August 8, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Scorching 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my method up into the current.

Have a look at this fucking man. Dig the jut of the chin, the bushiness of the eyebrows, the plain black T-shirt tucked into the plain black slacks. I by no means noticed Lonestar’s video for “Amazed” again when the nation wedding ceremony ballad was ruling the Scorching 100, so I by no means knew how lead singer Richie McDonald appeared. However you couldn’t probably think about a man who appears extra like he would possibly begin singing “Amazed” than Richie McDonald. I’m fairly positive McDonald is the whitest, squarest man to attain a #1 hit within the twentieth century. He appears like he’s sculpted out of strong milk. He appears like a supporting character on The Righteous Gems. He appears like Sean Hannity on karaoke night time. However when this motherfucker lifts his arms as much as the digicam on the climax of the “Amazed” video, it hits like Boyz II Males throwing down their umbrellas within the rain.

“Amazed” wasn’t purported to occur. Ever because the finish of the early-’80s urban-cowboy second, nation music had kind of walled itself off from the remainder of pop. Within the ’90s, Garth Brooks was a star on the extent of Elvis or Michael Jackson; he bought information such as you wouldn’t consider. However at the same time as he strapped on a Janet Jackson headset mic and pulled stadium-rock strikes for audiences that numbered within the a whole lot of 1000’s, Garth didn’t wish to let himself drift into pop. As an alternative, Garth took benefit of the Billboard chart guidelines by refusing to launch singles to pop stations. Garth and the remainder of the nation music institution seen nation as a parallel world, an ecosystem of its personal.

Garth Brooks was the exception in so some ways, however so far as ’90s Nashville nation went, he was the rule. No one actually tried to crash the pop charts. The few crossover-minded hitmakers on the market have been controversial apostate figures. And whereas a couple of of these artists, like Billy Ray Cyrus and Shania Twain, did elbow their method into the highest 10, they by no means made any #1 hits. (Billy Ray Cyrus didn’t attain #1 within the ’90s, anyway. He’ll finally find yourself on this column, and that’ll be a complete epic saga of its personal.) Within the 18 years between Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands In The Stream” and Lonestar’s “Amazed,” the closest factor to a crossover nation chart-topper was All-4-One’s adult-contempo R&B model of John Michael Montgomery’s “I Swear.”

Because the ’90s wound down, issues began to alter. Billboard altered the principles and began factoring nation stations into its Scorching 100 tabulation. In 1999, Garth Brooks lastly allowed one in every of his singles into the highest 10 — although “Misplaced In You,” the music in query, was truly credited to Chris Gaines, Brooks’ goofy-ass flop of a rock-star alter-ego. (“Misplaced In You” peaked at #5; it’s a 4.) Across the similar time, a couple of different nation stars, established figures like Tim McGraw and LeAnn Rimes, have been touchdown top-10 hits of their very own. When Lonestar’s “Amazed” did handle to beat the Scorching 100, one other nation music was sitting proper there at #3. (“Breathe,” Hill’s highest-charting pop music, finally peaked at #2. It’s a 7.)

On the time, it’d’ve appeared like “Amazed” was a sign of some generational shift, like nation artists have been lastly going to rejoin the pop mainstream and begin racking up #1 hits of their very own. It didn’t fairly occur. There have been a couple of #1 hits since “Amazed” which are arguably nation, however even these songs aren’t merchandise of the Nashville system the way in which that “Amazed” is. “Amazed” was a one in every of one, a fleeting takeover. No one might’ve predicted that Lonestar could be the group to gatecrash the pop charts like that. Generally, although, the sheer power of aggressively regular romance can overcome absolutely anything.

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Lonestar are named after the state of Texas, not after Invoice Pullman’s character in Spaceballs. When Lonestar obtained began in 1992, all of the members of the band have been Texans dwelling round Nashville. (For a short while, they known as themselves Texassee, a very terrible identify.) A few Lonestar members had been members of Canyon, a rustic band who had some restricted success within the ’80s. All of them had menial day jobs; Lubbock native Richie McDonald was mixing grain feed at a co-op. (When McDonald was born, the #1 music in America was Joey Dee And The Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist – Half 1.”) Early on, Lonestar toured round as a lot as they might, and so they discovered a residency at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon. In 1995, they signed with the nation label BNA and launched their self-titled debut.

On their early information, Lonestar have been a good-time honky-tonk act very a lot within the vein of a lot neo-traditionalist ’90s nation. They wore huge cowboy hats and threw tons of fiddles on their information, and their songs have been fairly catchy. Lonestar’s debut single “Tequila Talkin’” made it to #8 on the nation charts, and so they adopted it with the nation #1 hit “No Information.”

