Pop Goes the Country

Who's changed more -- Trisha Yearwood or country music?

Such coyness certainly hasn't hurt Real Live Woman commercially: It bowed at number four on the April 15 Billboard country album chart and had the second-highest debut on its pop counterpart, finishing behind the soundtrack to Romeo Must Die. Yearwood's also benefited from a couple of splashy TV showcases over the past several weeks -- namely a headlining spot on A&E's Live by Request and a country salute on The Nashville Network to, of all people, recent Westword profile subject Barry Manilow ("Looks Like He Made It," September 2, 1999).

Even Yearwood's representatives were dumbfounded by her interest in the latter; according to her, "The copy of the request they faxed to me had an 'I assume we're passing on this' kind of note on the side of it. They couldn't believe it when I called them back and said, 'Actually, we're going to do this one.' Because when I was in the second or third grade, my best friend and I were just crazy about him. She had the T-shirt and everything, and I went out and bought his double live album and learned every lyric. I was just fascinated. I think the reason he gets such a bad rap is that sometimes your biggest hit can sometimes become your nightmare -- and when you say 'Barry Manilow,' people go, 'Oh, "Copacabana" -- oh, my God.' But there are some amazing songs you're forgetting that are really great pop songwriting. It's like Burt Bacharach, where you're just kind of swept away.

"When I said I'd do the show," she goes on, "I said, 'I'll do it on two conditions -- that I get to choose the song I want to do, and that Barry plays piano for me.' And it was great. I picked 'Lay Me Down' from that live album, and as I was standing next to the piano, there were all these women the same age I am -- I'm 35 -- screaming their heads off because they were in the front row of a Barry Manilow concert. And I just looked at them and said, 'I am you. I am representing all of you, because we were all children of that era.'"

Still country after all these years: Trisha Yearwood.
Still country after all these years: Trisha Yearwood.

That says a lot about today's country music, too.

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