him.  This second release followed the landmark multi-label collaboration with Brooks & Dunn that provided the album’s title.

The No. 1

Reba McEntire had successfully diversified her portfolio by this point of the nineties through supporting roles in theatrical films and leading roles in made-for-television movies. “Forever Love” served as the title theme for one of those television films, with a plotline involving a woman waking up from a coma to discover her one true love has moved on.

I think that the song works independently of the film, even if it’s not one of her stronger ballads overall.  Reba simply isn’t a pop singer, and when she goes down that road, she ends up holding back vocally because her country twang is front and center when she belts.

Toward the end of “Forever Love,” you can hear that signature sound of hers trying to break through.  As with “Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands” from the Starting Over era, this song is so much better in its live iterations where that sound does break through.  She got a standing ovation at the 1998 CMA Awards performing this song.  Seek out that version if you can.

The recorded version is fine, but is ultimately beneath Reba’s considerable capabilities.

The Road From No. 1

If You See Him is still the most recent Reba album to produce four top ten singles at country radio, a feat also accomplished by Rumor Has It and Read My Mind.  “Wrong Night” and “One Honest Heart” both went top ten.  The lead single from her final studio set of the nineties, So Good Together, was “What Do You Say.” It went top five and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video.

We will see a lot more of Reba McEntire when we cover the 80’s, the 00’s, and even the ’10s.

“Forever Love” gets a B-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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5 Comments

  1. I like the song, have only heard the recorded version, but it’s good. A decent ballad. Memorable enough without being top tier Reba. On the album another song I believe is from the same TV movie, After All This Time, is one I like a little more. Though I like the album overall – I really enjoy the Linda Davis duet – Face To Face.

  2. I remember watching The tv movie when it debuted on cbs! I’ve always like this song but like said before it’s not top tier Reba but pretty close! Even though the album it came from was more pop country I found all the songs on it to be awesome and to this day know all of them by heart. I personally feel the last 2 single releases should have been replaced by “Heart Hush” and “Lonely Alone”, two of my all time favorite Reba album cuts. “Face to Face” would have been a good choice too!

    2
    • I never saw the movie, but I’d love to! I see it’s on Youtube, so I’ll be taking a look at it soon!

      I totally agree with you on the If You See Him album, as well! I love the three songs you listed, along with “I Wouldn’t Know” and “I’ll Give You Something To Miss,” especially.

  3. I personally really love this song, and it’s another one of my favorite ballads from Reba! While pop power ballads are not necessarily her forte, I always thought she did a fine job with this one, in particular. I still get chills when she starts belting out the higher notes starting at the bridge and throughout the rest of the song. I especially love the beautiful long note she holds out on one of the last times she sings “Forever loooooooove!” near the end. I also really like her tender delivery of the verses.

    Sonically, I really like how it’s almost a return to the more smooth contemporary sound she had from 1988’s Reba album up to 1990’s Rumor Has It. David Malloy’s production is very classy and sophisticated, and it compliments the song’s lovely melody and lyrics very well, imo. I love the piano in the intro and the smooth electric guitar on the second verse. I also really love the heavy sound of the drums, which sounds similar to the drums in Kenny Chesney’s ballads from the same time period. Because the production is so smooth and classy, this is another late 90’s love ballad that I always picture being in the city or other urban areas whenever I hear it. Or it’s also great to listen to at home on rainy afternoon or night. :) Again, I just really miss sophisticated, well sung ballads like this being in country music!

    I do agree with you on the 1998 CMA performance, though! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQLG3FS1XNU Man, do I get chills watching it, especially when she starts really belting it out! Though she had nothing to prove by this time, this was yet another very fine showcase for her vocal range, and that she can sing power ballads with the best of them. Definitely a well deserved standing O! I also love all the pictures shown of famous long lasting couples, along with the camera cutting to Martina and John and Tim and Faith. :) Oh, and I absolutely adore the short haircut Reba had during this time period!