Lonestar’s second album, 1997’s Loopy Nights, had one other nation chart-topper in “Come Cryin’ To Me.” The second single from Loopy Nights solely obtained to #12 on the nation chart, but it surely grew to become Lonestar’s first Scorching 100 crossover. Bryan Adams and Mutt Lange, two guys who’ve been on this column a bunch of occasions, wrote “You Walked In,” which peaked at #93. One other single, the homesick and nostalgic “All the pieces’s Modified,” additionally made the Scorching 100, but it surely solely obtained so far as #95. These first two albums each went gold, however Lonestar weren’t in any rapid hazard of breaking out and turning into mega-successful.

In 1998, founding bassist and occasional lead singer John Wealthy left Lonestar to go solo, and he finally discovered success as half of the giddily goofy duo Massive & Wealthy. (Massive & Wealthy’s largest Scorching 100 hit is 2007’s “Misplaced In This Second,” which peaked at #36. However their largest hit in my coronary heart is 2004’s “Save A Horse (Journey A Cowboy),” which made it to #56 on the pop charts. I like that silly music.) Massive & Wealthy finally grew to become big Trump guys, however I received’t let that spoil “Save A Horse (Journey A Cowboy)” for me.

After Wealthy left the band, Lonestar regrouped, and so they discovered themselves a brand new producer. Nashville native Dann Huff had gotten his begin in a few rock bands, and he’d develop into a prolific session guitarist, enjoying on loads of the songs which have proven up on this column. Huff’s producing profession is barely bewildering. He labored on loads of the shitty latter-day Megadeth information, and he additionally produced for giant nation stars like Religion Hill. (Huff was doing a Megadeth file, in all probability 1999’s Breadline, whereas additionally working with Lonestar. These should’ve been bizarre days.) Whereas working with Huff on their 1999 album Lonely Grill, the members of Lonestar would sit in a convention room, listening to the songs that varied publishers introduced them. A type of songs was “Amazed.”

“Amazed” got here from a crew of three seasoned Nashville nation songwriters: Marv Inexperienced, Aimee Mayo, and Chris Lindsey. I’m at all times fascinated by the entire world of Nashville songwriters — these figures who not often make their very own information and who’ve made a vocation out of cranking out tracks for different artists. In some methods, it’s the Southern model of the outdated Brill Constructing/Tin Pan Alley mannequin, and it hasn’t modified a lot over time. Once they labored on “Amazed,” Mayo and Lindsey have been relationship; they’ve since gotten married and had a bunch of children. A few of that romantic sentiment virtually actually went into “Amazed.”

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These three songwriters spent about 5 hours developing with “Amazed,” after which they recorded a demo earlier than that they had a title. This isn’t a type of tales of lightning-bolt inspiration the place somebody writes a complete hit music in 5 minutes. This was work, however they put the time in and figured it out. Tim McGraw’s camp turned the music down, however Lonestar accepted it. In Fred Bronson’s Billboard E book Of #1 Hits, Richie McDonald says, “I keep in mind the day ‘Amazed’ got here in. All of us thought it was a passionate music [that] individuals might relate to. However for those who requested us then if it was going to do what it did, we wouldn’t have had any thought.”

As recorded by Lonestar, “Amazed” is high-grain corn. Most of my favourite nation songs are those that get into storytelling specificity, and “Amazed” isn’t a type of. As an alternative, “Amazed” will get over on generic sentimentality, but it surely’s the satisfying sort of generic sentimentality. It’s telling that the Lonestar guys don’t put on cowboy hats within the “Amazed” video. The music is extra of an adult-contempo love jam than something. It’s obtained fiddle and pedal metal, however they’re fairly deep within the combine underneath the booming drums and the REO Speedwagon-ass energy chords. Actually, the primary factor that even makes “Amazed” a rustic music is Richie McDonald’s accent.

Richie McDonald sings the music with a sort of inflexible, upright soulfulness. He begins out making an attempt to murmur quietly about eye contact and love conveyed via contact. Even there, although, you possibly can really feel his voice straining to erupt. When the refrain hits, McDonald instantly switches into full-on belting, his twang giving the music a bit extra feeling than somebody like Lonestar’s previous collaborator Bryan Adams would’ve been capable of convey. He doesn’t understand how you do what you do. He’s so in love with you, and it simply retains getting higher. Behind him, backup-singer harmonies pile on high of one another, giving that hook a tacky grandeur that’s exhausting to withstand.

