Saturday, March 19, 2011

Martina McBride, "Teenage Daughters"

For the past decade, this four-time CMA Female Vocalist Award winner has mostly been delivering commercially safe offerings such as power ballads, female empowerment anthems, and songs of domestic bliss.  The title of her new single may have had you expected one from the latter category.  But in fact, "Teenage Daughters" - Martina's first release for Republic Nashville - is perhaps her edgiest single since the late nineties.

Martina draws on her own mothering experiences in this quirky, witty portrayal of the struggles of raising teenage girls.  She describes the shift in the parent-child relationship as teenage girls enter the phase in which they would like for their parents to disappear out of their lives, also addressing their persistent quest for independence. 

Releasing a song like this is a gutsy move at a time when mainstream country music is becoming increasingly obsessed with a youthful image.  These days, young platinum blonde sorority girls are often favored over veteran female hitmakers such as Martina.  But instead of trying to act younger than she really is (a la Reba McEntire), Martina releases a song that unashamedly and unmistakably identifies her as a member of the over-40 crowd, and addresses the issues faced by adult women, which makes the song feel real and authentic.

Good as the song is, however, the treatment leaves a small stain on it.  Martina's vocal delivery sounds a bit affected, as if imitating the voice of another singer.  To say the least, she doesn't quite sound like herself.  That characteristic, along with some rather intrustive-sounding guitar work, takes some of the shine off of "Teenage Daughters."

Fortunately, the song triumphs thanks to its deftly accurate and subtly charming treatment of its subject matter, as well as the fact that it resists the temptation to devolve into saccharinity.  In some ways, it could have been even better, but it's still a strong single in its own right.  It displays a newfound level of inspiration in the artist delivering it, and hints at the possibility of more good things in store on Martina's forthcoming album.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)