My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Reba McEntire – ‘If I Were A Boy’

Reba McEntire has made a continuing habit of covering pop hits from the past, adding her own distinctive vocal stamp to what is usually a countried-up version of the song in question.  Reba turned more than a few heads when she recorded the R&B classic ‘Respect’ in 1988 and performed it on that year’s CMA telecast, at a time when she was the leading female new traditionalist.  Throughout the 1990s, McEntire continued to mine the pop charts of the past, and these became some of her most memorable hits.  To my ears, Reba is the definitive singer of songs like ‘Fancy’, ‘Cathy’s Clown’, and ‘The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia’.

Lately, her practice of dusting off chestnuts from the past has disappeared as the covers Reba has chosen have become more current, and it’s back to putting a country spin on pop, rock, and R&B songs.  Most recently from her Duets album in 2007 was a song that had just 2 years prior been one of the most-played songs in the world.  Now for her first new single of 2011, here’s one of the best radio singles of 2008 in the form of the lead single from Beyonce’s I Am … Sasha Fierce album ‘If I Were A Boy’.

On the surface, this seems like a can’t-miss idea.  You pair a masterful vocalist like Reba McEntire with a candid look at gender gaps in relationships like ‘If I Were A Boy’ and she’ll pour on just enough country instruments to make it palatable, and then sing the fire out of it.  And she does all these things here.  Reba and co-producer Dan Huff start the song off in an almost-acoustic fashion before hitting power ballad mode.  They even bury a steel guitar among the leading electric guitar swells in the chorus.

The real problem with this track is that it’s hard to fault the singer or the material individually.  The song’s two verses offer up the narrator’s desires to turn the table on the boys that have hurt her – ‘I’d put myself first and make the rules as I go/Cause I know that she’ll be faithful, waiting for me to come home’ – while the soaring chorus reveals all these things to be in pursuit of better understanding her man. But despite all McEntire’s vocal swoops and swells, despite her wringing her lower register for all its melancholy glory at times, I still can’t believe her in this character.  The voice that sold me on needing a little respect, being a high-falutin’ prostitute, and a trigger-happy little sister just can’t be sitting around still trying to understand boys.  And shouldn’t she be looking for grown men at this point anyway?

Reba’s knack for picking great songs is overshadowing her talent for effectively delivering them.

Grade: C

Songwriters: BC Jean and Toby Gad

25 responses to “Single Review: Reba McEntire – ‘If I Were A Boy’

  1. bob January 11, 2011 at 8:36 am

    You said that “To my ears, Reba is the definitive singer of songs like ‘Fancy’, ‘Cathy’s Clown’, and ‘The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia’.”

    To my ears, she doesn’t come anywhere close to the Everly Brothers on Cathy’s Clown. Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of Reba and always loved the music of the Every Brothers.

    • J.R. Journey January 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

      I knew ‘Cathy’s Clown’ would be the one song on that shortlist that I’d get some dissent for. And I have to agree that the Everlys’ recording is excellent. I prefer Reba’s vocal and arrangement though.

      • Ben Foster January 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm

        I liked Reba’s version of “Cathy’s Clown” because it seemed like it showed so much creativity. I thought the slow ballad tempo really put an interesting spin on the song, as did the way she adjusted it for a female perspective.

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  3. Code January 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    First you said you liked it in the album review and now you give it a C, i dont get it.

    • J.R. Journey January 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      To be fair, I said the pairing of a song like this with Reba’s unequaled chops was genius. I thought her vocal was really strong too. And I still think so. I’m keeping my opinion that ‘If I Were A Boy’ is a good song and Reba’s performance is more than technically proficient.

      It’s when you analyze what she’s actually saying in the lyrics does it start to fall apart. This is just not a Reba song, no matter how competently she sings it.

