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Music / Reba McEntire

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"The baby girl without a chance
A victim of circumstance
The one who oughta give up but she's just too hard-headed
A single mom who works two jobs
Who loves her kids and never stops
With gentle hands and the heart of a fighter
I'm a survivor!"
- "I'm a Survivor", also the theme song for the sitcom Reba

Country Music's reigning queen for the better part of two decades, Oklahoman Reba Nell McEntire (born March 28, 1955 in McAlester, Oklahoma) has done it all.

In her career, she has racked up more than thirty #1 hits (out of more than 80 singles overall) - more than any other female country music artist - and had the first multi-platinum album by a female country act. She is known for her twangy voice, bright red hair and strong, no-nonsense material. Her accolades include two Grammys (for "Whoever's in New England" and "Does He Love You"), as well as several trophies from the two major country music award associations, the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association. Although her radio hits were fewer and further between in the 2000s, she came back in full force in late 2009-early 2010 with "Consider Me Gone," the biggest hit of her career.

Reba has also dabbled in acting a few times, including a successful six season run in the Sitcom Reba and the role of Annie Oakley in the 2001 Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun. She also played Heather Gummer, Burt's wife in the first Tremors. Come 2012, she's starring in another sitcom, Malibu Country, with nearly the same premise as her first sitcom.

To cap it all off, Reba was named a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee in 2011.

Race car driver Shelby Blackstock is Reba's only child.

Reba's works provide examples of:

