Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Ty Herndon, “It Must Be Love”

“It Must Be Love”

Ty Herndon

Written by Craig Bickhardt and Jack Sundrud


#1 (1 week)

December 5, 1998

Ty Herndon’s third and most recent No. 1 single.

The Road to No. 1

After “Living in a Moment” went to No. 1, the album of the same name produced three more hits: the top thirty “She Wants to Be Wanted Again,” the top five “Loved Too Much,” and the top twenty “I Have to Surrender.”  Herndon then launched his third studio album, Big Hopes.  The lead single, “A Man Holdin’ On (to a Woman Lettin’ Go),” went top five.  The second single remains Herndon’s most recent No. 1 hit.

The No. 1

Featuring a call and response chorus with Sons of the Desert, “It Must Be Love” is one of the freshest sounding singles of the late nineties.  It keeps Herndon’s smooth signature sound, but features significantly more fiddle and steel than most of his hit records ever did.

His warm, expressive vocal cracks at all the right moments, reinforcing the lyric about falling desperately in love and slowly realizing that this one is for keeps.  Herndon’s music was a lot more consistent than his radio play.  This one, thankfully, got the reception that it deserved.

The Road From No. 1

Big Hopes produced one more single: the top five “Hands of a Working Man.”  Herndon’s fourth and final studio album for Sony, Steam, produced the top twenty title track and the top thirty “No Mercy.”  Herndon closed out his run at the label with a hits collection that featured the top forty hit “Heather’s Wall.”  In the years since, Herndon has been prolific on independent labels and has continued to tour throughout the United States.  He’s also emerged as an LGBTQ activist, giving visibility to his community within the country music space.

“It Must Be Love” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. This is another one of my all time favorites from Ty Herndon, and I totally agree that it still sounds very fresh today. It’s also another song that brings back great memories of 7th grade and the Fall of 1998 for me. We’re now in the middle of another one of my favorite Fall/Winter periods in country music for this feature, and I’m definitely here for it! :)

    This song still gets me pumped and excited and gives me a great feeling of joy when I hear it today, especially if it’s Fall. I love how right from the start, the energy and intensity of the production jumps right out at you, with the powerful sounding drums and guitars combined with the lovely fiddle and steel also mixed right up front and center. And I’ve always enjoyed how the intense and energetic production style carries over into the verses about the narrator being hopelessy and helplessly under the spell of love. The intensity of the pounding drums and the piano in the second verse especially go perfectly with the narrator suddenly finding himself seemingly having no control over his car anymore as he’s missing turns and going right back to his love interest’s place just after leaving there a while ago. Gives it a pretty neat suspenseful touch! I also really love the electric guitar solo which compliments the joyful, energetic feel of the song, and it plays along nicely with the fiddle and steel. Speaking of the steel, Paul Franklin’s steel guitar playing here is once again classy and top notch, and I especially always loved how it sounded during the chorus. Again, it makes me truly miss the times when Paul Franklin’s steel guitar was such a stable on country radio.

    In fact, I think this is another one of those songs that strikes the perfect balance of contemporary and traditional, which I actually think a lot of late 90’s country succeeded at. It got enough of the important sonic elements that make a song country such as the fiddle, steel, and a slight twang in Herndon’s vocals, but it’s also smooth, sophisticated, and has enough of a pop sensibility to give it a wider appeal, as well. Sonically, I just find it so refreshing when compared to much of mainstream country from the past decade and a half. I do agree that it is countrier sounding that most if not all of the singles from his previous album, though. In fact, I consider Big Hopes to be one of his countriest albums, and I’ll be getting to that album more in a little bit.

    I also really love Herndon’s joyful performance throughout this song, along with his more suspenseful tone in the second verse, especially. And every time he sings the final line in each chorus, “Oh I don’t know, but something tells me it must be love,” I just can’t help but smile and feel so happy! Having the Sons Of The Desert doing the voice inside the narrator’s head in the choruses was also such a cool, brilliant idea, and that’s actually what made me really notice the song the first time. Their voices go very well with Ty’s, and I especially love it when they echo “I don’t know but something tells me….” each time right after Herndon sings the same line near the end. Again, that part just fills me with so much joy for some reason! :) I also love how excitedly Ty sings “I don’t know, I can’t sleep!” in the final chorus.

    Like Lee Ann Womack’s “A Little Past Little Rock,” this is is another song I heard for the first time on my clock radio in my bedroom just before falling asleep on a school night. Actually, the first few times I heard “It Must Be Love” was in my bedroom at night. As I mentioned above, the backup vocals by Sons Of The Desert made the song really stand out for me at the time, and I remember thinking it was neat to be hearing from them like this after not having heard anything from them in a while. Even one of the DJ’s during one night complimented the song by mentioning the harmonies done by the Sons and said “Sounds great, doesn’t it?” After, that I also came to really appreciate Ty’s singing on it, and I especially loved his suspenseful delivery of the second verse with his car “driving itself back to her place.”

