My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: BC Jean

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