Martina McBride – “Teenage Daughters”

Blake Boldt | March 15th, 2011

Martina McBrideSongwriters: Martina McBride and the Warren Brothers

“Teenage Daughters,” the first single from Martina McBride’s forthcoming studio album, is her gutsiest career move in years. The four-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year hasn’t had as much commercial success since Timeless, her 2005 album of classic country songs. With her debut for Republic Nashville, McBride acknowledges that she’s a full-grown woman with full-blown issues at a time when Music Row seems to be fearing such a revelation.

“Daughters” discusses the turning point when teenagers wish their parents would disappear from the face of the earth. The sudden shift in mother-child dynamic has a jarring effect on McBride, and at first the singer sounds miffed at her daughter’s desire for independence: “I ain’t complaining but I’m tired, so I’m just saying what I think/If we’re being honest, then honestly, I think I need a drink.” But after years of watching her daughters grow, McBride has learned a thing or two about being a mother. In fact, she knows a fool-proof trick for gaining the crucial upper hand: “She rolls her eyes when I’m funny, but she’s sweet when she wants money and her freedom.”

Given the right treatment, “Daughters” would be one of the biggest winners of the year. Where it totally falls apart is in the performance and the production.

The beginning of “Daughters” is reminiscent of Southern Gothic recordings from the Seventies, and then settles into a comfortable groove with zigs and zags of electric guitar. But before the final chorus, the volatile sound of that instrument—cranked up to 11—feels misplaced and doesn’t match the song’s sharp, restrained commentary. Even worse is the percussive nature of the plodding drums, an odd undercurrent that sounds too generic for a major-label track.

What’s so markedly different about “Daughters” is in the delivery. McBride’s polished pipes have always been impressive; her vocal clout can overwhelm sometimes, but she often dials back that sunny soprano to let her powerful messages stand front and center.

It’s really interesting, then, to hear McBride’s singing on “Daughters.” Instead of sounding like her usual self, she gives her best impersonation of an aggrieved Nineties pop-rock diva in the mold of Paula Cole or Courtney Love. In the chorus, her voice has a whiny, exaggerated effect that distracts from the fun, intelligent story she’s telling. When McBride sings the title line, you imagine her saluting the audience with devil horns and squishing her face to feign agony. The most natural, comfortable notes end up being a few melodic “doo-doo-doo-doo”s during the bridge.

While most songs about parenthood spiral into a mushy ending, “Daughters” is a witty and accurate portrayal of what it means to be a parent. Among the mindless dreck at country radio, it at least has heart and presents a smart argument for including women of a certain age on the airwaves. But this track, bogged down by a weird arrangement and an even weirder performance, is a misguided effort.

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  1. Ben Foster
    March 15, 2011 at 8:23 am

    I found I didn’t mind the arrangement with all the electric guitar as much as I thought I might, but I did find the performance a bit weird. Martina almost sounds like she’s faking a Jersey accent. I’m reserving judgment for now, but this one might grow on me after a while. At any rate, I’m glad Martina’s back.

  2. AtlantaFan
    March 15, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Not sure what to think of this one. I agree with Blake on the last big electric guitar solo. That kind of sound you find on an Eric Church record, not a Martina record.

    Having reared 2 teenagers (one daughter) I can relate to most of the lyrics, especially the part about honestly needing a drink. However, drinking is the last thing you need to be doing. If you’re drinking YOU won’t be able to tell if they have been drinking and driving. Or if they aren’t driving yet, you can’t be drinking and then have to pick them up from the mall, the movies or their friends’ houses. Thank goodness I am past that.

    Getting back to Martina, I’m interested in hearing her new music. I’m ho hum about this single, but maybe it will improve with more listens.

  3. Thomas
    March 15, 2011 at 10:16 am

    …if this song is representative of the whole album, then a good release date would be perhaps: second half of 2089.

  4. Mike Parker
    March 15, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Heck… I kind of like that. Definitely kind of a throwback melody- it reminded me of something from the 70s, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

  5. Fizz
    March 15, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Mike, just about everythingon country radio is reminiscent of “something from the ’80’s.”

    Cranked to 11? Nah, more like 7.

    Not into mommy songs, but thanks for the sermon about alcohol, AtlantaFan.

  6. Jon G.
    March 15, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Haha wow…Did Martina have that drink before she recorded?

    Mike Parker’s “I couldn’t quite put my finger on it” comment would sum up my overall feelings about the track. I think I’m going to commandeer it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. [There! I did it!] I’m mystified by some of the choices made.

    It is a rather distractingly un-McBride-esque delivery. And I agree that the production is generic. I’d like to hear someone do a cover of this song. I really do think it could succeed spectacularly with ‘the right treatment’…like a completely overhauled production and a different singer. I somehow get the impression that a man would sound good singing this. Honestly, I’m not sure why I think that. But a Trace Adkins or Rodney Atkins or even Kevin Fowler kind of voice seems more comfortable with it…Curiouser and curiouser.

    Oh, well. There’s probably someone out there who needs to hear this song in any form. And I’m sure there are plenty who like “Teenage Daughters” just fine as is. I just don’t count myself among them.

