Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Jo Dee Messina, “Stand Beside Me”

“Stand Beside Me”

Jo Dee Messina

Written by Stephen Allen Davis

Billboard

#1 (3 weeks)

January 30 – February 13, 1999

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 29, 1999

Jo Dee Messina completes a run of three consecutive No. 1 singles.

The Road to No. 1

I’m Alright launched with “Bye Bye” and was followed by the title track, both of which spent multiple weeks at No. 1.  “Stand Beside Me” continued her domination at radio.

The No. 1

Again, I get to write about an intelligent and mature song, written by and performed for adults.  Messina’s previous two singles showed her talent for rapid fire lyric delivery.  “Stand Beside Me” taps into her ability to communicate vulnerability and resilience, which is key to communicating the tension embedded in this song.

There’s no doubt she’s gotten very hurt by this man, and there’s also no doubt that her heart still wants to be with him.  Her voice cracks so effectively in the second verse, when he returns and makes a play to win her back, that we’re not sure what her decision is going to be.

Interspersed are little details that resonated with working class listeners in particular, as she “worked two jobs” and “moved three times.”  So we are given the heads up that many things in her life would be easier if she exchanges her pride for a renewed partnership with a man not worthy of the love she has to give.

It makes it that much more impactful when she does walk away.  “It’s hard to turn him down when I want him so bad,” she rues.  “But I’ve got to be true to my heart this time.”

The Road From No. 1

Amazingly, she didn’t get a fourth No. 1 from I’m Alright, with “Lesson in Leavin'” spending several weeks stuck at No. 2.   The fifth single “Because You Love Me” went top ten, as the album went double platinum and Messina won the CMA Horizon Award in the fall of 1999.  We will see Messina three more times when we get to the 2000s.

“Stand Beside Me” gets an A.

 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Mark Chesnutt, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”

4 Comments

  1. This has always been my favorite jo dee song! Some folks say she can’t sing the slow songs very well but I beg to differ! I feel the emotion and love the story!

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  2. I had forgotten just how good Messina’s hits were. Revisiting them in this feature has been a joy. “Stand Beside Me” rings out with conversational honesty, conviction, and strength.

  3. This is probably my favorite Jo Dee Messina song of all time. Even today, it’s got my full attention as soon as I hear that opening guitar. I totally agree with Truth that I think she can do serious songs as well as the uptempo ones. In fact, besides “Stand Beside Me,” two of my other top favorite Messina songs are “Because You Love Me,” and “Downtime,” which also show her more vulnerable side.

    Two of the biggest things I’ve always loved about “Stand Beside Me,” are the beautiful melody and Messina’s emotional performance, which I consider to be one of her best. From beginning to end, her vocals are packed with emotion, and I can hear both the pain and frustration that the narrator’s been through and her confidence of knowing the kind of man she wants from here one out. When she sings “I’m not looking for a fantasy. I want a man who stands beside me,” I can hear her still feeling hurt by what the man did to her before and that she’s determined to not have to go through that again, even if it means not finding the right guy right away and having to go it alone for a while longer. I can also hear her frustration and weariness of not having found that right man yet after all this time.

    I’ve always loved the bridge and the way she sings it, as well. As she sings: “It’s hard to tell him no when I want him so bad,” you can definitely hear her second guessing herself and wanting so bad to take him back until she follows it with “But I’ve got to be true to my heart this time.” Even that “Ooooooooh” she sings in falsetto right after is like her letting out all of her pain and frustration with the situation, in that it was very tough and painful to have to turn him down, because she wants him back in her life so much, but she also knows that if she let him back in, he could very well do her wrong again in the future.

    And yes, as Kevin mentioned, I really love the details scattered throughout the first verse to show us that the narrator hasn’t had it easy one bit ever since he left her, and it only makes us sympathize with her even more and hope one day she’ll find a good man who treats her right for a change and is worthy of all the love she has to give. Sadly, even though this was a hit as recent as 1999, I just can’t imagine anything this mature, detailed, and well written being a hit on today’s country radio.

    Sonically, “Stand Beside Me” has also aged extremely well, imo, and the muscular production by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw still sounds very fresh today. I particularly always loved how the steel guitar sounded throughout, especially that cool futuristic sounding steel riff after the first chorus. This is the first song in this feature that has that more modern/futuristic sound to the steel playing, which would be heard a lot more in the early 2000’s, especially around 2001-2002. I even love the echoing and haunting qualities of the steel playing in the first verse, which sort of reflects the tough life the narrator’s been going through and her weariness of slogging though that life while still not having any luck in finding the right partner. I also really like how the production just kicks into high gear and leaps out at you with each chorus. Even the electric guitar solo is so good and full of emotion! This is just simply one of Jo Dee’s very best sounding songs, overall, imo.

