Album: What If It’s You (1996)
Chart Peak: #2
Songwriters: Walt Aldridge, Bruce Miller
I’m very excited to introduce a new regular feature for The 1-to-10, aptly titled “Songs I Love.” It is exactly what it sounds a like – a feature in which I will spotlight songs from various eras in country music history, and discuss what makes each particular song special. It will hopefully serve to balance out the negative reviews from time to time, as well as remind readers that, yes, I actually do like country music. It certainly will be nice to be able to write about good music for a change!
By the way, I’m open to running guest posts for this feature, so if you are interested in writing about why you love a certain song, by all means email me and let me know.
The inaugural edition of this feature will discuss a classic nineties hit by the amazing Miss Reba McEntire. I’m a pretty big Reba fan, and if you were to ask me what my favorite Reba song is, I would immediately reply “The Fear of Being Alone.” Why, you ask? Where would I start? “The Fear of Being Alone” encompasses so many of the makings of a killer single.
I’ll start with the lyrics, since that’s the definitive component of a great country record. “The Fear of Being Alone” is a lyric that displays maturity and intelligence, such that certain younger artists would have difficulty pulling it off convincingly. When I think of all the qualities that are lacking in Reba’s more recent musical offerings, “The Fear of Being Alone” is invariably the song that I think of when reflecting on what once was. The lyrics find the narrator feeling out a developing romance with caution and restraint, warning herself and her potential lover not to let themselves think that they’re in love when they’re really just fearful of being alone. At the same time, you can detect the romantic excitement gradually building up inside of her, to the point where she has to ‘bite her tongue and remind herself’ “Don’t say that word/ Not the one we’ve both heard too much/ You may think you do, but you don’t/ It’s just the fear of being alone.”
It’s a song clearly sung in the voice of one who’s lived life, made mistakes, and learned lessons as a result. Reba was in her early forties when she recorded and released the song, which meant she had lived enough to be able to deliver the song’s sentiments with authority and believability.
This song well demonstrates the fact that when Reba brings her maturity and life experience to the table, it invariably results in great music being made. With that in mind, I am ofted saddened and frustrated when I see Reba attempting to downplay her age and experience in order to fit in with the crowd in an increasingly youth-obsessed country music market. When I compare great songs like this one with songs like “Turn On the Radio” and “Somebody’s Chelsea” – songs that she’s too mature for, and that tend to sound like mid-life crises set to music – I often wonder what all we must be missing out on. What kind of music could Reba be making if she didn’t feel she had to adopt the perspective of the younger generation just to be heard?
Of course, the purpose of this article is not to pick on Reba for aspects of her more recent material that I find disappointing. The purpose is to commend her for having given us such a fantastic, memorable single, which brings me to another thing I love about “The Fear of Being Alone.” The record sounds absolutely fantastic. It has a sound so effortlessly infectious that it reels you in quickly, but at the same time, it has substance for those willing to dig deeper into it. The opening instrumental hook is one of the catchiest I’ve ever heard, but not in a way that comes across as gaudy or cheesy. It’s the kind of catchiness that puts an instant smile on my face as soon as I hear those opening guitar chords, and that leaves me humming those few lovely notes as I go about the rest of my day. Best of all, the production doesn’t distract from the song’s sentiment, and it doesn’t try to compete with Reba’s powerhouse vocal delivery. It sounds great, does its job, and supports the song without overwhelming it.
That is my best attempt at putting my passion for this song into words. To me, “The Fear of Being Alone” is the complete package – an outstandingly great lyric, a killer production, all delivered by one of the most dynamic female vocalists in country music. It’s a contemporary country music classic, and a definite highlight in Reba McEntire’s legendary career. It’s the kind of song that comes along once in a very great while, but it’s the kind of song that stays with us forever.