Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Dottie West, “Are You Happy Baby?”

“Are You Happy Baby?”

Dottie West

Written by Bob Stone

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 20, 1981


#1 (1 week)

February 28, 1981

Dottie West was already backtracking a bit on the sassiness of “A Lesson in Leavin'” when she followed it with the top fifteen hit, “Leavin’s for Unbelievers.”

Her next single – and her final solo No. 1 hit – finds her in full retreat.  “Are You Happy Baby?” initially seems to be a kiss off number, but soon is revealed as a desperate plea to make things better for her departed lover, should he come back to her.

Now, for the lady who once had an actual album named Suffer Time, there’s only one way to sing a lyric like that.  So despite the countrypolitan production and the very early eighties backup singers, West wails this one like she did in the old days.  If it had been released in the internet age, I’d think someone had matched a vocal from an early album with a backing track of a current one.  Sadly, this mashup was done intentionally. By professionals.

This one is just plain excruciating to my ears.  She sounds like a washed up hotel lounge singer that is screaming to be heard over the conversations of the patrons that refuse to acknowledge her.  So she just keeps getting louder and more dramatic.   It’s such a mess.

Her next single, a duet with Kenny Rogers, will be her last No. 1 hit and it’s a much better listen than this one.

Grade: D

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Poor Dottie looks as uncomfortable in that photo as she sounds singing this song.

    Kevin’s imagined description of her as a washed-up lounge singer captures the uneasy and awkward feel of this performance. What’s with the stacked harmonies

    Songs like this are also a great reminder that simply making the top of the charts – although great in the moment- are no guarantee of longevity, significance, or even quality.

    This song itself is the reason it gets zero recurrent play on classic country radio. It isn’t
    even central to the core of Dottie West’s best songs.

    I feel badly that I don’t have better things to say about this one. My mom could be reading this.

  2. I remember thinking when I first heard this song “is this really Dottie West ?”

    Dottie was a fine singer with a long resume of excellent singles, both as a solo artist and in duets with leading male singers (Jim Reeves, Don Gibson, Jimmy Dean). Her RCA recordings (and earlier Starday recordings) were consistently good-to-excellent; her United Artists recordings less consistently good. This in the nadir of her career.

    Go back and listen to any of her earlier recordings and forget this mess.

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