All the Women I Am is the twenty-sixth studio album by country music artist Reba McEntire, and her second album to be released through the Starstruck/Valory label. The album was released on November 9th, 2010 (US), November 12th, 2010 (Aust), and February 20, 2012 (UK). The album has ten tracks, and plays for just over thirty-eight minutes. Even if you are not a fan of country music, the sound is not of a traditional country style. Much like her previous two studio albums it has a more pop feel to it, which is a direction she has been slowly heading back into for at least fifteen years, while following the current feel and popular sound of country music of the time. This move is assisting her to remain just as current today as she was twenty years ago.
The album has an almost even mix of up-tempo and slow songs, which are brought to you almost in an alternating way starting with the up-tempo Turn on the Radio, which also served as the lead single, and finishing with the slow and powerful When You Have a Child. Whilst discussing the album Reba has mentioned how the songs on the album relate to different aspects of her life, and the many roles she has played. She has had her ups and downs, break ups as well as love, she has been divorced, and had a child. This is what made the title a perfect fit for the album, which is something that I am tempted to agree with even if I do not believe that the title track is one of the strongest from the album.
Next Reba puts her own spin on Beyoncé’s If I Were a Boy (Writers: BC Jean, Toby Gad). This midtempo ballad is nothing like its original. Whilst it does lose some of the power shown in Beyoncé’s version, Reba still delivers the song powerfully without going overboard. She appears to bring the song from pop/rock to country effortlessly, making it sounds as though it could have been originally like that.
After being told to “burn it down, girl” we slow right down for Cry (Writers: Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally). With minimal music, we are left with just Reba’s voice in this powerful ballad. She starts off slow with a few lines telling us what she might do if she sees an ex whom she still has feelings for, “I might bite my lip/Look down at my shoes/I might clench my fist/Or just leave the room” before bringing some power into it with both her voice and the music to tell us that she is not going to cry in fear that she may never stop. Moving past the quick chorus we slow down slightly for the next verse where she again provides us with possible scenarios of what she might do. On the second round of the chorus she appears to bring out more power with the addition of backing vocals repeating the first verse as she sings the chorus. She then climaxes with the bridge, “It’s gonna take an act of God and all I’ve got/To keep the first tear from fallin’ down/But if I don’t hold the waters back the dam is gonna crack/And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna drown” before slowing down slightly for the start of the chorus again, building it up for a powerful finish of it. She finishes the song off with a repeat of the first two lines “I might bite my lip/Look down at my shoes”. Despite being a song of little substance it displays a powerful display of emotion with great lyrics to match, brought to us delicately by Reba’s voice which never goes overboard whilst still reaching some breathtaking high notes.
After crying we get to find out what happens when we fall in love with the up-tempo When Love Gets a Hold of You (Writers: Jessi Alexander, Gary Nicholson, Jon Randall). The fifth song on the album, and the third single, has a similar sound and theme to Just When I Thought I’d Stopped Lovin’ You from her previous album Keep on Loving You. Despite being a promising song, the song peaked at 40; arguably this was because it was never given a proper music video or promotion. At this half way point I was hoping for something spectacular, however this was not found here. I would rather just skip back to Cry or move on to see what comes next.
The only song on the album with Reba listed in the writing credits is the sixth song, Somebody’s Chelsea (Writers: Reba McEntire, Liz Hengber, Will Robinson). The inspiration for the song came to Reba whilst watching P.S. I Love You, after Hilary Swank’s character describes a loving ex-husband named Gerry to Harry Connick, Jr.’s character and he replies that he “wants to be somebody’s Gerry”. If the song had come out around the time of the movie it could possibly have been a great song to go with the movie (providing she changed the lyrics to Gerry). Her inspiration is intentionally reflected in her music video for the song as seen in the restaurant Reba is sitting in. The song itself does not depict the scene of the movie, but instead describes a meeting with an older widowed man on a plane where Reba learns about his wife, to which she responds “I want to be somebody’s Chelsea/Somebody’s world/Somebody’s day and night one and only girl/A part of a love story that never has an end…/You know that’s what every woman wants to be…/Somebody’s Chelsea”. Somebody’s Chelsea is a powerful as well as moving story, and could quite possibly be one of the best songs on the album.
The eighth song is The Day She Got Divorced (Writers: Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Mark D. Sanders), and it would probably be my least favourite from the album. This mid-tempo ballad simply describes a day that a woman is getting divorced. Musically it has similarities to All the Women I Am, despite being featuring the Nashville String Machine (which All the Women I Am was not). The song has a slow build up to the second chorus, which does not hold that much power to it. You can spend the song waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever does. Reba fails to bring anything too special out with this song, and feels just like a filling between two faster tempo songs which are superior in quality.
The penultimate song is A Little Want To (Writers: Brice Long, Terry McBride), which is an inspirational song describing the need to “have a little want to” be able to reach your goals. It has a good message, but seems to end too fast. She manages to blow the listener away with her voice three quarters of the way through the song, then leaves the listener wanting more as the song quickly comes to an end soon after.
To finish we have the ballad When You Have a Child (Writer: Tom Douglas), where it appears she has left the best until last. It may help to have children of your own to really feel the impact of this song, but even without that you can still feel the emotions and be affected by the song. Like The Day She Got Divorced, the strings for this piece were performed by the Nashville String Machine, however the two songs are nothing alike. The tune for this is mostly soft and flows well with the lyrics, particularly just before the three minute mark of the song. At this point Reba brings some strong emotions into a sad moment of the song – “You pray that phone call never comes/And if God forbid how would you live/How could you go on?” which is complimented by the music bringing an almost tragic sound to the song to fit the lyrics before pausing completely before Reba moves on to the final verse.
For someone who is not a huge country music fan, an album like this would give you a taste of what Reba’s music is like and help you decide if you wanted to give more of her music a try.