The year is 1999 and Garth Brooks seems bored.
The best-selling male artist of the 90s (only Celine Dion and Mariah Carey outsold him during that decade), Brooks has seemingly figured out the formula to enduring commercial success. All he has to do is come up with 10 songs or so, pose for the album cover in his best Stetson, put on an entertaining live show and watch the money pour in. Indeed, every one of his proper studio albums has gone Diamond up to that point, and the only one that fell short was a lightly-promoted Christmas album that came out in the summer of 1992 and eventually became a staple of the cutout bin. Of course, this being Garth Brooks, that record still managed to go triple platinum and is one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time.
Most artists would have sold their souls to have experienced a fraction of the success that had become routine for Brooks. Certainly most artists would have been perfectly content to run that formula into the ground in order to keep that conveyor belt going for as long as possible. But Brooks seemed eager for a new challenge. He talked about retiring so that he could raise his children. He signed a minor league deal and played in spring training for the San Diego Padres.
And in September 1999, he made the decision to cross over into pop-rock. Kind of. It’s still really confusing — even 22 years later.(more…)