Happy birthday to LeAnn Rimes, who celebrates her 40th birthday on Sunday (Aug. 28). Over the course of more than two decades and more than two dozen major label studio album releases, Rimes has proven herself not only as one of music’s most exquisite vocalists and song interpreters, but also as a heartfelt songwriter.
Rimes is gearing up to release a new album, god’s work, on Sept. 16. Here, Billboard looks back at 10 of her essential tracks.
In 1996, Rimes landed her breakthrough hit with this throwback composition, which Bill Mack originally wrote for Patsy Cline. Though just 13 at the time she recorded this, Rimes sounded and looked mature beyond her years, her teardrop vocal drawing instant comparison to the late Cline. “Blue” soared into the top 10 on Billboard’s Country charts and in 1997 earned Rimes Grammy wins in the all-genre best new artist category, as well as the trophy for best female country vocal performance, making her one of the youngest Grammy winners ever.
“Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way”
Rimes turns in a stunningly aching vocal performance on this ballad of a woman mourning the death of a lover, the second single released from her 2005 album This Woman.
“One Way Ticket (Because I Can)”
Rimes earned a two-week No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay hit in 1996 with the free-spirited, third single released from her debut album, Blue.
“What I Cannot Change’
The final single from Rimes’ 2007 album Family, “What I Cannot Change” is a meditation on acceptance and forgiveness in relationships. Rimes’ vocal rendering is introspectively restrained, mournful yet centered. The song earned Rimes a best female country vocal performance Grammy nomination in 2009.
“You Light Up My Life”
The title track to Rimes’ 1997 album You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs is a cover of “You Light Up My Life,” a song originally recorded by Kasey Cisyk and made popular by Debby Boone.
“How Do I Live”
In 1997, Rimes earned only modest chart success in the country format due to Trisha Yearwood’s rendition of the same song (Yearwood’s version was used in the movie Con-Air), but Rimes earned an enduring juggernaut of a pop hit with this ballad, which entrenched itself at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though it just missed the top slot, the song had massive staying power. Now, 25 years after its release, it still resides at No. 6 on the Greatest of all Time Hot 100 Songs, marking the highest ranking on the chart by a female artist. The song also netted Rimes a Grammy nomination for best female country vocal performance.
“I Need You”
In 2000, three years following her You Light Up My Life album of inspirational songs, Rimes recorded this anthemic track for the project Jesus: Music From and Inspired by the Epic Mini Series. Later it was included as the title track for a Rimes compilation album released by Curb Records. “I Need You” spent 25 weeks on Billboard‘s Hot 100, rising to No. 11.
“Nothin’ Better to Do”
In the lead single from her 2007 album Family, Rimes took fans deep into this swampy, bluesy groove for a deliciously defiant tale of a mischievous group of young adults in the deep backwoods with nothing but time on their hands. This track also earned Rimes a Grammy nomination for best female country vocal performance.
“Can’t Fight the Moonlight”
While “How Do I Live” and “I Need You” first proved Rimes’ massive crossover appeal, this Diane Warren-penned theme song to the movie Coyote Ugly from 2000 was a full-fledged, danceable pop hit that served as evidence of an artist just beginning to shed her child phenom status to evolve into a mature entertainer and performer. Rimes appeared as herself in the film, singing and dancing alongside actress Piper Perabo. (Rimes also provided the singing voice for Perabo’s character throughout the film.)
“Long Live Love”
From her 2016 album Remnants, this track earned Rimes her second No. 1 on Billboard‘s Dance Club Songs chart and is a pop vocal tour de force, wrapped in an irresistible dance groove.