Album Review: Martina McBride - Waking Up Laughing
I have had time to more or less absorb the new Martina McBride and think it's pretty mediocre, apart from a few tracks.
The album starts out on a rocking note with "If I Had Your Name", which rocks and is a nice kiss off song, so who cares if the lyrics don't really make too much sense. But the whole album from there veers off into trite, treacly, unoriginal country melodies that are often pleasant and pretty but also not groundbreaking (not that we expected this out of Ms. McBride). "Independence Day" aside, Martina is at her best when she is light and flighty. When she gives into the fun and cheese entirely and screws originality lets loose an MOR country masterpiece like "This One's for the Girls" or "When God Fearin' Women Get the Blues". She does a great job seeming self-assured on songs like those, but the lyrics and melodies here veer into the overly sentimental which prevents her from really breaking out. Of particular note is "How I Feel" which is, I think, one of the worst country songs I've heard all year, and "Anyways" (the lead single) which is trite sentimental religious garbage, and I can't decide if that makes it better or worse than the secular kind. The problem is, that sentimental, unoriginal garbage is what sells, which is why, I've noticed, the singles released off country albums are often among the very worst tracks on those albums (see Montgomery Gentry - "Lucky Man" and Rodney Atkins - "Watching You"). Which is one of the main reasons modern country gets such an awful name.
She does let loose, musically at least, on "Beautiful Again" which is kinda brilliant, a bouncy-as-hell little country number that sounds like a throwaway song about dancing with your baby or something. But it is an extremely dark story about somebody whose parents abandon her, is molested by her uncle, gets pregnant young and loses her boyfriend, but the world goes on and gets beautiful again! Uh, only so that something else crappy can happen again, but whatever. It's got a really great bouncy and catchy melody and I kind of like songs that completely mess with your expectations like that. I think that it can actually afford greater lyrical punch to the song. The key comparison here is, I suppose, "Independence Day" (I hate to keep going back to this, but it is the highlight of her career and one of the major highlights of modern country). It's a big sad song, and it comes out blasting with a massive melody and music that instantly convey importance, which is what helps it to convey most of its pathos. Compare a song like "Beautiful Again", where you can just get washed away in it and forget what's going on. When you do take the time to pay attention to it, however, the stark contrast of the music provides a nice counterpoint for the lyrics that help it from all getting too much, just going too far off in one direction. It's a very hard line to travel and just because "Independence Day" travels it completely brilliantly doesn't mean it's always the way to go. I guess there's little hope a song like this will be released as a single, but if by chance it is it will be one of my top 10 country singles of the year.
This is a very unoriginal set by Martina here but it's a pleasant one too, so I kind of have two minds about it. Listening to it for a while at a time gets to be a real chore because the whole thing is just so trite and unoriginal that it really bears down on you. But on the other hand it's a pretty good collection of songs, Martina McBride can still knock em out of the park, and it's generally very pretty all throughout. I can't think of a single reason to recommend this album over several other, superior ones but if you are a big fan of this type of music you will like this one. And if, like me, you are a moderate fan of the genre, I suspect you will find that it's a perfectly pleasant listen, but fairly forgettable and nothing that demands special attention. Well, that's how I feel about it anyways. C+.