Faith Hill

Cry

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Lavishly produced and packaged, Cry marks the continued ascent of Faith Hill from the lowlands of down-home authenticity to the heights of pop superstardom. Though plenty of Nashville A-team players back her up, the sound they churn out has almost nothing to do with country music. Riding a tide of massed synthesizer textures, sweeping orchestral strings, thundering drums, rock guitar licks, and melodramatic dynamics, Hill strives for the biggest possible gestures in her performance. The result is the kind of glitzy fireworks normally associated with Star Search or American Idol, in which the lyric takes a distant backseat to raw exhibitionism and only the most cursory nod is made toward country lyrical convention. (The nod is particularly schizoid in "This Is Me," as Hill proclaims, "I try to love Jesus and myself...yeah, yeah.") Beyond the general issue of taste, this approach raises twofold problems for Hill in particular, in that her established skills as a song interpreter are lost in all this sturm und drang and her voice, while undeniably powerful at its peak, doesn't have the range that allows most singers in this style, from proto-diva Barbra Streisand to flameout icon Mariah Carey, to at least milk the material at some superficial level. With all this in mind, it may be significant that Tim McGraw, a guest on previous Hill albums, makes no appearance here. Perhaps there's no room for country credibility, or even for a spouse, when one's career trajectory is as hot as Hill's.

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