Story Behind the Song: Martina McBride, ‘Wrong Again’
In the late '90s, Martina McBride earned a chart-topping hit with "Wrong Again," the fifth single from her fourth studio album, Evolution, released in 1997. The song, written by Tommy Lee James and Cynthia Well, was originally a sad one, about broken promises and love lost, until Well had a last-minute change of heart. Below, James shares the story behind the song.
Cynthia Well is part of a writing duo, Barry Mann and Cynthia Well. There’s actually a Broadway musical about them and Carole King, called Beautiful. Barry Mann and Cynthia Well wrote “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” “Soul and Inspiration,” “On Broadway,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Just Once,” “Don’t Know Much" -- that’s one of my all-time favorite lyrics: "I don’t know much / But I know I love you / And that may be all I need to know.” So, Cynthia Well, she’s massive … They are, like, the legends.
[Publisher] Barbara Orbison set me up to write with her. I went out to LA. She lives right behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, in the middle of Beverly Hills. So I go in and meet her -- and this was also a situation where she was the lyricist and I was the music guy -- so I go into her massive Beverly Hills living room and meet her. She was really nice and said, “Whatcha got?” And so I played her this melody that I wrote that morning in the hotel, and she’s like, “I really like this. I think I can do something with it.” She goes, “I’ll send you the lyric.” I said, “Cool.”
She sent back “Wrong Again.” I thought it matched perfectly with my melody. I sent her back a work tape; she loved it. I came back and did a demo of it, and Martina put it on hold.
I got an email [that] Martina was going to go in and cut it, and then I got an email from Cynthia saying, “I think I have a better ending to that song.” I’m like, “I don’t know if we should mess with it, because Martina already loves it. We don’t want to throw anybody off.” She goes, “I really think it’s a lot better,” and it was a lot better, because the song basically had no hope in it.
[Originally] it was like, “And I thought I found everything / Wrong again,” and at the end [now], it says, “And I thought I would never find someone / Wrong again,” because she found somebody else at the end of the song, and it’s this huge twist, and it’s so much better. So I went in and actually had my vocalist come back in and re-sing it with the new lyrics, and Martina loved it.
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