Thursday, May 26, 2005

So Faith Hill's back, and apparently she wants to atone for her I-all-but-gave-up-country-to-be-a-bigger-pop-star-than-Shania sins, if her new single's any indication (plus, rumor has it that her forthcoming album Fireflies is as country as Cry wasn't). "Mississippi Girl" has vaulted into the top 20 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart in just two-count-'em-two weeks, largely because it's a fair representation of why folks feel in love with Faith in the first place. She's no one's puppet, but an independent woman with a stunning gift of a voice who grew up just like you - well, maybe not, but she certainly proves the theory that damned near anyone with some talent and moxie can become a superstar (roles in Hollywood films! Married to Tim McGraw! I mean, really, what more could you want?). So this "Girl" is country-pop, if that - it's closer to just plain country, but with Faith sometimes it's hard to be sure, and it sounds great on the radio. However, some (including me) might question the wiseness of releasing a single, let alone an album-launching one, all about how you're "jes' folks" even though you sang at the Oscars and were in The Stepford Wives, et cetera. We'll see how successful the single is, but this much is certain: if the album bears any resemblance to its first single, Nashville (and country fans across the country) is about to say, "Good to have you back, Ms. Hill."

The lead contenders for 2005's country rookies of the year, at least commercially speaking, so far are Sugarland, a girl-boy-girl trio with one female who looks alarmingly like Sharon Gless (she's not the lead singer), and one who's pretty, albeit in a conventional way (she is). Their debut single, "Baby Girl," is nearly vomit-inducing for me, 3 minutes of claptrap that goes nowhere and gets there too damned slowly. But the follow-up, "Something More," well, is. Granted, its lyrics aren't exactly anything new: it's basically another "I've gotta live, rather than let life get to me" tune, but it's sung rather ebulliently, sounds really really great coming out of a car radio on a sunny day, and its chorus features the word "bliss," which you just don't hear enough in country songs. Or any songs, for that matter. So let's say they're 1-for-2 so far, and see where they take it from here.

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