Editor's note: Brooks & Dunn's new compilation album, #1's ... And Then Some, was released Tuesday (Sept. 8).
How do those guys stay so young? And so thin? If Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn aren't wearing the same size jeans they donned at the outset of their career together, then they have the best photographers in the business.
Those of us who've watched Brooks & Dunn mushroom into one of the most potent forces in country music grieve to hear they've decided to split up after next year's tour. But they leave a sparkling legacy of music videos, 39 of which you can savor at CMT.com.
Picking the "best" one of these is like picking your favorite strand of pasta in a plate of spaghetti, which is to say they're all pretty good. So what we've done here is simply focus on a sampling from the duo's beginning, middle and (sigh!) what seems to be part of the final phases. In doing so, we've almost certainly ignored your own personal favorites. Please feel free to revile and belittle us for that oversight. (View all of the videos.)
"My Next Broken Heart" (1991) -- To the degree that they fall into character types in their videos, Dunn is usually the raw emotional nerve and Brooks the supportive buddy. Here, Dunn sprawls on a couch, staring at a rodeo on TV and feeling sorry for himself for having been dumped. Brooks rousts him out, takes him to a honky-tonk and shoves him back into the dating game. Lots of fun and great lyrics.
"Boot Scootin' Boogie" (1992) -- This is basically a performance video that announces Brooks & Dunn have arrived. Dressed sharply and playing to a packed club audience, they sing in front of a large Brooks & Dunn logo that would become their trademark.
"Lost and Found" (1992) -- Brooks sings the lead on this one as he and Dunn edge their way through the crowded streets of a Mexican border town, looking for the elusive femme fatale that has to be somewhere close by. Infested with colorful characters.
"Rock My World (Little Country Girl)" (1993) -- "World" is the key word here, what with the wide-open spaces, space shots and maps. But the most prominent single element is the Brooks & Dunn stylized cow skull that seems to take on a life of its own.
"A Man This Lonely" (1996) -- To emphasize loneliness, they're the only people who appear in this video. The background appears to be an empty fort on an otherwise barren desert. Dunn looks as forlorn as the lyrics suggest.
"If You See Him/If You See Her" (1998) -- Brooks is the common shoulder Reba McEntire and Dunn alternately cry on. Each wants to convey through him a message of conciliation to the other. But in the end, each chickens out and tells Brooks to keep their laments to himself, thus leaving him with the burden of realizing what might have been. The only puzzling thing about the video is the scene in which Brooks sits and plays a grand piano. Maybe it's because the emotions have reached an operatic level.
"Missing You" (1999) -- If you thought "A Man This Lonely" was desolate, you ought to check this one out. As Dunn stands unconnected in a phone booth, a stripper, a bartender and other creatures of the night stare vacantly into the darkness. For them, something is clearly missing.
"Proud of the House We Built" (2007) -- In this tribute to domestic endurance, B&D and their band play in an open field as couples of all ages stream in around them, each carrying a banner that signifies their uniqueness. Together, the banners coalesce into a colorful wall.
"Cowgirls Don't Cry" (2008) -- Reba returns to B&D territory to play the role of a woman whose father had taught her to be tough as a rider and who now must be even tougher as the divorced mother of a young daughter. The two members of the duo are the strolling minstrels who chronicle this activity.
"Indian Summer" ( 2009) -- A bittersweet song and video for a bittersweet time Brooks & Dunn's trajectory. It's the classic story of the football player, the cheerleader and the unplanned pregnancy that ensues. She tells him she's leaving town, and he impulsively agrees to go with her. But he doesn't. So she moves from their little "dust bowl town" to the beaches of California, there to bear and raise their child. The footballer is left with only the fleeting glory of his last touchdown. Brooks & Dunn are strictly peripheral presences here.
But, man, do they look thin!