    “It Must Be Love” is also another song that brings back great memories of hearing it in our new Chevy Malibu that my step dad bought just when I started 7th grade. And for some reason, also like “A Little Past Little Rock,” it’s another one that reminds me of my civics class in 7th grade, and our teacher in that class, Mr. Crouch, AKA “Mr. C,” who was a big tall guy with a pony tail and mustache, but actually quite nice (And strict when other students got on his nerves and wouldn’t be quiet. On the very first day, he referred to that side of him as his “evil twin” and warned us to be careful because we wouldn’t want to meet him, lol).

    In the late Summer of 2000, Ty Herndon’s Big Hopes album is another one I added to my little CD collection that I had just started earlier that spring after finally catching the music collecting bug. I got it because I loved all three of its singles and hadn’t heard any of them in a while, plus I always enjoyed Ty’s music, in general. That album, along with Jerry Kilgore’s Love Trip and Keith Harling’s Bring It On, was a major part of the soundtrack to many of the trips to York and Lancaster Pennsylvania we went on throughout 2000 and 2001. Besides the singles, other cuts on the album like “Thinking With My Heart Again,” “Big Time Dreamer,” “The Only Way I Know,” and the title track also remind me of being in PA during those times, and are still some of my most favorite Ty Herndon songs today. I also remember pulling out that album again while we were in the Frazer/Malvern area of PA around late 2001/early 2002 and especially enjoying “It Must Be Love” on my portable cd player while we were sitting in the car outside the QVC Outlet at Lincoln Court Shopping center. The intense sound of the drums and guitars on the verses especially sounded great with the bass booster on my cd player!

    Big Hopes is still my personal favorite Ty Herndon album today, and it always takes me back to PA in my mind whenever I listen to it or any of the songs from the album. :)

    I also adore the follow up single to this, “Hands Of A Working Man,” which I rank as another one of my top favorite Ty Herndon songs. I’ve loved that song’s beautiful melody and Herndon’s heartfelt performance since the first time hearing it. Finding out that he recorded it as a loving tribute to his late father only made me love it even more. It’s another song I also enjoyed hearing many nights in my bedroom before falling asleep. Additionally, it reminds me of my third year in the youth bowling league, and I remember sometimes hearing it on the radio with my dad in the car during the Winter in early 1999 before we got to the bowling alley. It would even sometimes be stuck in my head during some of my games. Oh yeah, and it also takes me back to another weekend Pennsylvania trip we took in early ’99. :) I always loved seeing its music video on GAC as well, and it’s a shame that it’s still so hard to find a good quality version of it online.

    Unfortunately, all three Big Hopes singles were victims of country radio suddenly forgetting about most late 90’s country by the mid 2000’s, at least in my area. This could actually go for most all of Herndon’s singles, in general. Even recurrent airplay “What Mattered Most” was becoming quite a rarity by then.

    I also really LOVE “Heather’s Wall,” which I still wish so much was a bigger hit! Even more, I wish the Paul Worley produced album it was originally supposed to be on was released, as well. Before the label decided to just release a hits package called This is Ty Herndon: Greatest Hits, I read that the original album that was supposed to house “Heather’s Wall” was just simply going to be called “This Is Ty Herndon.” It was shelved after “Heather’s Wall” wasn’t a success, but unfortunately, I don’t think “Heather’s Wall” was actually ever made available on CD, nor can you download or stream it anywhere today still, which is a shame for such a great song. A few cuts I’m guessing are from the shelved album did make it on to the Greatest Hits project such as “A Few Short Years” and “I’d Move Heaven And Earth,” both of which I also enjoy. Btw, I also really love the video for “Heather’s Wall,” which was so well done, imo. It even features that lovely blonde actress who appeared in a few other Ty Herndon videos playing as Heather. Plus, I love the leaves falling everywhere throughout. Every time I watch the video and hear the song, I always wish it was more successful and well known than it ended up being.

  2. Herndon deserved better than he got from Nashville and the wider country music community, producing big, genre moving music even as they acted predictably clanish and small about his personal life. This song sparkles and pops while still sounding wonderfully country enough. I had forgotten just how much the Sons of the Desert contributions to this song elevated the chorus to something special, the same way they did with Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”

    I tend to gang John Berry with Ty Herndon in my mind as two insanely talented vocalists who didn’t receive the support to promote and push their style of country-pop. Both sounded amazing as vocalists while also having sophisticated and smart production sensibilities.

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