It’s straightforward sufficient to listen to what individuals would love in “Amazed.” It’s a unadorned, heartfelt declaration of all-encompassing love. It’s a music about taking a look at this one that’s come into your life and questioning how this particular person is even actual. I hope you’ve had that feeling. I’ve. Romances can get tangled and complex, and that feeling can generally get misplaced within the mess of on a regular basis life, however “Amazed” isn’t about any of that. “Amazed” is concerning the second when that straightforward and pure feeling simply overwhelms you — when the odor of their pores and skin, the style of their kiss, the way in which they whisper at nighttime is all you possibly can even take into consideration. That’s a sense price immortalizing. “Amazed” isn’t a groundbreaking pop music or something, and I’m not at all times within the temper for its hammy theatrics, but it surely’s develop into a marriage perennial for a motive.

When Lonestar launched their Lonely Grill album, the primary single was opening monitor “Saturday Night time,” and it was a convincing flop, solely attending to #47 on the nation chart. However when “Amazed” got here out because the LP’s second single, it took off at nation stations, finally topping the nation chart for eight weeks in an period when that sort of run was really uncommon. (Lately, nation songs will high that chart for months at a time; it’s a unique world.) Throughout that run, “Amazed” broke onto the Scorching 100, too, getting as excessive as #24. Then Lonestar determined that they might push the music even additional in the event that they gave it a remix.

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Dann Huff was too busy to supervise Lonestar’s “Amazed” remix, so the Nashville producers Nick Stewart and Brian Tankersley took the music on as a substitute. Richie McDonald re-recorded his vocals, and a bunch of studio musicians performed on it, including extra strings and extra energy chords. Within the Bronson ebook, McDonald says, “You possibly can’t have metal and fiddle in an grownup up to date format or a pop format. So you’re taking a couple of issues away, and also you add a couple of issues.” That remix actually doesn’t add a lot, although. It’s principally “Amazed” with 30% much less persona. That radio-format fragmentation has actually performed lots to phase and stifle American pop music. The concept that the mere sound of a pedal metal would ship somebody lunging for the dial is pure boardroom bullshit, but it surely grew to become typical knowledge someplace in there. I hate it.

The remix did its job, although. “Amazed” grew to become the primary nation music to succeed in #1 in almost 20 years. Lonestar’s Lonely Grill album went triple platinum. The group by no means obtained wherever close to #1 once more, however they grew to become a constant pop-chart presence. Lonely Grill spun off three extra singles, and all of them made the decrease reaches of the highest 40. (“What About Now,” the largest of these singles, peaked at #30.)

After “Amazed,” Lonestar racked up 5 extra #1 hits on the nation chart, and so they have been persistently hitting the Scorching 100 as late as 2006. None of these hits made the highest 10; the band’s highest-charting post-“Amazed” single, 2003’s “My Entrance Porch Trying In,” peaked at #23. However Lonestar have been a giant band for a very long time. Dann Huff produced Lonestar’s subsequent three albums, and so they settled right into a method of slick, vaguely delicate pop-country tracks — anthems of domesticity.

After a few comparatively unsuccessful albums, BNA dropped Lonestar, and Richie McDonald left the band to go solo in 2007. However Lonestar stored going with one other singer, and McDonald rejoined the band 4 years later. McDonald lastly left Lonestar once more final 12 months, however they instantly discovered themselves a brand new singer, and so they’re nonetheless going. That is sensible. There are at all times going to be individuals who wish to hear “Amazed,” irrespective of who’s singing, and the remaining members of Lonestar are too sensible to go away that cash on the desk. Within the years forward, nation crossover would take unusual new varieties: Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, perhaps Lil Nas X. “Amazed” stays a lightning-in-a-bottle second — a uncommon event when some straight-up Nashville crimson meat might smash its well beyond Mariah Carey and the Backstreet Boys, when it might conquer American pop.

GRADE: 5/10

BONUS BEATS: Right here’s the smoky, raspy “Amazed” cowl that Bonnie Tyler, a previous topic of this column, launched in 2003:

BONUS BONUS BEATS: Boyz II Males, a bunch that’s appeared on this column a bunch of occasions, launched their very own melodramatic R&B model of “Amazed” in 2009. Right here it’s:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s deep-voiced nation urchin and eventual winner Scott McCreery singing “Amazed” on a 2011 episode of American Idol:

(Scotty McCreery’s highest-charting Scorching 100 single, 2011’s “I Love You This Massive,” peaked at #11. The entire American Idol industrial advanced will finally determine into this column, and we’ll see Scotty’s visitor mentor Beyoncé in right here very quickly.)

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: In 2014, Lonestar’s Richie McDonald confirmed up on the nation duo Haley & Michaels’ single “Simply One other Love Track,” and he sang the hook from “Amazed.” Right here’s the “Simply One other Love Track” video:

The Quantity Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal The Historical past Of Pop Music is out 11/15 by way of Hachette Books. You possibly can pre-order it right here.