Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Ronnie Milsap, “How Do I Turn You On”

“How Do I Turn You On”

Ronnie Milsap

Written by Robert Byrne and Mike Reid

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 16, 1987


#1 (1 week)

February 14, 1987

No. Nope. Absolutely not.

Milsap is in fine vocal form as always, but what in the T.G. Sheppard was he thinking with this one?

I’d like to be a fly on your wall,When you think you all alone,Learn your secrets once and for all,Never tell no one.I can’t read your mind,It’s secret telling time.
Tell me, how do I turn you on,Tell me, how do I turn you on,Oh, oh, oh maybe there’s a game we could play,Is there something that you want,But you’re too shy to say.How do I turn you on,Turn you on to me.
Run, woman, run, before he gets to the second verse and takes you “a million miles from here.”
If a lesser vocalist had released this, there’d still be an active restraining order against him 36 years later.

“How Do I Turn You On” gets a D.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Oh, Behave, Mike Reid!

    This song rightfully makes us all a little nervous.

    Milsap just doesn’t bring us into the bedroom with this single, he brings us into earshot of sweaty fantasies whispered into lovers’ ears lovers during the heat of the moment.

    I honestly hear a song more about the vulnerability of telling and sharing secrets than anything else.

    Milsap has taken a page from the Conway Twitty playbook and allowed a song to say what lovers may never find the courage to say on on their own to their partners.

    It’s all so uncomfortable to listen to because it is so shockingly intimate and immediate.

    Isn’t the unspoken fear that the narrator may not get any guidance from his direct questions?

    The little R & B flourishes only takes us further from the familiar comforts of country music.

  2. Ha! I’ve always got a bit of a creepy vibe from this one too. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger Ronnie Milsap fan than me but I can’t defend this one. In some ways I kind of respected Ronnie for sticking with his guns, doubling and tripling down on ever-glossier pop-country arrangements when newer artists were embracing the New Traditionalist era and older pop-country acts were beginning to lose their record deals. But that doesn’t mean it always worked and the slickness factor of this one was way over the top in addition to the clunky lyrics. I much preferred Milsap’s next effort to “take us into the bedroom” the following year.

    Grade: C-

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