  • '80s Hair: In The '80s, her hair was frequently bigger than she was.
  • An Aesop: "She Thinks His Name Was John" states that anyone (male or female) can contract HIV and get AIDS through heterosexual contact, and that it is not just something that happens to homosexuals.
  • Album Title Drop: Despite having a title track, Love Somebody also has "Sometimes you don't love somebody until they don't love you" in "Until They Don't Love You".
  • Amicable Exes: The protagonists in "Every Other Weekend" are still in love with each other and regret their divorce.
  • Answer Song: "Whoever's in New England" was a response to Barry Manilow's "Weekend in New England." Has its own in Sugarland's "Stay."
  • Arc Words: From "Fancy", "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down!" The final words Fancy's terminally ill mother tells her before sending her off into the world as a prostitute, which serves as the refrain of the song.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "It's Your Call", after answering the phone to her husband's mistress, she questions if her husband is going to take the call, inferring that if he does, then she's leaving him.
  • Badass Boast: The titular "Fancy" delivers one when she remembers how she resolved to live up to her mother's expectations of getting out of poverty.
    I knew what I had to do and I made myself this solemn vow
    I's gonna be a lady someday
    Though I don't know when or how
    But I couldn't see spending the rest of my life
    With my head hung down in shame
    You know I might have been born just plain white trash
    But Fancy was my name
  • Bait-and-Switch: "Love Needs a Holiday" does it in both the first and second verse. The first verse has two people meeting at a hotel and the phrasing makes it sound like they're cheating on their spouses. Nope, it's a married couple getting away from the kids for the weekend. The second verse sets up a seductive scene, with the couple crawling into bed take a nap. Because they're parents, and they're tired.
  • Big Brother Instinct: In the video version of her cover "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," after the little sister, Reba, shot her big brother's cheating wife and her lover of the moment after humiliating her family, the brother convinces her to let him take the fall for the death of his wife to protect her. He is shortly hung there after, and years later the sister comes forward, posthumously clearing her brother's name, while also condemning the judge, despite having evidence about the brother's innocence, since it was the easiest and simplest verdict, and also because the Judge was also having an affair with the Wife that would have come to light if the brother wasn't convicted.
  • Bowdlerise: Many radio stations cut Reba's version of "Fancy" short after three verses, probably to avoid having the last verse describe that Fancy "charmed a king and a congressman" and used prostitution to gain wealth and build a Georgia mansion and a New York flat, and finally makes peace with her dead mother after 15 years. Some stations, however, note the full-length version's running time (4:59) and, to fit it within an already tightly-formatted program, defer to the radio edit.
    • The video version, at the end, depicts Fancy using her newfound wealth to open a safe home for runaway/troubled teenaged girls ... on the site of her childhood home.
  • Business Trip Adultery: The narrator of "Whoever's in New England" suspects her husband is using frequent business trips to Boston as cover for an affair.
  • Butt-Monkey: The unnamed brother in “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia”. Poor guy returns home only to find out his wife is having affairs with two other men including his own best friend, is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to hang by a corrupt judge (who was also having an affair with the brother’s wife, as shown in the video), and ultimately executed for a crime committed by his sister.
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Does He Love You." The verses are taken in turn, each addressing the other, and the chorus has Reba and Linda Davis repeating each other's lines, since they're asking each other the same question ("does he love you, like he's been loving me?")
  • Calling Out for Not Calling: "Why Haven't I Heard From You?" is a song written entirely in sarcasm, with the singer explaining the concept of telephones to her lover and wondering why—if there are so many different ways he can call and get in touch in this modern age of the 90s—why she hasn't heard from him?
  • Charity Motivation Song: "What If?", a charity single for the Salvation Army released in late 1997.
  • Concept Video: She's famous for these, going all the way back to "Whoever's in New England". The video for "Is There Life Out There" took this to such an extent that CMT almost banned the video because of its length.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Twice. She changed The Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown" from first to third person (resulting in the story changing to a third party observing the storyline), and Lee Greenwood's "Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands" from third to first. Even though she was singing "Ring on my finger, time on my hands", she kept the original title on the CD listing and on the charts.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning:
    • "Cathy's Clown." The Everly Brothers original had third-party observers literally snicker at the "clown" every time Cathy approached him to play him for a fool. In Reba's cover, the protagonist is a sympathetic observer who wants to show him true love.
    • "Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands." Lee Greenwood's version is from a male perspective, admitting he had neglected his wife and admitting that her turning to another man was understandable. Reba's version takes it up another notch and virtually calls the husband cold and distant when he is home.
