What a year for Tim McGraw! He’s connected to all four of the top songs — one’s his own, one’s his wife’s and he co-produced the other two.
Here are all 10 of the most-played songs on the radio for 1998, as gauged by radio airplay at stations monitored by Broadcast Data Systems, whose information is used to create the weekly Billboard magazine charts.
1. “Just To See You Smile” Tim McGraw (Curb)
This is the second straight year Tim has sung the year’s most-played song. He enjoyed the same honor last year with “It’s Your Love,” a duet with his wife Faith Hill.
Tim says his secret for success is listening to music with a fan’s ear.
“I think the main thing is simply just finding good songs and going into the studio and cutting a good track,” he says. “I record the tracks to my songs, guitar sounds, keyboard sounds and even fiddle licks in a way that I feel a fan would want to hear them played if they were listening to the radio.
“Just To See You Smile” stayed at No. 1 for six weeks — longer than any other song in 1998.
2. “Bye Bye” Jo Dee Messina (Curb)
Jo Dee said “Oh, boy” the first time she heard “Bye Bye.”
“Loved it!” she says. “When I first heard the song — as a matter of fact, I walked out of my producer’s office with the tape, walked on the bus and said, ‘OK, everybody — we’ve got to learn this song.’ So we’ve been doing it live since September of ’96.”
The song was the first release from Jo Dee’s long-awaited second album, I’m Alright, co-produced by Tim, and her first substantial hit since 1996’s “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore.”
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to have a No. 1 record,” she says. There’s 50 other people at the record company and my management who worked their butts off to make that happen for me and I’m so grateful to them.”
3. “This Kiss” Faith Hill (Warner Bros.)
The bubbly song that makes the first-ever rhyme involving the phrase “centrifugal motion” spun Faith to the top of the country charts, where the song stayed for three weeks.
It was the first release from her Faith album, which she co-produced. Faith invited “This Kiss” co-writer Beth Nielsen Chapman to help her record the song.
“She ended up creating a completely new harmony section which totally changed the entire sound. We already had a great song, but Beth was capable of taking it even further. It was really incredible.”
” ‘This Kiss’ is kind of like a sing-along,” Faith told CMA Closeup magazine. “Let’s face it, no matter how hard of a person you are, whether you admit it or not, kissing is wonderful.”
4. “I’m Alright” Jo Dee Messina (Curb)
“I heard it at the same time I heard ‘Bye Bye’ because both songs were written by the same writer,” Jo Dee says. “I thought it was really cool.
“I loved what it said. It’s like you’re talking to a friend — ‘Hey man, you’re doing great. I’m here and I’m getting by, so I guess I’m doing alright.’ The song talks about ‘I’m not rich and I’m not poor. I’m not high on the business ladder and I’m not low on the business ladder. I’m right in the middle, but that’s OK with me.’ “
Jo Dee identifies with the song. “There’s a lot of people who do. I love that song.”
5. “There’s Your Trouble” Dixie Chicks (Monument)
In the Dixie Chicks’ breakthrough year, they enjoyed three Top 10 singles, and the biggest was “There’s Your Trouble,” the bouncy breakup song highlighted by Natalie Maines’ yipsy lead vocals and the backing of sisters Emily Erwin and Martie Seidel.
“We just try and find something that fits into our instrumentation and the three-part harmony,” multi-instrumentalist Emily says. The song vaulted to No. 1 in August, helping the Texas-born trio graduate into major-act status.
“Our crowds are so big now, it’s unbelievable,” says Martie. “We’ve always known we wanted to play music together, and now we’re succeeding. No more of those horrible, horrible gigs with long Texas drives and the RV breaking down.”
6. “I’m From the Country” Tracy Byrd (MCA)
He is from the country, and fans like him that way. The avid hunter and fisherman still lives in Beaumont Texas, where he grew up. “I’m still running with the same guys I’ve known from junior high school on,” he says.
The upbeat tune celebrates the virtue of country living, which Tracy swears will never leave him — at least not without a fight.
“A long time ago me and my buddies were sitting around one day and I told them, ‘If this all works out and I ever get to acting like I’m a big star or something, well, I want you guys to just knock me on my butt.’
“They’ve never had to do that, thank goodness. I mean, a couple of them are some pretty big ol’ boys.”
7. “I Just Want To Dance With You” George Strait (MCA)
Folk singer/songwriter John Prine wrote the song with Roger Cook, and recorded it on his 1986 album German Afternoons. George is the first country singer to tackle it.
“I’d never heard it before,” George says. “And it’s just a fun song. I mean, it’s one of a kind.”
In his hands, the sparse original transformed into a country hit that stayed at No. 1 for three weeks.
“We just added to it a little bit,” he says. “It’s a pretty traditional-flavored country tune. That’s my taste.”
8. “I Can Still Feel You” Collin Raye (Epic)
The story behind Collin’s two-week No. 1 hit gave his fans an extra thrill.
“This is a very personal song to me,” Collin says of “I Can Still Feel You,” which was written by Kim Tribble and Tammy Hyler.
“Tammy is my former girlfriend of about four years. We have been busted up for a while now; and I believe this song is about her and me.
“Even though she wrote it from her perspective, I sort of feel the same things.”
The song describes “how hard it is to shake those clingy things from a relationship,” Collin says. “I think a lot of people can relate to that.”
9. “There Goes My Baby” Trisha Yearwood (MCA)
“The songs I sing have to strike a chord with me,” Trisha says. “They don’t have to deal with something I’ve exactly experienced. They just have to move me.”
The chord struck by “There Goes My Baby” is its instant familiarity. “Everyone thinks they’ve heard this song before — that it’s a remake of a Roy Orbison song, or of an older song,” Trisha says. “But if something sounds familiar, then it will stick in the mind.”
Her stirring performance made the song permanently her own — though its range makes her wonder sometimes if she wants to keep it. “It’s very challenging vocally, which I like,” she says. “Except now, when I have to sing it every night, I think, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ “
10. “Love of My Life” Sammy Kershaw (Mercury)
No less a person than George Strait is jealous of Sammy’s success with the song. “I thought it was a great song,” George says. “The first time I heard it, I said, ‘Dadgummit, I wish they’d sent that to me.’ “
A big hit means one thing to blue-collar Sammy: “I can work for a couple more years,” he says. The song rose to No. 2 — Tim McGraw’s long reign at the top with “Just To See You Smile” blocked it from the top spot — but the staying power of “Love of My Life” made it one of the most-played songs of the year.
“I’d like to think that I’m touching a nerve with those folks out there,” Sammy says. “I sure hope at least people know I’m being sincere about what I’m singing.”