Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Martina McBride, “Wrong Again”

“Wrong Again”

Martina McBride

Written by Tommy Lee James and Cynthia Weil

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

January 23, 1999

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 8, 1999

Martina McBride’s third No. 1 single is the first chart topper of 1999.

The Road to No. 1

After “A Broken Wing” became her second No. 1 single, Martina McBride went top five with “Happy Girl.”  The hits kept coming from Evolution, with the album’s fourth single returning her to the top.

The No. 1

When people think of Martina McBride ballads, they think of her hitting all those big power notes.

But she was also quite good at quieter ballads that were delicately delivered.   She demonstrated this as early as her second single, “That’s Me,” and on many excellent deep cuts, like “All the Things We’ve Never Done” and “Some Say I’m Running.”  “Wrong Again” was the most success she had with this style at radio.

It’s a sad song at its core, but it ends on an optimistic note, as she eventually finds love again, leaving the wounded pain of her failed relationship behind.  She demonstrates that resilience comes in many forms, and doesn’t always require burning the house down.  Keep those matches handy, though.

The Road From No. 1

Evolution produced an additional top five hit with “Whatever You Say,” which helped push the album past the triple platinum mark.  McBride’s next single would be her longest run at the top. We’ll cover it later in 1999.

“Wrong Again” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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3 Comments

  1. My personal favorite Martina song of all time! I loved this one since day one when it came out in late 1998, and it’s a song from that time period that I still hold very dear. It’s also one of my favorites of the many “emotional” female songs from this late 1998-early 1999 period.

    The first time I heard “Wrong Again” was on a Sunday afternoon when my mom, step dad, and I were on the way to Fredericksburg, VA to go to Spotsylvania Mall, which was one of the regular things we did on Sundays around late 1998 and early 1999. We were traveling down Route 1 on a beautiful cloudy Fall day when “Wrong Again” was on the radio. I instantly fell in love with the song’s beautiful melody, Martina’s performance, and the instrumentation, especially the lead guitar that played the song’s main pretty melody. And even then, the song’s emotional lyrics about finding love, losing love, and then eventually finding it again really got to me. I especially remember getting chills as Martina sang in the final chorus, “I was sure I’d never find someone to heal the damage you had done…” I also really loved the lead guitar changing to a higher key at the end as the song ended on a happier note of Martina finally finding her true love. Mom also really seemed to be enjoying the song as we were driving, and I could hear her humming along.

    Even today, I still enjoy and appreciate the journey and the roller coaster of emotions that this song takes you on. I agree that it’s mainly a sad song because it focuses on the narrator not being very lucky in love and just when she thought she found a good partner after being afraid to try love again, that one ends up being not any better, as well. That just makes the song’s ending all the more sweet and heartwarming, as it’s implied that she was finally able to finally find a true love, after all. I have to admit that the emotional third chorus, where she recalls the time she was about to give up on love, still gets me teary eyed now and then, and by the time she sings “Wrong again…” at the end, and the guitar plays the pretty melody in a more optimistic tone, I’m still teary eyed, but it’s happy tears I’m feeling for the narrator. :) I still think this song has one of the prettiest melodies she’s ever sung, and she hits all the right emotions at the right times throughout her performance.

    The production is also flawless, and especially love how Dan Dugmore’s steel playing in the choruses reflects the pain that Martina’s narrator was going through. I also love the sound of the drums on the last two choruses, and yes, the pretty sounding lead guitar is still one of my favorite parts of the song, as well. It was also pretty cool for me to find out that Sara Evans provides the vocal harmonies, especially since Evans herself had another one of my favorite songs around the same time, “No Place That Far.”

    Shortly after that time we heard it on the way to Fredericksburg, we also heard “Wrong Again” on another Sunday afternoon when we were this time on the way to Springfield Mall in Springfield, VA, which is the other mall my mom, step dad, and I usually went to on Sundays around late ’98 and into 1999. I especially remember it still going through my head in the mall while I was at the Time Out arcade on the second floor near JCPenney, watching other people play Soulcalibur, which is another fighting game similar to the Tekken series, except the characters fought with swords and other weapons. Soulcalibur was one of my most favorite games at the time, and it was one of the biggest reasons why I loved going to Springfield Mall back then. Even one of the game’s female characters, Ivy Valentine, had a short haircut that kind of reminded me of Martina’s haircut at the time. Sometimes when I hear this song, I still picture myself roaming around Springfield Mall in the late 90’s, as well as being in the arcade playing and watching other people play Soulcalibur. Heck, I still enjoy listening to it on my ipod when walking around any mall on a cold rainy night. :)

    I also remember “Wrong Again” going through my head during various classes in my 7th grade year, and I’d always look forward to hearing on the radio again. I was really hoping it would come on as I recorded the second tape I did during 7th grade around early 1999, but no such luck. As I was recording Sara Evans’ “No Place That Far,” I remember thinking that song had similar qualities I liked in “Wrong Again,” though it was much different lyrically, of course. Oh yeah, and it was also around that time that I was really getting into the X-Files for the first time. :)

    Unfortunately, “Wrong Again” was one of Martina’s hits that was seemingly dropped from our stations once its chart run was done. I hardly remember ever hearing it for the rest of 1999, and definitely not during the early 2000’s either. Around 2002, I suddenly found myself obsessed with Martina’s 90’s music. It started when I picked up her first album, 1992’s The Time Has Come, which I LOVED (I appreciate the mentioning of “That’s Me” in the review!). It pretty much snowballed from there with me getting the next three in the order they originally came out. Though I loved all the singles from Evolution, it was particularly “Wrong Again” that made me want to pick it up, especially since I hadn’t heard it in so long and remembered loving it. Needless to say, once I got Evolution, I would often have “Wrong Again” on repeat, never getting enough of it. :)

    I also got to really loving many of the album cuts from Evolution like “Keeping My Distance,” “I Won’t Close My Eyes,” “Here In My Heart,” “One Day You Will,” and “I Don’t Want To See You Again.” I just listened to “Some Say I’m Running” which I hadn’t heard in a while, and wow, it’s most definitely excellent! For some reason, I had not paid as much attention to that one before, but it’s definitely going into my rotation now. Evolution is still one of my personal favorite Martina albums, and like so much late 90’s country, I think it’s a perfect balance of both contemporary and traditional styles of country.

    It was also around 2002 after getting Evolution in which I noticed that Tommy Lee James co-wrote another one of my favorites, Brooks & Dunn’s A Man This Lonely. Interestingly, he also co-wrote Pam Tillis’ “Every Time,” which was another song I enjoyed on the radio around the same time “Wrong Again” was out.

    I also love “Whatever You Say,” which was all over the radio during the Spring and Summer of 1999. It was certainly a big contrast to “Wrong Again,” especially in vocal performance, and man was it a great showcase for her pipes! I always liked the searing fiddle parts throughout, as well. Oh, and I really love her performance of it here at the 1999’s ACM’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRM9Vmw__5c

  2. Despite the vocal restraint appropriate to the lyric, McBride is flexing her muscles here, showing the control she has as a singer. Though famous for her histrionics, she was more than capable of dialing it back and still hitting her emotional marks.

    Nashville had such an embarrassment of riches with otherworldly female artists in the late nineties.

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