Song Review – Reba McEntire’s “Going Out Like That”

reba-mcentire-going-out-like-that“Going Out Like That” is not just another single. It symbolizes the very first song from the NASH Icon enterprise pairing Big Machine Records with Cumulus Media in an effort to revitalize overlooked legacy artists, and the first single from Reba McEntire in nearly four years. As the precursor to a planned 2015 album release, the single also may give us a glimpse into what we can expect from a revamped Reba—if through the NASH Icon venture she may have the latitude to be a little more traditional, or if she will try to hang with the young pups with a more contemporary sound.

Reba resides in her own unique generation when it comes to country artists. She was already established when the “Class of ’89” came rolling out, yet her commercial success has stretched well into the 2000’s, and has been assisted by her acting career and her seemingly constant presence in front of the cameras and the generally favorable take on her as an artist from a wide swath of country fandom. Considering the entire breadth of her body of work, it would be tough to call her either traditional or contemporary because she’s dabbled in both, though her decision to cover Beyoncé’s “If I Were A Boy” in 2011 made many wonder if she was reaching for a shot at relevancy beyond her twilighting status.

Written by veteran songster Rhett Akins with Ben Hayslip and Jason Sellers, “Going Out Like That” sees Reba delve into the whole nightlife motif that is very hot right now in “country” music. Giving a 3rd person account of a girl going through a breakup, the song takes an empowering trajectory of not allowing the jilt of love lost to hold a young woman down. She fights through the tears to hit the town and leave all her bad memories behind in a volley of alcoholic drinks and dance moves.

Where the song tries to find a balance between the two country worlds Reba resides in is in the instrumentation. The serrated-edged Stratocaster-style rock guitar is there, but starts off a little more subdued that what most modern country might feature; just tempered enough to allow the acoustic guitar to still be heard in the mix, while steel guitar helps countrify the rhythm and instrumentation. The drumming may be a little too much for a country song, but it fits the style and context. Though not ideal to either the old school or new school mindset, the song starts off amicable to both until a fairly self-indulgent guitar solo careens into the spotlight, and Reba’s vocals begin to be transmogrified by technology.

Thematically, one of the issues with “Going Out Like That” is not necessarily where it goes, but where it could have gone. Like so many modern country songs, it swaps a third resolving verse for yet another run through the catchy chorus. The song seems custom written to score more of a deep emotional impact by resolving into something more than “she’s smiling while she’s throwing back shots.” It could have spoken to a more personal realization or a true vindication for the heroine instead of just a boozed-fueled night of blurry recollections of party moments. This is the fundamental difference between country music circa 1985 and country music in 2015—the moral is gone. With many of country’s current hot upstarts, you can excuse this oversight because they arguably have never interfaced with country music of that nature. But with Reba, you kind of expect it, or at least hope for it.

Other small things like Reba talking about guys “blowing up her phone” feel a little anachronistic from Reba’s vantage and reinforce the theory that she’s trying to reach for renewed attention to her career, though the song is savvy to set its perspective in the 3rd person to attempt to resolve this.

“Going Out Like That” was released on January 6th and immediately shot up to the #1 song spot on iTunes, speaking once again to the buying power of the middle-aged country public that has been so unnecessarily abandoned by the mainstream in a headlong pursuit of youth. This was the space NASH Icon was hoping to fill, and with their very first trial balloon, they’re already seeing success, and in terms of sales and not just streaming—something that gives these NASH Icon artists a financial advantage over their younger counterparts. The song should also do well on radio with its Cumulus backing, and we can expect to see favorable chart results for the single in the coming weeks.

This is a safe move from Reba. “Going Out Like That” won’t win her any traditionalist support, but it also won’t stimulate a ton of criticism, while similarly finding a receptive audience to mainstream 30 to 50-somethings that have joined classic country fans lately in wondering what the hell has happened to their country radio.

1 Gun Up, 1 Gun Down.

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“Going Out Like That” does not have any public display media available at the moment, but can be previewed or purchased on Amazon and iTunes, or if you do the Spotify thing, listen below.