Faith Hill portrait Bah, humbug. Faith Hill pretty much epitomizes all that went wrong with Top Forty country in the end of the Twentieth Century: basically, it went Pop. I mean, yes, I am aware that people complained about the pop-vocals crossovers of the "Nashville Sound" in the 1950s and '60s, and of countrypolitan scene in the '70s, and of the use of synths and drum machines in the '80s... But this stuff is so very much worse. The adoption of Whitney Houston-esque soul vocals and bombastic, over-the-top pop production into the Nashville mix has been a huge disaster and Hill, as much as anyone else, is one of the worst offenders. (Not to mention her hubbie, Tim McGraw, who has recorded more than his fair share of country-pop songs too... Obviously, Hill became one of the hugest stars in the world, but album sales aren't everything. I have a hard time taking this stuff seriously as "country," but then again nobody asked me. Anyway, here's a look at her work...


Faith Hill "Take Me As I Am" (Warner, 1993)
(Produced by Scott Hendricks)

Her debut remains one of her stronger albums, with relatively rootsy production, and a few weepers where she sounds like Crystal Gayle, and twangier tunes where she kinda cuts loose. It's not country music that I'd go out of my way to listen to, but compared to her later work, it's worth checking out...

Faith Hill "It Matters To Me" (Warner Brothers, 1995)
(Produced by Scott Hendricks & Faith Hill)

A fairly strong album, with plenty of guitar-based, glossy tunes, sounding much rootsier than her later albums. Her vocals are kinda clunky and Reba-ish, but frankly that's far preferable to the soul diva style she adopted later on... A little imperfection sure can help keep things country! She drifts into slick stuff, but the opening tracks -- "Someone Else's Dream," "Let's Go To Vegas" -- are pretty perky and straightforward... Wish she'd done more stuff like that before she went all "pop."

Faith Hill "Faith" (Warner, 1998)
(Produced by Byron Gallimore, Dan Huff & Faith Hill)

Yeesh. She sure takes her sweet time sliding into anything remotely resembling "country music" on here; and the impression doesn't last long, amid the overwrought would-be soul diva material. Terrible, wailing guitars (and vocals) on "Better Days"; other songs follow a similar path. It used to be that Nashville would balance out the poppier stuff with a little plain-old twangy material, but by this point they seem to have said "why bother?" To which many would reply, "then why call it country?"

Faith Hill "Breathe" (Warner Brothers, 1999)
(Produced by Byron Gallimore, Dan Huff & Faith Hill)

A solid, if swoopingly mainstream, pop album, with some slight country traces left in the mix... She's sounding awfully Sheryl Crow-ish, with some sweetened trills here and there that soften what mild roughness is left. One of the album's center pieces is a relentlessly sappy duet with Tim McGraw ("Let's Make Love") that evokes nothing so much as "You Decorated My Life"-era Kenny Rogers. This album is so aggressively "pop" that really I struggled to find material off this album that would fit into a "women in country" station; sure, there are some pedal steel and violin riffs laced into the songs, but it's really pretty far afield from the stuff that cam before. I did kinda like the soft ballad, "It Will Be Me," but that was about it as far as I'm concerned...

Faith Hill "There You'll Be" (Warner, 2001)
Faith Hill "There You'll Be" (Warner-Japan, 2001)
(Produced by Byron Gallimore & Faith Hill)

UGH. A relentlessly cheesy, Australian-edition collection of soundtrack tunes and other one-offs, mostly with a horrid synthpop/wannabee whitegirl soul diva vibe. Besides the fact that this music is irredeemably tacky, Hill simply does not have the vocal chops to pull it off. It's terrible! And her cover of Janis Joplin's "Piece Of My Heart..."? Give me a break. This so totally bites. The Japanese version has something different about it... but do I really care? Um, no.

Faith Hill "Cry" (Warner, 2002)
(Produced by Byron Gallimore, Marti Fredrickson, Dan Huff & Faith Hill)

It's, um, really stretching things to call this album "country..." Glossy, yes... country, no. Like many of her late-1990s contemporaries, Hill has been radically shifting her sound, trying to dig into the territory that Madonna and Celine Dion made so profitable. But will her country fans finally say, "hey! we've had enough!! make an actual country album, for gosh's sake!" and abandon their soul-warbling idol? Probably not -- with the marketing weight of Nashville behind her, Hill could start playing German oom-pah music, and no one looking at the Billboard charts would be able to tell the difference. She'd still sell a million force-fed copies, no matter what. But this soul-pop pablum ain't country. Not by a longshot.

Faith Hill "Fireflies" (Warner, 2005)

Faith Hill "Joy To The World" (Warner Brothers, 2008)
A holiday album... Ho, ho, ho!! (See my Country Christmas section.)


Faith Hill "The Hits" (Warner, 2007)



Hick Music Index

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