      • Code January 11, 2011 at 5:51 pm

        Ok I understand what your saying, i like the song but i just think there were way better songs on the album, that shouldve been the 2nd single. But maybe its just me but when reba sings the song, its sounds so much more mature coming from her, especially on lines like “You dont listen to her!”, There are alot of reba fans who are displeased with this being a single, i just think that if reba makes a mature video similar to that of Consider me gone, more people will start to like it.

        When she does videos like turn on the radio, its not cool, its not sassy, its embarrassing.

        • J.R. Journey January 11, 2011 at 5:55 pm

          I agree that a killer music video could help sell this song, and grant it more authenticity. But shouldn’t the recording stand on its own without a video? Reba tracks sure used to …

          Also, totally with you on the last line there.

  4. Ken Johnson January 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Sorry – gotta disagree with you on “Fancy” too. Bobbie Gentry’s sultry, sassy, sexy voice was the perfect vehicle for that song. Her spectacular physical assets also helped her to sell the song in live performances. Reba does a great job but ranks a couple of notches below Bobbie on this one in my estimation.

    Reba is an amazingly gifted performer. It would be difficult for her to turn in anything less than a first rate performance for anything she chooses to sing. However when remaking someone else’s song you have your work cut out for you to surpass the original version that folks are already familiar with. Younger listeners who are not intimately familar or emotionally connected with a song’s original version will likely find it easier to accept a new rendition.

  5. J.R. Journey January 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    “Younger listeners who are not intimately familar or emotionally connected with a song’s original version will likely find it easier to accept a new rendition.”

    Maybe that’s why there’s such a disconnect between this and Reba’s older cover songs. Those were essentially new songs to Reba fans when she recorded them, and these – ‘Because Of You, ‘If I Were A Boy’ – have to compete more with the originals since most people will remember them

  6. Code January 11, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I couldn’t agree more that the song should stand out by itself but unfortunately that’s not the case here. The reason i started to love reba is because of songs like fancy and the nights went out in Georgia. Im still pissed off that she chose to release turn on the radio over maggie creek road. Reba has lost alot of fans over that move.

    What this song needs is a “90s Reba” music video, it needs to have a good storyline and concept. I honestly think the Because of You video helped the song on the charts. It just seems lately i cant recognize who reba is anymore, she shouldn’t be following taylor swift and carrie, when she is at a MUCH higher level than they are. Can you picture taylor swift or carrie singing maggie creek road or fancy..
    NO because that is where reba excels and those kind of songs are what separates reba from a lot of country artists. If I were a boy and turn on the radio could be sung by anybody, i miss the days when i was impressed by a reba song. The only song on the album that really stuck out to me are When You Have A Child and The Day She Got Divorced.

    Those songs reflect both reba’s vocals and maturity and put reba on a higher level than carrie and taylor, like i said before i like reba’s version but the song isn’t anything special. Hopefully the next single is better.

  7. Leeann Ward January 11, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I suppose i’d like this better if I liked the song in general.

  8. Zack January 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I think that she put an interesting spin on the song, compared to her and Kelly’s mediocre spin/duet on “Because Of You” (powerful vocals, but it just felt like the two were taking turns rather than creating a story). Anyways, I liked it better than Beyonce’s version, but I do think that there were some other better single choices (such as “The Day She Got Divorced,” which I hope does see radio soon).

    • Code January 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      OH GOD NO!! the day she got divorced would FLOP, it would miss the top 20 and end reba’s momentum at country radio, i love the song but i would prefer it to stay an album track

  9. Blake Boldt January 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I agree with the review. It’s funny to hear how Reba might “kick it with who (she) wanted” if she were a boy.

    “But despite all McEntire’s vocal swoops and swells, despite her wringing her lower register for all its melancholy glory at times, I still can’t believe her in this character. The voice that sold me on needing a little respect, being a high-falutin’ prostitute, and a trigger-happy little sister just can’t be sitting around still trying to understand boys. And shouldn’t she be looking for grown men at this point anyway?”

    This is the best little bit of writing I’ve seen in a while. Sharp observation.

