As you may recall, among the albums included on this list are the #1 selling album in the U.S. every calendar year. In some years, those choices are obvious. With some other years, the choice of the people is a bit more confounding. With all of the innovative and emerging music of 1992, the #1 selling album was the debut album from Billy Ray Cyrus, “Some Gave All”. Usually when an album does that well, there are several tracks that carry the day, and while he did have three other singles that did reasonably well from this album, naturally the dominant track here was the massive hit “Achy Breaky Heart”.
So where do we go from here? We all know “Achy Breaky Heart”. Some of us still love it, and others are tormented by it. It is a catchy tune, and even now, I can see why it was such a big success, even if I’m puzzled why over 9 million people felt they needed the entire album. So how is the rest of the record? Let’s give it a look. I read one comparison that called it the Michael Bolton of country music. I’m not that critical, even if I won’t be adding much of it to my playlist.
Honestly, the rest of the album is pretty benign. Cyrus has a decent voice, if not a classic country voice, and the songs are pretty easy to digest. Like a lot of country music, most of the songs are break-up songs, and with both sad songs of goodbye like “Could’ve Been Me” and more comical twists like “Wher’m I Gonna Live”, the music rings true to its roots, even if it lacks the truly soulful country tone of many of the legends we have looked at on this journey. In case you need one more reason to be curious, there is an unexpected cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots Are Made for Walking”. I think this song could be an interesting cover, but this version falls pretty flat and thin for me. The title track is a well-intended tribute to our fallen military, at a time when this wasn’t as politically divisive or naturally marketable as it is today.
Billy Ray Cyrus was quite the phenomenon, and he has experienced several renaissances beyond his nearly one-hit career. He also co-parented his daughter Miley towards a very successful career that has not only well surpassed his own success, she has reinvented herself many more times than he ever did.
I think there is one more important observation here to be made. Somewhere along the way, probably to coincide with the music video and dawn of the internet, physical appearance became more of a prerequisite for success for all performers, and nowhere is this more evident than in country music. This isn’t to say that some of these beautiful people of today aren’t good singers, but clearly the point of entry started with a close review of their physical attributes. I could be wrong, but I feel like Billy Ray Cyrus was at the front end of this transition. While he is a decent singer, clearly his chiseled, powerfully handsome appearance, even with his mullet hairstyle, opened a lot of doors for him in the business. He wasn’t the first and certainly not the last, but I think he is a great example while the Merles, Waylons and Willies of today might have more of an uphill battle to reach their audience.
Nine million albums sold… wow.