Wrtten by Kelby Floerke. 4 November 2015
Referred to as “The King of Country Music”, George Strait is one of the most well known country music artists and has been for many years. George Strait’s music career began when he was stationed in Hawaii while enlisted in the army. In the 1980s, he signed a contract with MCA records where his career skyrocketed over the next thirty years. Strait was known for producing classic country music, rooting back to that western swing sound. Arguably one of his best singles, “Check yes or no”, was released on the album Strait Out of the Box making the album one of the biggest-selling boxed albums in country music.
At the #1 seat for four weeks, “Check Yes or No”, performed by one of country music’s finest, George Strait sings about a relationship between two people who have been together since childhood. This song appears on numerous albums including, Strait out of the Box, For the Last Time, 50 Number Ones, Best Of and lastly in 2011 on The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium. In 1996, this song was awarded the CMA Single of the Year, a big win for both George Strait and the songwriters, Dana Hunt Black and Danny Wells.
The song, “Check yes or no”, begins with an intro that has a guitar and drums playing to set the tone for the song – the listeners find out the song is going to be fun and fast paced, a song that people will want to get up and two-step to!
Strait was forced to compete with artists such as, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn and many more artists throughout the 90s. “Check yes or no” allowed Strait to connect to his audience on multiple levels, making him one of the most influential artist of the 90s.
The first verse gives us background information on the two characters Strait is singing about. We are introduced to two young characters that we find out were friends at their elementary school. This song is sung from a boy’s perspective, which we infer that the boy is compassionate because he is reminiscing thoughtfully on a childhood memory. Strait creates imagery in the audiences mind with the lines: “It started way back in third grade/ I used to sit beside Emmilou Hayes/ A pink dress, a matching bow, and her pony tail/ She kissed me on the school bus/ But told me not to tell.” As the audience hears this, we picture the ease between the two characters and their relationship. The kids are carefree and we think of that stereotypical “young love”. The verse concludes by telling us that the young girl passes the young boy a note at school and then the chorus begins. I describe Straits’ voice in this section to sound sincere, he is trying to convey to his audience the friendliness between the two characters.
Strait reaches out to an audience that is able to relate to the grade school love experienced by the characters. In the article, Story Behind the Song: “Check yes or no”, songwriter Danny Wells states: “I had wanted to write a cute song that talked about grade school love for a long time,” she continues. “I remembered things like passing notes in grade school.” The audience is able to reflect on a sense of nostalgia and the simplicity of young love. This sense of remembrance can be seen through a YouTube comment, Marialyce Boudreau states: “So cute! Took me right back to my younger school years, back in Maine. 150 student one building school where we all knew and loved each other.” Being able to relate to the audience allowed for this song to be so successful and enjoyed by its listeners.
As the song goes on we find out in the chorus what exactly that note said. Emmilou, the young girls name in the song, writes the boy asking if he would want to be friends with her. She tells him that if he does, that he shouldn’t be afraid to tell her he loves her. The note concludes by telling him to check either the “yes” or “no” box depending on his feelings. Up until this part of the song, we see the simplicity of the two characters friendship. We also hear a female harmony vocal in the background, which would make sense because the note is written from the girl. It is important to note because it sets the scene for the story in the verse’s to come.
The next couple of seconds is an instrumental interlude, which paves the way for the next verse.
In verse two, the story continues where we find out that the characters got married. He references how their love for each other now is just like how it was when they were children, simplistic and very much in love. We are informed that many years have passed due to the fact the Strait mentions that even after 20 years, Emmilou still “gets to him”. We see the compassion that the man has for his relationship with his wife. The verse ends by us hearing how their relationship began all with a simple note written during grade school.
We then hear the chorus again telling us how the two characters began their relationship. We also hear in this part of the chorus a single woman in the background with a harmony vocal. I think this part of the song is supposed to symbolize Emmilou, the character in the song. We notice at the end of the chorus when Strait sings, “check yes or no”, that “no” is sung higher than in the first verse. We assume this is done for the purpose that there will not be another verse in the song and that the song is going to differ than what it has been since the song first began.
We then hear an instrumental interlude once again indicating that we will hear the chorus again.
The chorus is sung again for the purpose of reiterating the main gist of the story being told. This is the part in the song where the audience most likely knows the majority of the words, they are able to sing along and even dance to the song. It is the catchiest and incorporates the name of the song, “check yes or no”.
We hear yet another instrumental interlude, paving way for something else to happen in the song.
Towards the end of the song, we hear what we call a refrain where the line “check yes or no” is repeated four times.
At the end of the song we hear an outro, indicating to us that the song is winding down and coming to a close.
“Check Yes or No” is the definition of a classic country song. The lyrics incorporate many stereotypes that people associate with country music as well as many things that the audience of country music can relate to. The stereotype of marrying your high school sweetheart, or in this case your third grade sweetheart, is one that many small town people have experienced first hand or know many people who have done so. By connecting to the audience through this song is the main reason as to why it was, and still is, so successful. We admire George Strait for the many classics he has produced and keeping country music, country music, especially with one of his greatest singles, “Check Yes or No”.
|0:00-0:12||Intro||Guitar||Sets the tone of the song – upbeat and fun|
|0:12-0:46||Verse 1||“It started way back in third grade”||Giving background information on the characters and how they know each other|
|0:46-1:12||Chorus||“Do you love me? Do you wanna be my friend?”||Stating what was written in the note|
|1:12-1:17||Instrumental Interlude||Sounds like intro||Paves way for the second verse|
|1:17-1:50||Verse 2||“Now we’re grown up and she’s my wife”||Continues the story about the characters, telling us that they are now married|
|1:50-2:15||Chorus||“Do you love me? Do you wanna be my friend?”||Telling us how their relationship began with the note Emmy Lou wrote|
|2:15-2:21||Instrumental Interlude||Sounds like intro||Paves way for chorus to be sung again|
|2:21-2:45||Chorus||“Do you love me? Do you wanna be my friend?”||Restates what was said on the note|
|2:45-2:49||Instrumental Interlude||Sounds like intro||Paves way for refrain|
|2:49-2:58||Refrain||“Check yes or no” repeated||Tells us the simplicity of their love – “check yes or no”|
|2:58-3:17||Outro||Sounds like intro||Winding down and the song is coming to a close|
Carlson, Jill. “STORY BEHIND THE SONG:.” Nash Country Weekly. Nash Country for Life, 8 Mar. 2004. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Tipping, Joy. “George Strait Sets a U.S. Concert-attendance Record in a Musically Superb, Star-laden Show.” Pop Culture Blog. Guide Live, 8 June 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Addison, Daryl. “GAC’s Top 10 Artists Who Defined the ’90s.” Great American Country. Scripps Network, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.
Biography.com Editors. “George Strait Biography.” The Biography.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
Boudreau, Marialyce. “George Strait – Check Yes or No” Youtube. YouTube, 8 Oct. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.