“Fancy” by Reba, an analysis

If there’s one thing HOTSPROTSTAKES.com loves more than minor league indoor football, it’s the music of one Reba McIntire, the first lady of country music.

Reba has more bangers in her career than the Minnesota Vikings’ love boat, and most of her songs actually tell a story, which is good.

Today we are going to breakdown her legendary hit, “Fancy.”

For those who don’t know, “Fancy” is a song about a poor girl in Louisiana who eventually…well you’ll see. It gets pretty messed up pretty fast. It’s probably one of the three greatest country songs of all-time. Also it doesn’t hurt that even at 61, Reba is still an easy 8.

First, here is the song so you can rock out to it and play it 18 times in a row.

Onto our analysis of the lyrics:

I remember it all very well lookin’ back
It was the summer I turned eighteen
We lived in a one room, rundown shack
On the outskirts of New Orleans
We didn’t have money for food or rent
To say the least we were hard pressed
Then Mama spent every last penny we had
To buy me a dancin’ dress

Ok, we’re off to a good start in the first six lines. We get some good info on her age, where they live and their socio-economic status. Then things go off the rails. How many pennies did Mama have, and why are you spending them on a dress? That seems like that last thing you would need if you “didn’t have money for food or rent.” Something seems suspicious.

Mama washed and combed and curled my hair
And she painted my eyes and lips
Then I stepped into a satin’ dancin’ dress
That had a split on the side clean up to my hip
It was red velvet trim and it fit me good
Standin’ back from the lookin’ glass
There stood a woman where a half grown kid had stood

18 and you have a dress with a split in the side up to the hip. At least we know who to blame for all the high schoolers in the world dressing like adult film stars when they go to prom. But good visuals in this section of lyrics. The red stands out, and we get the good metaphor of how this 18-year-old has grown up in an instant while wearing this dress. That Reba, she just speaks to me.

She said, “Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.
Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.”

Her name is Fancy, and her mom says this is her only shot and she doesn’t want her to ruin it and let her mom down. The same mom who spent every last penny they had on a dancing dress. Pretty sure Fancy’s mom was the inspiration for the hit show, “Dance Moms.”

Mama dabbled a little bit of perfume on my neck and then she kissed my cheek
And then I saw the tears wellin’ up in her troubled eyes as she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath
She said, “Your Pa’s runned off and I’m real sick,
And the baby’s gonna starve to death.”

Ok. There’s a lot going here. The first four lines are great, again, giving us more backstory and painting us a picture of Fancy as she gets ready to head to whatever it is that she apparently needs to go to in order to not let her mom down.

And then shit gets fucked up in a hurry. “Your Pa’s run off and I’m real sick,” Ok, that’s understandable, it happens. “And the baby’s gonna starve to death.” What. YOU LITERALLY JUST SPENT ALL THE MONEY YOU HAD ON A DAMN DRESS FOR AN 18-YEAR-OLD. Maybe she could hustle her ass out there, make a little of her own money and buy her own damn dress, and Mama could buy food for the baby instead of evidently letting it starve to death. Holy hell.

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said,
“To thine own self be true.”
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heeled shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin’
Askin’, “Mama, what do I do?”
She said, “Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy,
And they’ll be nice to you.”

/writes down note to remind self to get Tiffany a locket that says, ‘To thine own self be true.’/

Ok, more good stuff here, a sentimental moment, or as much of one is possible after your mom tells you she’s going to let your baby sibling die of starvation. And then we get a roach just in case you forgot these people were poor. And now we know the end goal, for Fancy to meet a rich (older) man who will take care of her, but who also won’t take care of the rest of her family or this damn baby for some reason.

She said, “Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.
Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.”
Lord, forgive me for what I do,
But if you want out, well, it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down
Now your mama’s gonna move you uptown

Don’t be asking God for help in this, Mama. You know what you did, spent all your money on a dress for an able-bodied 18-year-old so she could go dancing and be a gold digger, all while the baby at home and you die. That’s such a Southern thing. “Lord, forgive me.” Even Lord is looking down like, “SMH, lady you need more than Jesus to save you.”

Well, that was the last time I saw my Ma
The night I left that rickety shack
The welfare people came and took the baby
Mama died and I ain’t been back

This all seems to happen in a hurry. And how did you know all this if, I’m assuming, this song happened in the 70s or 80s, and they likely didn’t have a phone? How are you getting this information? Did you at least go to your mom’s funeral? At least the baby survived, no thanks to you or your mom. And she tells us all this before we even know how the dancing dress thing went. Reba is getting a little all over the place here, but let’s see what happens.

But the wheels of fate had started to turn
And for me there was no way out
And it wasn’t very long ’til I knew exactly
What my Mama’d been talkin’ about

OK, so she definitely didn’t go to the funeral. “I gots mine, peace out poor people!” And I like that there’s no other way out, like a job, or moving somewhere else. Nope, the only way out is to take advantage of rich men.

I knew what I had to do and I made myself this solemn vow
That I’s gonna be a lady someday
Though I didn’t know when or how
But I couldn’t see spending the rest of my life
With my head hung down in shame
You know I might have been born just plain white trash
But Fancy was my name

Again, the timeline here is way off. At what point are you making this vow to be a lady someday? Like, just suddenly because your mom died you decide you are and not because, you know, it’s the thing most people do in life?

Those last three lines though, those are bangers. For real, when that part of the song hits, holy shit, it’s impossible not to feel empowered. She brings more energy and attitude to those three lines than Ludacris has to all the lyrics in his career.

She said, “Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.
She said, “Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.

See previous parts about her being named Fancy.

It wasn’t long after that benevolent man took me off the street
And one week later I was pourin’ his tea in a five room hotel suite

So are you a maid? Or his booty call? I’m confused. Maybe “Fancy” was the inspiration for Pretty Woman? I’m not sure which was made first, but either way.

I charmed a king, a congressman and an occasional aristocrat
And then I got me a Georgia mansion and an elegant New York townhouse flat
And I ain’t done bad

Oh dear God, she’s a hooker. And a millionaire hooker at that. Her mom sent her off to be a hooker. I repeat, her mom sent her off to be a hooker while leaving a baby to die.

Now in this world there’s a lot of self-righteous hypocrites
That would call me bad
They criticize Mama for turning me out
No matter how little we had

Timeout. Again, your mom deserves every bit of criticism that comes her way. She spent “every last penny” to buy you a dress instead of paying rent or feeding that baby. Let’s estimate conservatively that this dress is $50, which goes a long way for feeding a baby. How much food could you buy for a baby with $50? But instead she bought you a dress. I mean, it all worked out for you in the end, but who knows what happened to that baby, which was taken by welfare people.

But though I ain’t had to worry ’bout nothin’ for nigh on fifteen years
Well, I can still hear the desperation in my poor Mama’s voice ringin’ in my ears

Yes, because that’s the important part to remember in all this, not to let your mom down if she ever  buys you a dress to turn you into a hooker instead of feeding a baby.

“Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.
Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down.”
Lord, forgive me for what I do
But if you want out well it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down
Now your Mama’s gonna move you uptown

Well, I guess she did

She did indeed. What a great song. 9.75/10.


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