    • She is one of many women to cover Kenny Rogers' "Sweet Music Man", thus changing it from a Waylon Jennings tribute to a woman wishing the best to her husband while he seeks a music career.
    • Also changes the meaning in the video for "Because of You," which she sang with Kelly Clarkson. The original Kelly Clarkson video is about parental neglect, while the Reba cover is about domestic violence.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: The subject of "Is There Life Out There?" (named Maggie in the music video) is this: a thirty-something woman with two kids who married young, and is finding that while she loves her family, she wants more.
    Is there life out there, so much she hasn't done
    Is there life beyond her family and her home
    She's done what she should, should she do what she dares?
    She doesn't want to leave, she's just wondering is there life out there?
  • Distant Duet: With Vince Gill for "The Heart Won't Lie," with Brooks & Dunn for "If You See Him/If You See Her," and with Kenny Chesney for "Every Other Weekend." Averted for "Does He Love You" with Linda Davis, and for "Because of You" with Kelly Clarkson.
  • Domestic Abuse: "The Stairs," about a wife whose husband beats her but always apologizes, but she's getting tired of using the excuse that she "fell down the stairs again" when people ask.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • "It's Your Call." In a literal sense, the telephone call is for the singer's husband. But since the person on the other end of the line is her husband's mistress, she's giving him an ultimatum: end it or she's leaving—"it's your call," as in, it's his choice.
    • "And Still," which refers to both how her world "stood still" when she ran into The One That Got Away and how much "loves him still." Toys with Dual-Meaning Chorus, since the "stood still" in the third chorus also applies to how dumbstruck she is when he introduces his wife and they walk off together.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: In this segment on Nashville Now, K.T. Oslin tells Reba that they're going to talk and to "hustle your shapely fanny back over here" to to her desk so they can get to it. K.T. then tells the audience to stay tuned because they "won't want to miss this".
  • Eyelash Fluttering: In the music video for "Why Haven't I Heard From You," Reba is on a date and mindlessly bats her eyes at the man when he simply calls her "great," prompting one of the performing mariachis to exchange looks with her that read, "that was the best he could do?"
  • The Film of the Song: She starred in a 1994 TV movie on CBS based on her 1992 single "Is There Life Out There".
  • First-Name Basis: Ever since the 1988 album Reba, she's been credited only by her first name on all of her albums.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Several of them, as befits her long and impressive career.
  • Hanging Judge: The judge in "The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia," sentences the singer's brother to death for murdering his best friend, Andy, based on circumstantial evidence. As the chorus goes: "the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands."
    The judge said "guilty" on a make-believe trial
    Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile
    Said, "Supper's waiting at home and I got to get to it"
  • Heavy Meta: "Turn On the Radio," in which Reba tells her cheating ex if he wants to hear her, he can listen to her sing on the radio.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The video for "Fancy" ends with the former prostitute using a sizable amount of her wealth to open a shelter for runaway girls, on the same property of her former childhood home.
  • Hypocrite: The last verse of "Fancy" features the titular character slamming people who judge her mother for pushing her into prostitution, since Fancy knows that the woman was consumed with guilt for her actions.
    Now, in this world there's a lot of self-righteous hypocrites that call me bad
    And criticize momma for turning me out, no matter how little we had
    But though I ain't had to worry about nothing for nigh on fifteen years
    Well, I can still hear the desperation in my poor momma's voice ringing in my ears.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: In "Fear of Being Alone," two recently broken-up people connect at a bar, and end up talking all night. In the morning, the singer begs the other person "don't say that word" because the feelings aren't genuine—they just fear being alone and are on the rebound.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: The framing device for the music video of "The Heart Don't Lie," a duet with Vince Gill, is a Navy recruit and her Marine drill instructor that is unable to be acted upon.
  • Kangaroo Court:
    • Played for Laughs in the video for "Take it Back," where Reba's lover is put on trial for his infidelity. The jury becomes back-up singers and eventually back-up dancers along with the bailiffs, while the judge takes the bridge on saxophone.
    • Most definitely not played for laughs in "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." The narrator warns that the entire Southern justice system is corrupt after her (innocent) brother is hung for murder following a "make-believe trial" by a judge who just wants to get home to his dinner. As the chorus warns:
    Well, don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer
    'Cause the judge in the town's got bloodstains on his hands
  • Lady in Red: Fancy's mother uses the last of their money to buy Fancy a red dress to accentuate her beauty, and ensure the men will come calling after her for tricks.
