I have a confession to make. I’ve been falling for Garth Brooks’ marketing schemes for more than 20 years now. I’ve been smarter about avoiding his wicked games in recent years, but I have my share of his box sets and first addition albums with alternate covers in my expansive music collection. I also own the Chris Gaines album, mostly out of curiosity, which says way too much about my musical gullibility.
Brooks’ most recent marketing ploy occurred two weeks ago when he strong-armed the Country Music Association into letting him play what was then an unnamed new song he had recently recorded in tribute to Trisha Yearwood, live on the show. Neither Yearwood nor the audience had heard the song prior to the telecast.
As the story goes, Brooks approached the CMA with his idea for the performance. The producers turned him down, saying a ballad just wasn’t going to work for them the year. Unaccustomed to being told no, he did whatever he had to do to secure the slot.
I just wanted to hear the song and was honestly upset with the CMA for turning him away. I hate, more than anything, when producers and image consultants control what we see on screen. It’s become far more transparent in recent years on various awards shows.
I don’t believe the CMA corroborated his story, so who knows if it’s accurate, or just another ploy in his plan to drum up pre-buzz for this new song. It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if the song itself is worth the hassle to be given such visible exposure. When all is said and done, a quality song is always worth celebrating.
“Stronger Than Me,” which was composed by Matt Rossi and Bobby Terry specifically for Brooks, depicts a man who is awestruck that his woman is always there for him when he needs her:
She always says that I’m the rock that she leans on
But it’s so hard to believe
Cause she is always there when I start losing faith, going crazy
She saves me
And every now and then she just wants me to hold her
But that don’t mean she’s weak
The way she’s unafraid to let her feelings show just means she’s stronger than me
She lifts the weight of this whole world off of my shoulders
With nothing but the touch of her hand
And every day and I wake up and she tells me that she loves me
I feel more like a man
I know I always thought I had to have the answer
Be her strength and take the lead
But when it comes to everything that really matters
She’s stronger than me
I really like how Rossi and Terry build up the woman in the relationship to be more than the spouse or girlfriend. The man actually recognizes her worth and admits his own flaws, all characteristics I can stand behind.
I just can’t forgive the execution. This idea that the guy is “saved” or “feels more like a man” simply because of his woman irks me. Those feelings and revelations have to come from within, not as a by-product of a romantic relationship. What happens if the relationship ends? What happens if she’s not there anymore to build him up? He’s defining his well-being based on the relationship instead of standing on his own two feet. He needs to know he can be okay without her, too, a lesson he clearly never learns:
I’d give her anything in life that’s mine to give her
Till the last breath that I breathe
And if I have a choice I pray God takes me first
Because she’s stronger than me
Sonically, the piano-centric arrangement is tasteful, but I don’t hear any ounce of passion in the finished record at all. The mixing is muffled and sounds like they recorded the song into a mobile phone or similar device. Brooks doesn’t display his usual emotion or sincerity vocally, two characteristics that drew me to his music in the first place.
“Stronger Than Me” is very similar to the formula he perfected on Fresh Horses, but comes off like a half-hearted attempt at regaining the glory of that album. “She’s Every Woman” this is not, and that’s a damn shame.
To listen to “Stronger Than Me” click here