MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 26: FAITH HILL

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gained a bit of insight over these last few months. And it is this- there is no pattern to how I listen to my music, or rather, what genre of music that I like. Even when I was enjoying a lot of CCM during my younger days, I’d listen to a wide variety of styles- rock, pop, worship, acoustic, folk, singer-songwriter…basically anything that wasn’t screamo. Now here as I branch out into different music styles and appreciate music in a general sense of the word, I see the exact same thing- virtually no pattern as to how I enjoy my music, or what I do listen to. Phil Collins, prominent in the 1980s, delivers to us an eclectic mix of pop-rock mixed with a high energy drum-beat undertone, while Kelly Clarkson is your traditional pop-rock with an inspirational edge in there. Owl City is close enough to EDM that I did embark upon, while Andrew Peterson utilised a lot of acoustics and focussed a lot on the lyrical side of things. Add to that the hard rockers of Skillet and DC Talk, and the ever poignant and motivational Tenth Avenue North; and you see that my musical tastes have broadened much over the weeks and months ahead. That is, until I’ve searched deeper into the patterns behind my very own choices for these blog posts thus far. There is indeed a pattern. Out of 26 artists I’ve decided to write about thus far, quite a fair number (5) are of the country variety. Yes, there, I’ve said it. Unknowingly, and maybe even unintentionally, I’ve favoured country music ahead of basically every other music genre thus far, inclusive of this artist I’m about to delve into today- Faith Hill. And there’s nothing wrong with country. Far from it. In fact, upon listening to music time and time again this year, I’ve noticed that country music in particular tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves a lot more, and that’s ok. Never have I initially thought that I would resonate a lot of country music, yet I have. Artists like Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, The McClymonts, Shania Twain, and now Faith Hill, have all influenced the genre of country over the years, and by and large, have shaped what music is currently today as well. Maybe not so much The McClymonts, but considering that they are indeed an Australian country trio, and they have been charting top honours for best country band every year since their release of their debut album 12 years ago, makes their inclusion very much more settled and certain. Nevertheless, here I am with another post discussing Faith Hill and her music- and to be honest, I don’t really know much about her life…and maybe that’s a good thing. All I know is that she’s married to country artist Tim McGraw, released 8 studio albums, and is now declared one of the best country artists at the moment.

Can I be honest here? As in, completely honest? Even though right now I know that Faith herself is a pillar in the country music industry, and has had plenty of success over the years, I hadn’t really heard of her music. I mean I did hear ‘Keep Your Eyes on Me’ a couple of years back, and I knew of the name Faith Hill but then, that was about it. I didn’t know the prominence and relevance of her in the country music industry, and even in music as a whole as well. I guess it shows you what a little branching out and taking a risk can do. Faith Hill born in the late 1960s (1967), just like many of the other great singer-songwriters in music- Celine Dion born in 1968, Shania Twain in 1965 and Martina McBride in 1966 are prime examples. Maybe it’s the fact that their childhood and life around the time of pre-internet affected their songwriting and songs in a much more authentic and real way as opposed to country-style singers at the moment? Regardless of why I firmly believe that the country music of yesteryear has more meaning than the country music of now, the fact of the matter remains- that Faith Hill’s music flooded country music and maybe, by extension, music itself, and I was too caught up in my bubble to notice. Just like how I heard of only songs like ‘You’re Still the One’ and ‘From This Moment’ prior to hearing the whole discography of Shania Twain, and only hearing ‘This One’s For the Girls’ before listening to Martina McBride, so to with Faith Hill. Not knowing that it was indeed Faith singing, I heard for the longest time, a song called ‘There You’ll Be’- maybe a few times, around 15 or so years ago, when the song was released to coincide with the movie release of Pearl Harbour in the early 2000s. Now years later, such an iconic song was revealed to me to be the mastery and technique of Faith Hill. And maybe, I can be forgiven for not knowing.

But what I will say is that Faith and her music, though still not a household name even now, still has made waves enough for me to say that her influence in country has bled into influence in music in general. Many may not agree, and that is ok. But to hear Faith and her passion for music, and then to hear her whole discography and understand that her songs that create a space where vulnerability and songs about relationships can breathe through, has given myself a respect of her, even if I didn’t really know her whole career- just only now I’ve started to become invested. Nevertheless, Faith has given to us songs of hope and songs of encouragement, and while she still isn’t as well-known as other artists like Shania and Celine, she still has songs that resonate deeply with listeners even now. Maybe this is an assumption of mine, but I’ve realised that much of the country of yesteryear is far more real and honest as opposed to the country music now. Or shall I put it in a different way- the country artists, though still active now, who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, have a more authentic way at looking at music as a remedy and a way of expressing emotion and bringing about a collective healing and camaraderie, as opposed to the people who are starting up their country music careers now.

