Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Collin Raye, “Someone You Used to Know”

“Someone You Used to Know”

Collin Raye

Written by Rory Feek and Tim Johnson

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

December 18, 1998 – January 1, 1999

Collin Raye earns his final No. 1 single to date.

The Road to No. 1

Collin Raye’s fifth studio album, The Walls Came Down, launched with his final two No. 1 hits to date.  “Someone You Used to Know” followed lead single “I Can Still Feel You” to the top.

The No. 1

The conceit of this song, as well as its title, have popped up every few years in popular music.  The Collin Raye spin on the idea might be the most dramatic, in that he gets told right to his face that he’s just someone that his former lover used to know.

It’s right in his heartbreak wheelhouse, and he keeps the vocal histrionics in check, making for one of his better midtempo efforts.

Of course it’s not a stone cold country classic like the Porter & Dolly duet, or as musically innovative as the Gotye and Kimbra collaboration that was still a few years down the road.  But it’s a good, solid effort that closes out the chart-topping run of one of the decade’s most consistently successful vocalists.

The Road From No. 1

The Walls Came Down produced two more hits: the top five “Anyone Else” and the top forty “Start Over Georgia.”  It became his final gold album.  Tracks followed in 2000, producing his final top five hit to date, “Couldn’t Last a Moment.”  The album’s other two singles missed the top forty.  His final album for Sony, Can’t Back Down, produced one minor chart hit.  Since then, Raye has remained a popular draw on the nineties nostalgia circuit, and he has continued to record for independent labels, releasing both country and contemporary Christian albums.

“Someone You Used to Know” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Probably my favorite Collin Raye single behind his two signature ballads. He restrains himself nicely and the production is crisp and more traditional than a lot of his output. Plus, kicking off the major career of Rory Feek is a win in my book.

  2. This is personally one of my top favorite Collin Raye songs. I’ve really loved it ever since it came out in the Fall of 1998 and into early 1999 during my 7th grade year. Hearing it on a beautiful, cool and crisp Fall day like today especially gives me a great feeling and takes me back to those great times. :) Actually, the first three singles from his The Walls Came Down album are some of my most favorite Collin Raye songs ever.

    I agree with the general consensus that this song plays into Collin’s strengths as a vocalist very well, and I always thought he was at his best on more restrained, slightly more traditional leaning ballads such as this. Fortunately, he avoids doing any over the top vocal tricks here, and instead he just focuses on the heartache and sadness of the song’s narrator. And not only does he sound heartbroken, but I also hear moments of bewilderment and frustration at his former partner for being able to move on so quickly, and that he is now only “someone she used to know.” I always loved how he sang the pretty choruses, as well, especially the high notes he sings with the lines “Didn’t we love? Didn’t we share?” This song also has one of the most beautiful melodies he’s ever sung, imo, and it’s such a perfect fit for his tenor voice.

    This is also another one of my favorite songs about not being let go of an ex lover, while unfortunately for the narrator, their former partner has had very little to no problems with moving on. What makes this one more heartbreaking is that is captures that both painful and awkward moment of suddenly meeting the ex partner, not only to see that she’s moved on to a new lover, but also to find that you’ve been reduced to nothing more than a footnote in that person’s life. “Didn’t we love? Didn’t we share? Or don’t you even care?” does so well in expressing the narrator’s sadness, disappointment, and frustration with the situation, especially since he clearly still has strong feelings for her. I also love how the detailed second verse reveals that the narrator still holds many special memories of the times he spent together with his former partner dearly (“those weekends on the coast”), along with the silly, playful arguments about which one loved who the most. It really cuts deep when Collin then sings “I guess I won that one, ’cause I still need you so. But to you, I’m just someone you used to know.”

