Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Exile, “It’ll Be Me”

“It’ll Be Me”


Written by Sonny LeMaire and J.P. Pennington

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

September 26 – October 3, 1986


#1 (1 week)

November 1, 1986

Specificity.  That’s what it all comes down to.

“It’ll Be Me” is boilerplate Exile in most ways.   The instrumental track splits the difference between Alabama and “Islands in the Stream”-era Kenny Rogers, and the lead vocal and harmonies are competent without being distinctive.

But the lyric has some specificity that elevates its above most of the Exile records we’ve covered so far.  For most of its runtime, this is a generalized commitment to be loving and present to his current partner. But one verse of the song expands the meaning significantly, adding the backstory that fuels this dedicated love:

I’ve had my share of the rough times too
You gave me all that you had
You were always there to stand by me
Now it’s my turn, darling, to give it all back

And with that, what could’ve been some game being run by a guy at a bar on a girl who’s looking lonely is transformed into a genuine expression of unconditional love for the woman who was there for him in his time of need.

This kind of depth is what we’ve been missing from Exile, and it makes all of the difference.

“It’ll Be Me” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. I just find the whole production feels less punchy and frenetic than on their previous hits. As much as there is some new found lyrical depth and personality, I feel the dialed down intensity works so well here. With a slightly reduced tempo, there is some breathing room to showcase the lead vocals and harmonies.

    That being said, ask me in ten minutes to rank just five of their ten number one hits from this era and I would struggle to differentiate them in my mind.

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