  7. J.R. Journey
    March 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I think you hit it just right with your comments about McBride’s singing on this track. Her vocals sound a lot like what I used to hear on indie-rock albums – I hear a sort of stilted She and Him influence in her singing.

    I still wouldn’t have given it a thumbs down though. I hear a clever lyric performed over a memorable, if chunky and scattered, arrangement. Thanks to this single, I’m more interested in her new music than I have been the past several albums.

  8. Fizz
    March 15, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Yeah, Jon G., Rodney Atkins can sing it when he gets done menacing his daughter’s boyfriends.

  9. Jon G.
    March 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Haha. Well. Let’s him the benefit of the doubt, since that was an album and some ago.

  10. CountryFan
    March 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    This is just more of the same that Martina has been doing for the past 10 years… songs about little girls and abused women.

  11. Leeann Ward
    March 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Hmmm…I like this one. I fully expected not to though.

  12. Occasional Hope
    March 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I like the lyric, but not the production. But it’s the most interesting thing Martina’s done in years.

  13. Tim W
    March 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Huge misstep for Martina. Her production of songs is always flawless. This sounds like an amateur is singing. The lyrics are ok, not the best, but decent. However, the lack of melody, rhythm or catchiness to this song makes it a dud. After thoroughly enjoying the last two Martina Mcbride albums, I will not buy the new one based off of this song!

  14. Thomas
    March 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    @ mike parker

    …it starts out like merle’s “are the good times really over for good”.

  15. Noeller
    March 15, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    She lost me at the “doo doo doo’s” — the Paula Cole comparison was apt!

    I’ve always considered myself a fan of Martina, but I gotta tell ya, it’s been a long time since I’ve really liked one of her singles.

  16. Paul W Dennis
    March 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    This is actually the first Martina single in a while that I can stand. It’s not great, but I’d give it a mild upward thumb

  17. Joe
    March 16, 2011 at 12:02 am

    I definitely hope the rest of the album is more interesting than this first single, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. McBride really needs to mix things up at this point. She’s a great singer but has been working the same formula for too long. I felt like this was the first time we’ve heard an edge in her voice in a long time. She’s got the pipes and seems to be turning back to a more stripped down production style. I think the real kicker will be whether she picks the right material. She’d be well advised to follow the lead set by Faith or Trisha’s last albums, in my opinion.

  18. Thomas
    March 16, 2011 at 5:08 am

    …today, i found myself “do-do-do-doing” – more catchy than i thought after the first couple of spins and the drink remark at the end is a splendid “drunken martina” hint. great sense of humour by martina mcbride.

  19. plaase
    March 16, 2011 at 5:28 am

    This is her worst single. I hope album is better.fingers crossed

  20. Carla
    March 16, 2011 at 6:57 am

    “Misguided attempt” hits the nail on the head for me.

    The Sheryl Crow-esque style is something I don’t care for from any artist (especially Sheryl Crow). So…no. Though, like others, I find the actual content to be real and respectable.

  21. rez
    March 16, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I don’t know with you people but every time someone sings their natural voice you complain that it’s the same voice. But now that it’s presented differently you complain because it seems it was not them singing their voices. What’s up with that? Crab mentality i think.

  22. Barry Mazor
    March 16, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Possibly, Rez, different people are complaining!

    I’d like to give her credit for trying a change-up..I don’t know where it’s written that she’s got to sing in the diva belter style on every cut, forever. That attack, and this one, aren’t finally about her “voice” in any case, natural or otherwise–but about the singing style, not at all the same thing.

  23. Blake Boldt
    March 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

    My favorite McBride single might be “When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues,” a terrific song (Leslie Satcher wrote it) paired with a terrific performance. It also showed off a part of McBride’s personality that you don’t really get to hear all that often. From all appearances, she has a witty streak and I would love to hear more of that in her music. Maybe her new album will present more of that, maybe not. Her call.

    “Daughters” is very much in that vein, and I see what she was aiming for in terms of her performance…sardonic, wizened, amused. Just felt she missed the mark.

  24. Shannon
    March 16, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Not a fan of this song. I usally love Martina’s vocal delivery, but it really bothered me in this song. You’d think a song with this subject matter would evoke some emotion from her, but it’s too flat.

  25. Lizzy
    March 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    I really really love Martina, she is one of my favorite singers but I am not in love with this song. I really will try to be and I hope it grows on me, but for now i hope the cd will be better than this. I’m sorry :(

  26. Luke
    March 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    After the first listen, I was nervous about this song. But after the second listen, I really like the sassy style.

    I’m not sure I like the change in vocals though. I thought her power cheerfulness (the formula so many criticize as being boring) is actually a lot more effective and enjoyable. This is a step in the wrong direction. She needs to reinvent a song like “Where Would You Be” or “I Love You”.

  27. vicki bakka
    March 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

    sorry martina i have loved all your other songs but this one is a miss

  28. Dave
    May 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Anyone who sings “do do do do, do do do do” in a country song REALLY needs to have their head examined. That is a complete waste of Martina’s vocal chords.

    The 9513 is 1000% correct on this one, big thumbs down!

  29. kate
    June 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Martina has such a vocal range this is mediocore(sp) at best. I’m sure she had the best intentions, but this song is just so flat and NOT up to her usual standards…absolutely hate it

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