    And as with many late 90’s country songs, the production is smooth and classy which really compliments the song’s beautiful melody and more traditional flavor, and there’s just an elegant charm about it. This really reminds me of the clean production style that artists like Reba McEntire and Kenny Chesney were also using during this time. I absolutely love the heavy, but polished sound of the drums on this cut, along with the fiddle and Paul Franklin’s as always classy steel guitar playing. Again, something about Franklin’s steel playing from this late 90’s era just oozes class to me. Did I ever mention how much I miss hearing his steel playing regularly on the radio?

    The first time I heard “Someone You Used To Know” was on a beautiful Fall afternoon after school while Dad and I were in the car. It was still fairly early into my 7th grade year, and “I Can Still Feel You” was still getting a lot of recurrent airplay, as well. I instantly loved the song’s pretty melody and its more laid back style, along with Collin’s singing on it. Dad also really seemed to enjoy it, and it became one of his favorite Collin Raye songs, as well.

    I also got to enjoy “Someone You Used To Know” many times on the radio while sitting in the back seat of our new 1998 Chevy Malibu. It seemed to be one of the current songs at the time that both my mom and step dad also liked, and I’m guessing its more throwback style was a big part of that, along with it’s melody and Collin’s smooth vocals. Each time it came on while riding in the Malibu, and Collin started singing “I ain’t gonna lie to you…” I’d always get excited, not only because I loved the song, but also, I knew it was one we’d all get to enjoy. I specifically remember hearing it a good number of times on the weekend Lancaster, Pennsylvania trip that we took in the Fall of 1998, in which we also went to the King Of Prussia mall for the first time. :)

    “Someone You Used To Know” also ended up on the A side of the second tape I recorded during my 7th grade year around early 1999. Other songs on that side are “There You Have It” by Blackhawk, “For You, I Will” by Aaron Tippin, “When Mama Ain’t Happy” by Tracy Byrd, “Don’t Come Cryin’ To Me” by Vince Gill, “Stand Beside Me” by Jo Dee Messina, “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely” by Andy Griggs, and just about half of B&D’s “How Long Gone.” The earlier part of this tape is occupied by an Engelbert Humperdinck album of my mom’s that we recorded on to it many years earlier.

    Unfortunately, “Someone You Used To Know” was yet another beautiful late 90’s song that was seemingly forgotten all about once it got to around 2003/2004 when country started getting more aggressive with more obnoxious songs creeping into the format, which left no room for softer, more elegant songs like this on most playlists, I’m guessing (unless you were George Strait, of course). Around late 2005 I made a mixed CD of most all of these late 1998/early 1999 country hits, and whenever I was in the car with my dad, I always preferred to listen to it instead of the radio. The late 90’s country on that CD was just so refreshing to me back then! Even Dad had not heard most of the songs in a long time, and he remembered and still loved “Someone You Used To Know.” Collin’s song was followed by Reba’s “Wrong Night” on the CD, which I thought was neat because they both have the same production style despite both songs being so different from one another. That CD was also a great one to listen to on cold and rainy Fall nights. :)

    I also really love the next single, the Radney Foster penned “Anyone Else,” which I consider to be one of Raye’s most underrated singles. It’s been one of my favorites ever since it was always on the radio in early 1999, and it’s such a great feel good song! That one takes me back to my third year in the youth bowling league, and I remember thinking about some of the people I knew there as that song was coming on the radio while Dad had just filled the car with gas one afternoon. It has a great catchy melody, and it features a charming performance from Collin, which again, is more restrained. Plus, I love the lyrics about its narrator being grateful for having a truly committed partner. Love those low notes played by the electric guitar after the chorus, as well, which reminds me of the guitar playing during the chorus of Andy Griggs’ “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely.” Unfortunately, this was yet another one that became long forgotten by the mid 00’s. Sigh…well at least “I Can Still Feel You” was actually still remembered and occasionally continued to get airplay.

    The Walls Came Down is personally one of my favorite albums from Collin, and besides the hit singles, I also love the title track, “April Fool,” “Corner Of The Heart,” “Make Sure You’ve Got It All,” “All My Roads,” and “Start Over Georgia” (especially love the fiddling on that one. Don’t remember ever hearing on it the radio, though).

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