    “Forever Love” is another song that takes me back to the earlier months of my 7th grade year in the Fall of 1998. And similar to Alabama’s “How Do You Fall In Love,” this is another song I remember hearing when my mom, step dad, and I would go to Fredericksburg, VA in late 1998. I still remember hearing it one night when we were on the way back home while we were traveling on Route 1, which is the route we usually took to and back from Fredericksburg. Because our new Chevy Malibu had this SCV feature that made the volume of the radio go higher the faster you drove the car, I remember it getting louder around the same time Reba started belting out the higher notes, which happened to be when my step dad was going faster, lol. And like Alabama’s song, it’s also pretty neat that “Forever Love” reminds me of being in Fredericksburg, since a lot of Reba’s early 90’s songs (“For My Broken Heart,” “Is There Life Out There,” etc.) remind me of my early childhood in that area. :)

    It’s also amazing, looking back, that in addition to George Strait, fellow 80’s veterans Reba and Alabama were still going strong by this time, as well (while others like Randy Travis and Steve Wariner just made successful comebacks). And coincidentally, both Reba and Alabama had their last chart toppers of the decade back to back. It’s just pretty neat when looking at the charts during this time to see these 80’s veterans still doing well the same time a wide variety of newer and younger artists were having success.

    Staying consistent with the trend of many of these late 90’s songs, “Forever Love” was sadly another song that pretty much disappeared from radio in our area once the mid 2000’s rolled around, along with the rest of the singles from the If You See Him album. Around late 2004 and into 2005, I was really missing late 90’s country and getting hungry for hearing many of those songs again instead of much of the current stuff on the radio that I just didn’t like as much or at all. The If You See Him album was one of those late 90’s albums I was wanting to get so bad, but it was pretty hard for me to find anywhere by then. I remember listening to samples of each song on it while on the computer system at Borders books one afternoon and just absolutely loving everything I heard. Finally, Dad and I just put in an order for it at Borders, and we picked the CD up a few days later when we returned to the store. Dad and I enjoyed listening to it in the car the next few times we were in the car together, and he especially loved the title track with Brooks & Dunn, which both of us also hadn’t heard in a long time. Each time he heard “Forever Love” he always loved it, as well, and he would always say it sounded like it could be a brand new song from her, since he didn’t have as much memory of hearing it in 1998. I tend to agree with him, and think the song (and much of the rest of the album) still sounds just as great and fairly modern today.

    If You See Him is actually still one of my favorite Reba albums today, and I absolutely love the classy late 90’s contemporary country production by David Malloy, which still sounds great and modern to my ears. Besides the singles, also love “I Wouldn’t Know,” “Lonely Alone,” “I’ll Give You Something To Miss,” “Heart Hush,” “Face To Face,” and “Invisible.” I especially prefer “Face To Face” to the more well known Reba and Linda Davis duet, “Does He Love You.” Each time I listen to this album, I still wish this is what more contemporary country still sounded like.

    I also adore “Wrong Night” and think it was such a fun single release for her, and it was such a delight to hear on the radio during the later Fall of 1998 and into the Winter of 1999! It stood out to me back then, because it had been so long since she released a fun, toe tapping, traditional country tune like that. I always liked how she sang the line “Then you walked in with that crazy grin” which always made me smile. It’s also another great song that reminds me of 7th grade, particularly my English teacher at the time, Mrs. Little, who reminded me a little of Reba back then because she had a similar short haircut as her and a similar physique, as well.

    I also really love “What Do You Say,” and wish that was a number one, too. It brings back great memories from late 1999/early 2000 and that whole Y2K period. :) The beautiful “I’ll Be” from 2000 is also a favorite of mine that still gets me teary eyed once in a while. I really love the So Good Together album, as well, with some of my other favorite cuts on it being: “Til I Said It To You,” “Back Before The War,” “Roses,” “I’m Not Your Girl,” and “She Wasn’t Good Enough For Him.”

  4. It is shocking how often country artists with outrageous talents still pursue mainstream, pop validation despite their own towering musical legacies. It is endlessly fascinating to explore, and dissect, the motivating impulse behind this common country music tendency.

    I had completely forgotten about this single before being reacquainted with it here. I agree that the song is just “fine.”

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