Faith Hill

Cry (Warner Bros.)

Cry, the fifth album by country singer Faith Hill, opens with loud drums, throbbing electric bass and a screeching guitar. The song is called "Free," and it's about liberating oneself from the chains of the past. The point is obvious: Hill wants to shed her Nashville image – out with fiddles and steel guitars, in with synthesizers and drum loops.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Hill isn't the first country singer to move toward pop, and she certainly won't be the last. No, the problem with Cry isn't the concept; it's the execution. Hill, who sings in a bland, vanilla-flavored voice, just isn't up to the task. The results are more laughable than soulful. It doesn't help that Hill has enlisted Bekka Bramlett, former Fleetwood Mac ringer and daughter of Delaney and Bonnie, to sing background vocals on several tracks. Bramlett has a soulful country-pop voice that only calls attention to Hill's vocal limitations here.

With few exceptions, the songs on Cry are directed squarely at the Lifetime Network set. In "Beautiful," Hill tells her man, "I love how soft you touch my skin/Like you're touching the wings of a butterfly/I wish we could just lock ourselves away in a room/Where there was no such thing as time." Blech! The supposedly confessional "This Is Me" finds Hill revealing her "true self," which is odd, given that the song wasn't even written by the singer. "I laugh at silly movies," she informs us, "tear up when I see babies/And I'm stubborn as a stone." Right. In "Back to You," a heartbroken Hill vows, "I would walk the world, I'd cross the sea/I'd journey beyond the moon/I'd try anything, go anywhere/To find my way back to you." Hill sings even the most banal lyrics on Cry with overridden angst. But let the record show: These songs are bad – really bad.

 
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