Sunday, October 17, 2010

Top Ten Greatest Women of the Nineties, #5 - Faith Hill

To one whose knowledge of country music history reaches back no further than 2005, Faith Hill's primary claim to fame may seem to be her celebrated marriage to Tim McGraw.  But back in her heyday, this blond bombshell racked up eight number one country hits, three number one albums, and sold over 25 million records, thus becoming one of the best-selling female artists in country music history.

With a voice as big as Texas, this Mississippi girl could convey a spectrum of a emotions with a single note.  Each performance was perfectly polished with the most charming pop-country hook.

Faith burst onto the country scene in 1993 with her smash hit debut single, "Wild One," which quickly shot up to the top of the charts.  With "Wild One," Faith became only the fourth female artist in history to take her debut single to number one.  "Wild One" spent a total of four weeks at the top of the charts, making Faith the first female artist in 30 years to achieve the feat.  The runaway success of the single helped push the accompanying album Take Me As I Am to sales of 3 million.  Thus, Faith Hill quickly became a bona fide star, winning the ACM Award for Top New Female Vocalist in 1993.

[Note:  The Official Faith Hill YouTube channel does not allow embedding of her music videos, so they cannot be included in this post, but I have included links that you may click in order to view them]

The recording of Faith's sophomore effort had to be put on hold as she underwent surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel in her vocal cords.  But that ordeal ended up being a blessing in disguise, as it gave Faith more time to refine her song selection for the album.  In 1995, she returned just as strong as ever with her triple-platinum sophomore album It Matters to Me.  The emotional title track become her fourth number-one hit.

In the spring of 1996, Faith was engaged to marry her former producer Scott Hendricks.  But that changed when she went on the Spontaneous Combustion tour with country singer Tim McGraw, and the two stars found themselves very much attracted to each other.  Faith soon broke off her engagement, and began dating Tim McGraw.  By the time the tour ended, the couple had become engaged.  They were married on October 6, 1996.

At that point, Faith took a three-year break from touring and recording in order to start a family with Tim.  But during this period, she did add her voice to the single "It's Your Love," from Tim's album Everywhere.  The song became a six-week number one smash - the longest-running number-one single since Waylon Jennings' "Luckenbach, Texas" - and won the CMA Award for Vocal Event of the Year.  This was not to be the last time that this pair would duet together, but it was the moment when the world was introduced to one of country music's royal couples.

It was with Faith's third album, simply titled Faith, that she began courting crossover pop success.  She made a triumphant return to the top of the charts in 1998 with "This Kiss," an ultra-catchy musical expression of just-fell-in-love ecstasy and energy.  In addition to topping the country charts, "This Kiss" became Faith's first-ever Top 10 pop hit. 

The song's music video was highly advanced for the time, featuring extensive use of computer-generated imagery.  "This Kiss" remains one of Faith's best-remembered music videos, having won several awards for its creativity.  On the 1998 CMA Awards show, Faith performed the song while dancing in a giant flower, in keeping with the video's garden theme.  That year, Faith also won the first of her three ACM trophies for Top Female Vocalist, and "This Kiss" won ACM Awards for Single of the Year and Song of the Year.


The Faith album produced another number-one hit with its third single "Let Me Let Go," which featured harmony vocals from Vince Gill, and appeared on the soundtrack to the film Message In a Bottle


Faith's fourth album was hurriedly released in 1999 in order to capitalize on her newfound success as a pop star.  Faith closed out the nineties decade on a high note with the most commercially successful album of her career, the 8x platinum-selling Breathe.

Faith won three Grammy Awards for the album Breathe - Best Country Album, Best Country Collaboration with Vocals ("Let's Make Love," with Tim McGraw), and Best Female Country Vocal Performance ("Breathe").

Faith delivered the quintessential pop-country power ballad with the album's title track, which topped the country charts for four weeks, and became a massive international pop hit.  Even today, "Breathe" is regarded as Faith Hill's signature song.

The song's music video was controversial due to shots of Faith in a bed, but that didn't stop it from winning the 1999 CMA Award for Music Video of the Year.


After the turn of the millennium, Faith scored several more hits from her Breathe album.  She released her first full-fledged pop album in 2002 with Cry.  Though country radio was cool toward the project, its singled did receive some airplay on pop radio.  Faith returned to country music with her 2005 set Fireflies - possibly her strongest and most distinctly country album to date.

Faith has lately been on hiatus from recording, though she has announced her intentions to record a new album in the near future.  Until then, we shall eagerly wait to see what kind of music this exceptionally talented lady will give us next.