Saturday, October 15, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1593: Martina McBride

After a few days listening to Ghost this next review was a bit of a shock to the system.

Disc 1593 is…. Greatest Hits

Artist: Martina McBride

Year of Release: 2001 but featuring music from 1993-2001

What’s up with the Cover?  A very enthusiastic Martina McBride. This cover needs to turn the enthusiasm down about three notches, because that look on her face makes me feel like I’ve accidentally walked into one of those all-day timeshare seminars, or maybe a Tupperware party.

Side note, while this cover doesn’t fully show it, Martina McBride has the bluest eyes in musicdom. I’m talking Paul Newman-level awesome. Don’t take my word for it, though – just check out the video for “Whatever You Say” See what I mean? BLUE.

How I Came To Know It: Martina McBride is a pretty big deal in the mainstream country world, and for about ten years there she was hard to avoid. Over time, enough of her songs stuck in my head that when I saw this album available for dirt cheap at the local record store I decided to give it a go.

How It Stacks Up: Greatest hits records don’t stack up because they aren’t ‘real’ records, at least not as far as I see it. If you look up the best albums of all time on Rolling Stone magazine you’ll find they feel differently, but they are horribly wrong in both this, and many other things. Thank goodness you came here for your musical advice instead.

Ratings: Best of records don’t have ratings because they are not real records. Seriously, we just covered this.

Mainstream nineties country music is not typically my jam but every now and then someone comes along with a voice that makes me give it a second chance. Martina McBride has one of those voices, and while I don’t always like her song choices there’s no avoiding that she sings the hell out of them.

McBride’s Greatest Hits record has 19 tracks, which is a hell of a lot of something that is not your jam. The more so that I bought this because I really like two of her songs and decided to gamble I’d like enough of the other ones. Did this gamble pay off? Reader, it did not.

But lest I lead you wholly into despair, let’s start with the good stuff. “Independence Day” is a perfect song. Narratively it is brilliant, telling the story of a young girl with an abusive father, and the sacrifice mother makes to put an end to the situation. I won’t cheapen it by quoting the lyrics, I’ll just say that when McBride peels out that chorus it will cause you to throw your fist in the air in triumph, even as it causes a lump in your throat.

The other tune is not as objectively brilliant, but I love it all the same. “Whatever You Say” is bolstered by some sweet violin flourishes, but as songs go it is pretty by the book, with lyrics that will not surprise you. However, when McBride hits that chorus her voice blows the God damn doors off. I always want to sing along, but within a note or two it is painfully clear I can’t keep up. That’s OK, just mouth along silently and it will feel like you’ve got the voice of an angel.

As for the rest of the record, there are a whole lot of schmaltzy mid-nineties country songs with very obvious messages. McBride’s first hit, 1993’s “My Baby Loves Me” is a good example. It starts out with an almost “Born in the USA” vibe, but don’t let it fool you. You are about to be treated to a whole lot of vacuous rhyming couplets about how much her baby loves her. I admit this song is pop-country genius, with a hook that won’t be denied and an inoffensive running time of 2:34 which means its over before you start getting bored with all the rhymes (although only just). However, that doesn’t mean I need to hear it anywhere other than in the background while I’m grocery shopping.

Happy Girl” is another bit of sugar pop that you will secretly enjoy, but it is empty calories, and the main thing that is happening is Martina McBride’s voice is fooling you into thinking it is worth your time.

In the end, I did find a couple of other tunes (“A Broken Wing” and “When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues”) that have lasting appeal. Both were hits and again I was reminded what a hit machine McBride was through the nineties. But despite McBride being one of the great vocalists in country music history, there were too few songs that inspired me in a sustained way.

Best tracks: Independence Day, A Broken Wing, Whatever You Say, When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues

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