Reba McEntire – “Turn On the Radio”
“Turn on the Radio,” the first single from Reba McEntire’s upcoming 26th studio album, is a clumsy grasp at mainstream popularity from one of country music’s grand dames. Is she, perhaps, scared of losing her place at country radio after her rich success of the last year? It seems so.
On her most recent release, last August’s I Keep on Loving You, McEntire delivered a patchwork of songs that were largely targeted at a younger, hipper audience. Maybe that’s why, despite her advancing age, she’s remained a viable hitmaker in the face of eroding record sales. Her music has retained an element of freshness for the youthful contingent that makes up a majority of the buying public.
“Radio,” though, is a warmed-over Shania knockoff that sounds cheesy even for the delightfully goofy redhead. The first verse, with its mentions of a cheating cad, rely on little more than played-out cliches. The second verse, with its mentions of Twitter and texting, are an awkward fit for the multimedia icon. It all seems like a timid attempt at staying relevant for the feisty superstar.
Her best songs have shown a connection to traditional country while moving the needle forward towards a new, accessible sound. The gaudy pop-country she’s pushed lately doesn’t wear as well, and the crowded arrangement on “Radio” strips her of all her winning personality.
In her thirty-year career, McEntire has excelled at making conflict sound so compelling. While she often avoids the vocal theatrics that plague other singers, she’s never able to impose her will on a song that’s beneath her gifts. When she’s forced to shout over a hard-driving synth line, the magic in her twangy alto is lost. Turn on this “Radio” and hear a legend who’s failing to build on her outstanding legacy.
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