Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Reba McEntire, “What am I Gonna Do About You”

“What am I Gonna Do About You”

Reba McEntire

Written by Jim Allison, Doug Gilmore, and Bob Simon


#1 (1 week)

January 17, 1987

“What am I Gonna Do About You” is the first single that Reba McEntire released after becoming a bona fide superstar, and you can tell.

Her confidence at the mic reaches an entirely new level.  She takes a song that was somewhat clunky in its original version by Con Hunley, and the lyrics rewritten from the female perspective make it feel very much of its time period.   Yes, a woman has gotten her heart broken, but she’s going to work every day, flirting with one of her co-workers, and leaning on the neighbors to get some stuff around the house done.

It would all be good and well if she didn’t keep running into the man who broke her heart.   The heartbreak grows in intensity over the course of the track.  Her perfect delivery of “It doesn’t take long when you’re shopping for one” twangs at just the right syllable. (In Reba speak, you’re comes out as yeeuuure.)  But the emotional climax is what makes this a record for the ages.  Anyone who thought that the power notes at the end of “Whoever’s in New England” were an anomaly could listen to the virtuoso conclusion of this track and know that Reba the diva had fully arrived.

Her gift is so unique that even getting about ten syllables out of the word “through” doesn’t sound over the top.  The emotion in her voice is so strong that you can only be swept up in the pain.   Hurting so badly has rarely sounded so good.

“What am I Gonna Do About You” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. This spectacular Reba single gets ganged in my mind with “Somebody Should Leave” for the wonderful and evocative details of both songs’ lyrics. The scenes the songwriters paint are so visual and real, the listening experience feels as much literary as it does musical. Add Reba’s maturing confidence and skills as a theatrical vocalist and her career is audibly skyrocketing to new heights one performance like this at a time.

    I absolutely love how terribly fruitless and futile all the narrator’s efforts are at trying to believe things in her life are better than what they actually are.

    Emotional country quicksand delivered with a twang!

  2. Unlike the Gary Morris song, I have a vague recollection of this one but it’s definitely one of Reba’s forgotten hits and I bet I haven’t heard it in over 30 years. I agree in regards to the confidence of her performance as she really elevates the material. I’ve never heard the Con Hunley version but I can unconditionally agree that the lyric wouldn’t work nearly as well from a male vocalist, particularly in contrast to Reba’s excellent interpretation.

    Grade: B+

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