    I also really love the video for this song. I especially think Jo Dee did a great, believable job of playing the song’s main character, and she shows a wide range of emotions throughout. I especially love her acting during the part when the man walks back into her life. And I’m not gonna lie, the shot of her breaking down in tears while she’s doing her falsetto wail occasionally makes me teary eyed, as well. And likewise, that little glimpse of a smile she has while she’s singing the last “I want a maaaaaaaaan” makes me smile too, because it shows that despite the hurt she’s still going through, she knows what she really wants and deserves and won’t settle for anything less.

    The very first time my dad and I ever heard “Stand Beside Me” was on a Saturday night in November, 1998 when we were almost back home and sitting at a stop light. The DJ announced it as Jo Dee Messina’s brand new song, and I remember loving the first chorus right away, which really jumped out at us and got our attention. Earlier that evening, we had seen the movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer together with my mom and step dad, and some parts and images from the movie, particularly the killer dressed in his fisherman’s slicker at night, were still going through my head while Messina’s song was playing. For an extra fun little detail, The Tractors’ “Shortenin’ Bread” was one of the songs on the pre-movie playlist at the AMC Theaters during that time, and that was the song playing when we met my mom and step dad in the theater before the movie started. :)

    I fell more in love with “Stand Beside Me” when I heard it again on a cloudy and drizzly Sunday afternoon when my mom, step dad, and I were going to Springfield Mall in Springfield, VA. We were actually almost there when it came on, and it was just about to end when we parked at the mall. All the while the song was playing, it was at that moment I fell in love with the song’s beautiful melody and the emotion in Jo Dee’s singing, and it just went so well with the cold and overcast weather we were having that day. Even Mom seemed to be getting into it as we were nearing the mall. While in the mall, I went to one of the video game stores downstairs and really got into playing Twisted Metal III on their PlayStation. The whole time I was playing the game, “Stand Beside Me” was still going through my head, and it continued to be stuck in my head as I walked around other parts of the mall, as well. Even today, I still often think of Twisted Metal III when I hear this song, lol.

    A little while later around early 1999, I was lucky to get “Stand Beside Me” on the second tape I recorded during my 7th grade year, as I mentioned in Collin Raye’s “Someone You Used To Know.” The more I listened to it on the tape, the more I loved it. I especially really got to loving the song’s bridge during that time, particularly when she sings “But I’ve got to be true to my heart this time,” and lets out that falsetto wail. This was also one of the many sad and/or emotional songs by female artists that I was really enjoying on the radio around that time, along with The Chicks’ “You Were Mine,” Martina McBride’s “Wrong Again,” Sara Evans’ “No Place That Far,” and Terri Clark’s “Everytime I Cry.”

    “Stand Beside Me” was also going through my head often during some of my 7th grade classes, particularly the arts and crafts class I had with Mrs. Horbert during 7th period by early 1999. I still remember the way she would sternly tell the class “Quiet!” in a unique New York sounding accent, lol.

    Around late 2002, I was already getting nostalgic for a lot of late 90’s country, and my parents and I were still going to Springfield Mall pretty often by then. Around that time, I would usually be listening to the tape I recorded in early 1999 on my Walkman as I walked around the mall, with me especially enjoying “Stand Beside Me” and Andy Griggs’ “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” which were back to back. And lucky for us, “Stand Beside Me” was still getting a lot recurrent airplay, as well, and my step dad and I even heard it one night in the car as we were sitting right outside Springfield Mall’s JCPenney entrance waiting for Mom to come out before we left. It sounded as good and fresh as ever in 2002 as it did in 1998/1999, and I just thought that was a cool little “full circle” moment, as one of my earliest and fondest memories of hearing it was also when we were going to Springfield Mall (as mentioned earlier). It’s one of the songs I still strongly associate with that mall, even though it’s gone through a major renovation since then into Springfield Town Center. And I’m still amazed at how great the song still sounds on that tape today. :)

    I also adore “Because You Love Me,” and it’s personally my favorite of the slow songs she’s done. Once again, I love Jo Dee’s emotional performance on it, along with the relatable, heartfelt lyrics and the incredibly beautiful melody. It also personally brings back wonderful memories of the Y2k era and the holiday season in late 1999, which is still one of my most favorite Christmases ever. :) It was getting played like crazy going into early 2000 which makes me surprised it didn’t go to number one, as well. There were countless nights when my mom, step dad, and I all heard it in the car together, and it even reminds me of some of the weekend Lancaster, Pennsylvania trips we took around that time period.

    It was actually both “Because You Love Me” and “Stand Beside Me” that made me want to get the I’m Alright album in the mid 2000’s.

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