Whether it's her fiery red hair or her powerful pipes, no one is going to accuse Reba McEntire, the queen of contemporary country music, of being a shrinking violet. Sure, throughout her career, the Oklahoma-born superstar, who celebrated her 60th birthday last month, has delivered plenty of songs about loss and heartbreak. But it's McEntire's empowering tunes about getting knocked down and getting right back on your feet again (which she did numerous times during her 10 years of rodeo competition as a barrel racer) that have inspired countless women to do the same — and have inspired us to take a closer look at her best girl-power anthems.
This driving title track from McEntire's 2010 LP sounds a bit like the female take on Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman." "I can summon up my courage, take on the whole world, turn around and break down just like a little girl," she sings. The upshot? Women are complicated creatures. Don't say she didn't warn you.
It isn't the first time she's turned heads by slipping into a red dress, but this sassy bit of swagger from the soon-to-be-released Love Somebody LP asserts that if you're facing a nasty break-up, there are plenty of guys (and more than a few alcoholic beverages) to help you find your way through it.
Nobody's more surprised than Reba to discover that there's life after a bad breakup. Rather than retreating to her bed, crying into a box of chocolates, this 2009 single has her thinking about slipping into a strapless dress — no, not a red one this time, but a little black one "famous for teaching lessons" — then stopping by her ex's place to get the rest of her stuff. The lesson here: the best way to get over a guy is to make sure he knows what he's going to be missing.
Leaving the title object (not to be confused with the Arkansas capital) behind and untying the marriage knot (or is it a noose?), our heroine is off to find a man who's more interested in her than he is in money. Released in 1986, this Number One hit was McEntire's first major declaration of independence.
When showing up with flowers and wine won't do the trick, you know there's trouble in paradise. McEntire kicks her man to the curb — but not before giving him a barbed tongue-lashing to let him know she's on to his cheating ways and has no intention of "sitting 'round in some old pity pool." Sure, the song came from the 1993 album It's Your Call, but it's Reba who's calling the shots here.
McEntire's 1991 album For My Broken Heart was recorded in the wake of the plane crash that took the lives of her band members. It's hardly surprising, then, that the poignant and powerful video (well, mini-movie, really) for this song would deliver such a strong message about living up to one's full potential before it's too late.
A precursor to her Reba sitcom theme song, "I'm a Survivor," this song was featured as the opening tune for Delta Burke's short-lived Nineties TV series. A kiss-off to one life and a look ahead at another, the song was never released as a single (and Delta was canceled after a single season). But it's still one of the most beloved from the country icon's 1990 Rumor Has It album, which also spawned the classics "Fancy" and "You Lie."
If you're going to be branded "plain white trash," you might as well own it. Striking a blow for women who'll do whatever they have to to survive, Fancy's mama puts her in a satin dancing dress and pimps her out in the Big Easy. Years later, Fancy can still hear the desperation in her long-gone mother's voice. What's a now successful woman of the world to do but try to find some comfort in her Georgia mansion and swanky New York townhouse?
The fourth single (and fourth Top 10 hit) from her platinum 1989 album, Sweet Sixteen, McEntire saved the big pep talk for last, after an Everlys remake ("Cathy's Clown"), a tune about hope ("'Til Love Comes Again") and one about heartache ("Little Girl"). Mixing together a little bit of heartache and hope and assuring that the former doesn't last long, it's no wonder the entrepreneurial superstar would go on to sell her own line of stylish footwear.
This 2001 hit served as the opening theme for McEntire's long-running sitcom, Reba. (Although similar in name and theme — and released the same year, it's not to be confused with the Destiny's Child hit.) The line about the woman with "gentle hands and the heart of a fighter" was one of the few heard during the TV show's opening, but there's a lot more to it than that. The opening lyrics reveal she was a premature baby whom doctors gave 30 days to live, but who grew up strong and strong-willed, never letting the tough times of adulthood get the best of her.