    • Code January 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      Everyone is making valid points about the song, but i still think that when reba sings it, there’s just something about her voice that makes it sound mature and like a warning to girls who have been hurt. Maybe its just me

      And youre from the 9513 right?!? I guess i cant be expecting to see a thumbs down when you review the song lol

      • Lee January 20, 2011 at 9:19 am

        Good Point!! I agree. I see it as a mature woman giving advice because she’s been there and this is the way the guy should treat a woman.

        • Code January 21, 2011 at 6:23 am

          Yea, i agree, i dont like people saying this isnt age-appropriate, its not on reba’s level, but i think it sounds very apropriate coming from her. People are acting like women in their 50s dont get cheated on, dont get hurt by their spouses, the song isnt only about a 20 yr old getting cheated on, its more than that.

          It could represent a divorce between a couple who have been married for years. While the song and lyrics are nothing special, people really need to dig deeper into its meaning. PLUS, if beyonce hadnt sang it first would people be saying reba is too old to sing it, etc

  10. Jeremy January 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    If what you are saying is true and Reba lost a lot of fans over releasing Turn On The Radio instead of Maggie Creak Road then they weren’t true fans in the first place. Folks here is what everyone needs to keep in mind. Everybody has their favorite song and they want that song released as a single. The artist and record executives are going to release what they think will be a radio hit as that is what is going to drive people out to purchase the albums or just purchase the single as with itunes. And maybe by releasing radio friendly songs fans will sample other songs by the artist and fall in love with them as we all have already.

    In my opinion I think it’s a very smart move to release If I Were A Boy as the next single. Does everyone forget how huge of a hit it was on the CMT 330 sessions? How many different websites talked about? That video even made it on and he liked it! And if you aren’t familiar with his site he can be pretty mean.

    Also let’s not forget that after she performed the song on the CMA’s it entered the charts at #60 while Turn On The Radio was still climbing the charts.

    And just because some of you may not like the music she is putting out because it’s not what she was doing in the 80s or 90s let’s not forget what
    Tim McGraw famously sang…”Some say it’s to country, some say it’s to rock n’ roll. But it’s just good music if you can feel it in your soul. And it doesn’t really matter, it’s always been the same. Life goes on…things change.” Folks country music changes all the time. And Reba says she tries to stick with the good songs. So if she likes it, it must be good and that’s good enough for me.

  11. Lee January 20, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I like the song and I have no problem with Reba’s age and the lyrics.. however… I do think this is my least favorite of the slow songs on the album. There are just so many better ones to release as a single. Somebody’s Chelsea,Cry,The Day She Got Divorced and When you have a child. I can see any of these as singles on the radio. We will just have to wait and see. Turn on the radio got slammed by critics & it went #1.

    • Code January 21, 2011 at 6:15 am

      This review isnt really slamming it, and the day she got divorced would completely tank at radio, its way to old school, and if reba’s label had any sense they wouldnt release it. Somebody’;s chelsea is the ballad on the album with the most potential to hit #1. WHY- because its a song every girl can relate to, every girl/woman wants to be somebody’s chelsea, its a song that catches your attention the first time you hear it and its clearly the fan favourite among fans, based on a combined 30,000 views on youtube and fan reception.

  12. Tim January 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I love Reba’s Cathy’s Clown. So original sounding. She’s like not other………………………… I do like If i Were A Boy… Its ok but I also thought Beyonce’s version was ok as well. She should have released ANY of the other ballads on her new CD…….Cry,Somebody’s Chelsea,The Day she Got Divorced, When You Have A Child………..all of these are great songs and better than “Boy”

  13. Steve Bailey January 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I quite agree with your very insightful review.

  14. Code March 4, 2011 at 4:03 am

    The music video just came out, and im really glad to see reba acting her age in it, plus she looks STUNNING, it truely is a simple, mature and emotional video. I didnt get why the dress was so long until the last part, you should check it out!!

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