LeAnn Rimes was only 13 years old when she released the album that would propel her to national stardom. That record, of course, was Blue, released by Curb Records in 1996. Instantly, Rimes earned comparisons to country legend Patsy Cline. However, it didn't take long for Rimes to show that she was an artist all her own.
In the decade that followed, Rimes continued to see groundbreaking successes. Her 1997 crossover hit, "How Do I Live," became one of the biggest hit singles of the 1990s. Pop-leaning singles "I Need You" and "Can't Fight the Moonlight" only further cemented her cross-genre appeal.
Then, in 2005, Rimes pivoted her direction (for not the first or last time). With her album This Woman, Rimes returned to her country music roots. The change was well-embraced: the record produced multiple hit singles, including "Something's Gotta Give" and "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense." Her follow-up record, Family, was the first album on which Rimes co-wrote all of the tracks. Rimes recorded two more albums with Curb Records before she left the label.
Rimes spent the latter half of the 2010s recording Christmas albums, which graced both the Country Music and Holiday charts. In 2020, Rimes again took a new musical direction: She released Chant: The Human and the Holy, which was thematically built upon mantras and meditations. Her most recent album, God's Work, embodies similar themes of faith and well-being but found Rimes returning to a more traditional form of songwriting.
While we wait to see where the rest of Rimes' career will take her, count down her top 10 songs with The Boot.
"Nothin' Better to Do"From: 'Family' (2007)
"Nothin' Better to Do" was the lead single from Family, Rimes' first album that featured her as a co-writer on every track. Written with Darrel Brown and Sean Sheremet, the song told of — and sounded like — the country backwoods. On the track, Rimes sings of a mother's warning ("Idle hands are Devil's handwork / Oh, the trouble you'll get into!") and the pleasure felt in not heeding it. The tune earned her a well-deserved Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 2008.
"Something's Gotta Give"From: 'This Woman' (2005)
This Woman was the album that marked Rimes' return to country music after a long journey into the crossover world. The hit single "Something's Gotta Give" is an all-too-relatable track that muses about the life expectations we set for ourselves and then miss. What has always made the Grammy Award-nominated track so irresistible is Rimes' spirit, found in the hopeful way in which she sings about "somewhere, someday."
"Insensitive"From: 'Sittin' on Top of the World' (1998)
Originally recorded by Canadian artist Jan Arden in 1994, "Insensitive" became a hit for Rimes when she recorded the song in 1998 for her album Sittin' on Top of the World. The song's heart-wrenching lyrics seem to be explicitly made for Rimes' emotive, strong voice. In the song, Rimes confronts a disengaged lover, asking for advice on how to be as "insensitive" as he is. As listeners, we are all too glad that Rimes cannot achieve this, as the vulnerability at the song's core is too beautiful.
"But I Do Love You"From: 'Coyote Ugly' (2000)
What would Coyote Ugly have been without the LeAnn Rimes-heavy soundtrack? Luckily we never have to live in a world that faces that answer. Rimes contributed four songs to the movie's soundtrack, one of the standouts being "But I Do Love You," a sugar-sweet love song that saw international success.
"Probably Wouldn't Be This Way"From: 'This Woman' (2005)
"Probably Wouldn't Be This Way" is perhaps Rimes' most haunting song. Complete with mournful violins, the track lets listeners hear the somber side of Rimes' vocals as she sings about grieving a deceased lover. The single peaked at number three on the Billboard country chart and was even included in CMT's 100 Greatest Videos list.
"One Way Ticket (Because I Can)"From: 'Blue' (1996)
When Rimes recorded "One Way Ticket (Because I Can), she was just 13 years old and at the very start of her journey. She sings at the song's opening, "Standing on the border / Looking out into the great unknown / I can feel my heart beating faster as I step out on my own." Although writers Judy Rodman and Keith Hinton penned the lyrics, they were a perfect fit for Rimes, an artist on the precipice of stardom.
"I Need You"From: 'I Need You' (2001)
"I Need You," one of Rimes' most enduring hits, spent 25 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart following its release in 2001. Today, the song remains one of Rimes' most streamed songs. Written by Dennis Joseph Matkosky and Ty Kelly Lacy, the song is a declaration of love that becomes profound in the care of Rimes' timeless vocals.
"Blue"From: 'Blue' (1996)
Listening to "Blue" in 2022, it seems no minor miracle that Rimes had such possession of her vocal power at a young age. Following the song's release in 1996, Rimes quickly drew comparisons to classic artists like Patsy Cline. Her acclaimed debut earned a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, making her the youngest artist ever to win a Grammy.
"Can't Fight the Moonlight"From: 'I Need You' (2001)
Rimes had to audition to sing "Can't Fight the Moonlight" for Coyote Ugly, and it's a good thing she did: The song reached the Top 10 in almost 20 different countries when it was first released. The power-pop number remains one of Rimes' most popular songs — and just like the film Coyote Ugly, the track has a dedicated cult following.
"How Do I Live" From: 'You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs' (1997)
"How Do I Live" was written by the accomplished Diane Warren for the Con Air soundtrack. After running into Rimes, Warren encouraged her to record the song. However, the film's team worried that Rimes was too young for the song's content, as she was only 14. Those concerns led the team to cut Rimes' version and instead recruit Trisha Yearwood to rerecord the tune — although neither woman's version was ultimately included in the film's soundtrack.
In 1997, both Yearwood and Rimes released "How Do I Live" as individual singles. Yearwood's version was firm in its country roots, while Rimes took the power ballad in a pop direction. "How Do I Live" became a massive hit for Rimes and solidified her reputation as a musical prodigy.