  • "Leaving the Nest" Song: "Fancy" contains a much darker variation on the theme than most: Fancy, the protagonist, is living in abject poverty with her terminally ill mother and a baby sibling. In order to rescue Fancy from living this way for the rest of her life, the mother buys her a "dancing dress" and tells her to "be nice to the gentlemen...and they'll be nice to you." Yes, she basically sends Fancy out into the world to make a life for herself via prostitution. On the other hand, it does work out for Fancy in the end: she owns multiple properties while still in her 30s, and she has a few words for people who criticize her mother for doing what she did, when there didn't seem to be any better options.
  • Longing Look: "The Heart Won't Lie," a duet with Vince Gill, is pretty much this trope in song form.
  • Loudness War: Present on the Duets album, particularly with the rendition of "Because of You". The guitars and strings are so loud and compressed, especially on the bridge, where Reba's lead vocal is almost completely buried in the mix. It almost sounds like a Rascal Flatts outtake. What makes this more surprising is that the track was produced by Tony Brown, whose work with her in The '90s averted this, likely due to John Guess being the engineer on those albums instead of Chuck Ainlay.
  • Love Triangle: "Does He Love You" has two women feuding over the same man.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Little Rock" is a bouncy, upbeat little song about leaving your neglectful husband and asking for a divorce.
    • "Fancy" is a belting, rocking song about an impoverished teenage girl being forced into prostitution by her dying mother after her father abandons the family.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: In 1995, she covered Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald's "On My Own" with guest vocals from Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, and Linda Davis.
  • Melismatic Vocals: A trademark of her delivery until the mid-1990s; see Vocal Evolution below.
  • Murder Ballad: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," in which a man finds out his wife has been cheating on him, including with his best friend, and goes to shoot him—only to find him already dead. He's arrested for the murder, but it turns out his sister is the one who shot the best friend, and also disposed of the cheating wife. Before she could tell anyone, they convicted and hung her brother.
  • Mutual Pining: "Every Other Weekend" revolves around a divorced couple who only see each other at their custody exchange, unable to admit they're still in love with each other because they're convinced the other has moved on. In the music video, this stretches on for over a decade, with the children aging from little kids in car seats to teenagers, and the parents still pining for each other.
    I can't tell her I love her
    I can't tell him I love him
    Cause there's too many questions and ears in the car
    So, I don't tell him I miss him
    I don't tell her I need her
    She's over me that's where we are
    He's over me that's where we are
    We're as close as we might ever be again
    Every other weekend
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The mother in "Fancy": knowing she's dying and with no money or any other way to help her daughter, she convinces the eighteen year old to become a prostitute in the hopes that it will give her a better life than one of abject poverty.
    She said "Here's your one chance, Fancy, don't let me down
    Here's your one chance, Fancy, don't let me down
    Lord forgive me for what I do, but if you want out, well, it's up to you
    Now don't let me down, now, your momma's gonna move you uptown."
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Her dress at the 1993 CMA Awards had her cleavage and navel visible though she's actually covered to her neck, the top was see-through, giving a faux plunging neckline effect...and that faux neckline was halfway down her belly. And she wore it again 25 years later.
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: In "For My Broken Heart", we get a parody/variation in this lyric:
    Last night I prayed the Lord my soul to keep,
    Then I cried myself to sleep.
  • The Oldest Profession: The protagonist of "Fancy" is an 18-year-old woman sent into prostitution by her desperate mother.
  • One-Mario Limit: To the point that she's listed as just "Reba" on the singles charts and on all of her albums since 1987's Reba.
  • Parents as People:
    • "Bobby" is all about a son coming to terms with what his father, the titular Bobby, did after his mother was physically and mentally incapacitated after a horrific accident, euthanizing her.
    • The titular "Fancy" makes peace with her terminally ill mother years later, after realizing that her mother did what she did to ensure Fancy's survival.
    • "The Greatest Man I Never Knew" is about the singer reconciling a relationship with her father a year after his death. They lived in the same house her entire childhood but he never took much interest in her nor she in him.
  • Pimping the Offspring: "Fancy" is about a girl in Louisiana named Fancy who lives in desperate poverty with her ailing mother and baby sibling, abandoned by their father. Her mother spends all of their money on a nice dress for her, does up her hair and makeup, and turns her out to become a prostitute in order to have at least one chance to escape their circumstances. Her mother dies not long after and the baby is taken by child welfare, but Fancy slowly does end up becoming wealthy by essentially becoming a courtesan for rich, influential men, and while she has no qualms with her circumstances and scorns those who would speak ill of her mother for what she did, she's still haunted by her family being in a situation that led her mother to make that choice.
  • Pretty in Mink: She wore a white fox fur wrap for the video "Does He Love You" and a white mink coat for the cover of her album "Merry Christmas to You".
  • Runaway Bride: A (downplayed, obviously) variation in "I'd Rather Ride Around With You," in which the singer is a runaway bridesmaid, skipping her cousin's wedding to hang out with the new guy she's been seeing.
  • Sequel Song:
