Martina McBride – “Teenage Daughters”
Songwriters: 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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