Reba McEntire – “I Keep On Loving You”
Songwriters: Ronnie Dunn and Terry McBride.
The girl can’t help it. Reba McEntire, like a moth to a fickle flame, is drawn to the warm, welcoming glow of fame. While her fellow 50-something ladies—Patty Loveless and Rosanne Cash, for starters—were practicing their craft without a need for Nashville sheen, Reba recorded Keep on Loving You, an album custom-made for mass consumption. The title track, a bracing ballad from one of the genre’s best voices, hones in on her flock of heartland faithful.
Though she’s amassed a multimedia empire through shrewd risk-taking, Reba has rarely gambled during her recording career. Since 1991’s brilliant For My Broken Heart, she’s shied away from making personal statements, instead choosing to inspire through universal themes. That choice has its costs and consequences, artistically at least, but it’s this everywoman attitude that endears her to a wide audience. She shares in their troubles and triumphs with moving messages worthy of the latest Lifetime movie. Reba McEntire: country music’s populist queen.
“I Keep on Loving You,” is a ma’am-in-command anthem, a song that proves how screwed-up romance really is. It cements Reba’s standing as country radio’s most soothing influence, handing out hard-won lessons wrapped in pretty melodies.
“Loving” becomes something special on the strength of her performance. A modern-day “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” sans the details, it’s a mere sketch of marital trouble. According to Reba, love is a series of “Baby, don’t leave me’s,” “I take it back’s” and “I promise to’s” that string together to build a happy home. With her mama’s words in mind and her Bible at the ready, she pledges allegiance to her man. “Love takes the patience of Job,” she admits, taking tips from the world’s oldest marriage manual.
In the hands of a less-gifted singer, “Loving” could’ve melted into melodrama. With her hushed, no-fuss tone, Reba takes the soft, spare verses and spins her magic with a beautiful blend of regret and resolve. A sweet steel-laced arrangement sounds out her rallying cry: “I keep on loving you.”
The final chorus, though, is an electric frenzy. With a slew of six-syllable notes and—presumably—a perfectly-arched eyebrow, Reba offers her till-death-do-us-part devotion.
On some level, “Loving,” with its mentions of “ups and downs” and “turn-arounds,” serves as a sweet valentine to those adoring fans who’ve stayed true through thick and thin and her network TV show. For now, their flame burns as bright as ever.
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