    • The video for "Love Needs a Holiday" features the couple from "Somebody."
    • The video for "What If It's You" concludes Reba's story line with the guy from "I'd Rather Ride Around With You," and while it's obvious the two music videos are connected, it's not clear how the story lines intersect. In "I'd Rather Ride Around With You," the guy is just someone she likes enough to skip her cousin's wedding for. In "What If It's You," which takes place "later that year" according to the opening shot, there's apparently a whole backstory in which he's either left Reba for another woman or was cheating on this woman with Reba and Reba is seeking closure.
  • A Side Order of Romance: "Somebody." The protagonist confides to a waitress at his local diner about his romantic troubles, and she tells him to keep his eyes peeled, because the person he's looking for could be anywhere. At the end of the song, he realizes the person he's looking her.
  • Southern Gothic: Both "Fancy" and "The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia" have heavy elements in this, with the former featuring Poverty and Prostitution, and the latter all about infidelity, murder and corruption.
  • Special Guest: She's done this on both of her Reba costar Melissa Peterman's sitcoms after Reba ended, in Working Class and Baby Daddy. She also appeared in Young Sheldon, which also features Peterman as a recurring character. Like wise she appeared in her TV daughter JoAnna Garcia Swisher's short-lived sitcom Better with You as her wedding planner.
  • Spit Take: Done in the video for Aaron Tippin's "Honky Tonk Superman" (at 3:45).
  • Summon Back Up Dancers: In "Take it Back," Reba puts her boyfriend on trial for infidelity and ends up charming the jury and bailiffs into being her back-up dancers.
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • Implied in the video for "Is There Life Out There", when her character Maggie's daughter spills coffee on her schoolwork. The daughter apologizes that it was an accident, to which Maggie replies "I don't need any more accidents in my life!" Maggie's husband Andy then steps in to call her out on this, and a horrified Maggie breaks down when she realizes what she said.
    • Invoked for the video of "You're Gonna Be," a Parental Love Song, that follows a teenage girl as she meets a boy, gets pregnant, is abandoned by the boy, and struggles with how to tell her mother about the baby. She goes into labor and leaves a note, only for Reba (who plays the mother) to arrive after the baby is born, making the song two-fold, about the teenager's love for her new baby, and Reba's love for the teenage daughter.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Several songs in her catalog do this.
    • Her duet with Vince Gill on "Oklahoma Swing" starts with Vince singing in B♭, then jumps down to E♭ when Reba comes in. It then remains in the lower key for all other vocal parts between the two of them, only jumping back up at the solos.
    • "Is There Life Out There" goes from C to D at the second chorus. The album version contains a solo, and then another repeat of the chorus in the higher key, but the radio edit cuts off after the first key-changed chorus ends.
    • "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" goes from C Dorian on the verses to G major on the chorus.
    • "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" jumps from D to E♭ halfway through the last chorus.
    • "We're So Good Together": the opening is in G, but it shifts down to E at the verses before returning to G at the chorus.
    • Brooks & Dunn originally recorded "Cowgirls Don't Cry" in the key of A Major all the way through. When they released a remix that had Reba singing the final chorus, this required a key change due to her different vocal range. The result was a gear change all the way up to the key of E.
  • Vocal Evolution: One of her trademarks was her melismatic, vowel-bending, theatrical singing voice. Over time, she's ditched most of the theatrics and now sings in a more straightforward voice (partially because her older style was giving her vocal polyps).
  • Wedding Ring Removal:
    • The entire premise of "Little Rock." The "little rock" in question is her wedding ring.
    Oh, little rock
    Think I'm going to have to slip you off
    Take a chance tonight and untie the knot
    There's more to life than what I've got
    Whoa oh, little rock
    You know this heart of mine just can't be bought
    I'm going to find someone who really cares a lot
    When I slip off this little rock
    • Mentioned in "A Heart is a Lonely Hunter," when a man offers to buy the protagonist a drink and she notices "the pale white circle where he wears his ring."
  • Wham Line:
    • "Somebody" starts out being about a man sharing his dating troubles with a waitress at his favorite diner. She tells him to keep his eyes open, because the one he's looking for could be anywhere. So he starts looking everywhere, at everyone. But he comes to an important realization at the bridge that the person he's looking for is her.
    And he wonders why he searched so long
    When she was always there at that diner waitin' on...
    • "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" has the singer insist her brother, hung for the murder of his friend Andy, was innocent and is angered that he was killed for a crime he did not commit. How does she know he was innocent? Because she killed Andy. And she also killed her brother's wife, who was cheating with Andy.
    That's one body that will never be found
    You see, little sister don't miss when she aims her gun
    It sounded like somebody else that was talking, asking "Mama, what do I do?"
    She said "Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, they'll be nice to you."
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: She's got an absolutely stunning pair of wickedly vibrant blue eyes and wields them to often devastating effect.

Alternative Title(s): Reba