My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review – Martina McBride – ‘Emotion’

220px-Martina_McBride_Emotion_album_coverFollowing the triple platinum success of Evolution, Martina McBride’s most consistent project to date singles-wise, didn’t prove an easy task. By the time “Whatever You Say” finished its chart run, the climate of mainstream country had changed. The traditional sounds of Patty Loveless and Vince Gill were gone, replaced by pop fare championed by Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain. And to keep up with the times McBride followed suit, releasing her sixth album Emotion, easily her slickest to date, in September 1999.

The changes worked. Lead single “I Love You,” an uptempo rocker by Keith Follesé (who also co-wrote McGraw’s “Something Like That”), Adrienne Follesé, and Tammy Hyle, not only topped the country charts for five weeks, but became a top 20 pop and adult contemporary hit as well. The popularity of the song, one of my favorites of her uptempo numbers, was only helped by its inclusion on the Soundtrack to the Julia Roberts and Richard Gere film Runaway Bride.

Second single “Love’s The Only House” brought McBride back to the “issue” songs she’s made her trademark. A top 5 hit, the song (written by Tom Douglas and Buzz Cason) touches upon the common denominator of love in various situations. Drenched in harmonica and electric guitars, it’s good but weird enough to turn some people off. I’ve never really loved it, although I’ve let it grow on me over the years.

Third single “There You Are,” a piano-laced pop ballad, wasn’t much better in quality, taking zero chances both vocally and thematically. The track, a  #10 peaking hit, was featured on the Where The Heart Is Soundtrack in mid-2000. Much better is the now largely forgotten fourth single, “It’s My Time.” Composed by Tammy Hyler, Billy Crain, and Kim Tribble, the up-tempo number is a throwback to the Way That I Am and Wild Angles days. It’s catchy, has a well-constructed story, and deserved better than its #11 peak at country radio.

I can see where people strongly dislike this album. In one release McBride went from a strong intellectual songstress to a purveyor of two-bit candy coated pop. The majority of the album tracks simply have nothing substantial to say, and this effort feels like a calculated move to reach Hill’s adult contemporary heights. Tracks like “Do What You Do,” “Make Me Believe” and “Anything and Everything” are dreck, empty filler. Thankfully “I Ain’t Going Nowhere” is catchy so it rises above the pack, but her less than engaged vocal fails to draw the audience in.

Luckily for the audience McBride hadn’t completely lost her sensibilities, and broke up the pop monotony with some well-chosen covers. Matraca Berg co-wrote “Anything’s Better Than Feeling The Blues,” a very good ticked off revenge number. Gretchen Peters wrote the album’s highlight “This Uncivil War,” a stunning play-on-theme relationship song comparing a couple’s battle to that of an actual war. Also strong is Patty Griffin’s “Goodbye,” although the recording would’ve been a knockout had McBride recorded a country vocal on it, opposed to imitating the sweet and breathy high notes favored by female pop singers.

Emotion is a very mixed bag; an album that feels like it was designed for soccer mom types who prefer their music light, airy, and void of substance. It’s by no means McBride’s worst recording, that would still be coming down the line in the decade to come. A good majority of the tracks are very, very strong and she deservedly won the 1999 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award based on the success of “I Love You.”

But I wish McBride had tried just a little harder to find stronger material that she could’ve sung with more energy. Even she sounds a little bored at times.

Grade: B 

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9 responses to “Album Review – Martina McBride – ‘Emotion’

  1. Razor X January 17, 2013 at 10:32 am

    This album was a huge disappointment. I wouldn’t have ranked it any higher than a C, possibly a C-.

  2. Michael A. January 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I absolutely love “This Uncivil War” and “Love’s the Only House” and “It’s My Time” were great singles. Despite being her most successful chart hit, “I Love You” has never done much for me.

  3. Ben Foster January 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    This was actually the first McBride album I ever heard, having discovered the CD at my local library years ago. I wouldn’t say it made me an instant fan, but it was enough to generate interest. I still unapologetically adore “I Love You,” and consider “Love’s the Only House” quite excellent as well. “There You Are” is far from being the strongest lyrically, but I always thought the melody had something strong going for it.

    It has been a long time since I heard the whole album, though, so I can’t make a case for or against its overall quality. I do remember it being peppered with occasional filler (“Do What You Do”? Eh…), and even though at that time I was far less immersed in the country genre than I am now, I do recall that I had a hard time thinking of the songs as “country.” I may have to revisit it sometime.

  4. Ben Foster January 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    By the way, Jonathan, which of McBride’s albums do you consider her worst? Or will we have to wait and see ;)

  5. Leeann Ward January 20, 2013 at 1:46 am

    I like “I Love You”, but could live without “Love’s the Only House.” “This Uncivil War” is decent, but the only song that I really love from this album is Patty Griffin’s “Goodbye.”

  6. Jordan Stacey January 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

    “Anything’s Better Than Feeling The Blues”, “Love’s The Only House”, “It’s My Time” & “This Uncivil War” are some of my favorite songs Martina’s done, it’s unfortunate that the rest of the album isn’t as strong. “Anything And Everything” in particular is such a forgettable song I’d easily rank it in the bottom 5 of her songs. I never did get into “I Love You” but it is catchy. This would rank as her worst album for me even with those highlights as I kinda liked “Wake Up Laughing” and “Shine” better.

  7. J.R. Journey January 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    This is a fair, if generous, review. I think this and her 2003 self-titled are Martina’s weakest albums, but I do like “This Uncivil War” and “Anything’s Better Than Feelin’ the Blues” quite a bit. I never cared for any of the singles from this release either. It’s been a while since I listened to the album and I don’t even remember “Goodbye”. I’ll have to revisit that one.

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