Maybe it’s because of the fact that music back then was not in the spotlight of technology and so they didn’t have any added pressure to create songs that may or may not have served the purpose of music in general. Regardless as to why country music now and country music back then are totally different, I’ll still say that Faith and her music has made me continue to appreciate country music in a different light. Coupled with the fact that she and her husband are married, in the spotlight and are so for a long time, gives me a lot of hope that there are indeed still couples out there that are loving to each other and want to make it all work. While only creating 8 albums over the span of 25 years, Faith nevertheless has opened up the floodgates and has made country music more and more appealing, and with the help of both Shania and Martina who were also creating music around the time of the 1990s, we see that country isn’t so bad as what I’m sure we the human race initially thought it was!

Having sold over 40 million albums worldwide, Faith and her music is one of the most successful within the confines of country. While the general public may not know her as of this moment, in favour of other more famous country artists like Reba, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, Miranda Lambert, Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum, to name a few; what Faith (and other female artists who started music in the 1990s) has done is to create a rise in the quality of female country singers who didn’t really rely on their physical and sex appeal, but rather their own quality singing and powerful melodies that struck a chord with people everywhere. Even myself, years and years later, I am appreciative of Faith’s work, and it’s a telling and timely reminder that just because a song is old, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have meaning and impact to people right now. Often there is a saying that the more things change, the more they don’t, and thus, the things that relate to us in the 1990s, still relate to us even now- making music, and maybe even especially country music, all the more impactful within and across generations.

Throughout much of Faith’s music discography, we see a running theme that threads through much of the albums- the theme of love- love for yourself, love for your partner/spouse, and just love and concern for our fellow man. From her debut album Take Me As I Am, ‘Wild One’ describes the scene where there is a rebellious teen and is placed on her the term called ‘wild one’- reminding us that there are times where people, especially teenagers, do rebel and are in fact ‘wild’ for their age. And then there are times where being a ‘wild one’ is necessary for growth and anti-conformity. ‘Piece of my Heart’, originally recorded by Erma Franklin, elder sister of Arethra Franklin; achieved Platinum success under Faith- the song itself showcases the theme of the strength of women in general, as we’re reminded that no matter how many times we ‘take their hearts’, women will always come back bigger and better and stronger, more resilient and ever-the-fighter. If men were in such a situation and people were taking bits of our hearts…I’m not that sure about our bounce-back factor. ‘Take Me As I Am’, the debut album’s other hit (and title track), speaks of the characteristics Faith is looking for in her significant other- claiming that she doesn’t want roses because they’ll wither, but rather, someone who can accept her and ‘take me as I am’, reminding us all that character and what is in the heart is a far better gift to give someone rather than superficial tangible physical things like a rose (mind you, roses and other flowers are nice too!). The radio hits also continue to come with songs like ‘Someone Else’s Dream’, ‘It Matters to Me’, ‘I Can’t Do That Anymore’ and ‘You Can’t Lose Me’, from her 1995 album It Matters To Me, topping the charts at the time of their respective release dates as singles. Essentially, Faith herself is diversifying themes across these songs, as the message of following your own dream and never others (‘Someone Else’s Dream’), of being apart in a relationship and the hurt and strain that follows for both people involved (‘It Matters to Me’), of never losing the love that is between parent and child no matter how far the distance is between them (‘You Can’t Lose Me’) and being fed up about always putting in, in a relationship, but never finding that it is satisfying (‘I Can’t Do That Anymore’), are all such where it can be as much relatable now as it was back then in the 1990s. Some issues we have never change through the ages, and Faith’s earlier music is evidence of this.

Faith’s new albums in Faith and Breathe were both crossover successes, and just like her albums previous, many of the songs from here spoke to universal themes that people are indeed struggling with throughout time- even now. ‘This Kiss’, one of Faith’s most impactful crossover hits, earned her 2 Grammy nominations- Best Country Song and Best Female Country performance (both of them losing to Shania Twain), as this song showed us through the upbeat melody, the expressions of joy that comes through the act of love and affection, as shown through this song via kissing; while ‘You Give Me Love’ speaks of that special someone that comes along when hope is gone, and things aren’t going our way, and the love given to us is of unconditional value. Featured in the film adaption of Nicolas Sparks’s book Message in a Bottle, ‘Let Me Let Go’ chronicles the feelings someone immediately has after a breakup, and gives people a reminder that space and time to grieve is needed after such a momentous breakup as what can be experienced in someone’s life, while songs like ‘Love Ain’t Like That’, ‘The Secret of Life’ and ‘Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me’ are all standouts and highlights from her third album- and all speak about love and life in different ways, but nevertheless ways that we as listeners of the music years later can still understand and apply to our lives.

‘Love Ain’t Like That’ speaks of the fact that you can’t return love like how you return a car and claim it’s faulty, and as the song suggests- it doesn’t work like that. Alluding to the understanding that love between two people require work and commitment, Faith continues along the journey of life and love with ‘The Secret of Life’- a song that is to try and work out what the ultimate secret to having and living a good life is. At the end of the day, there is no one formula on how to run a good life, and the song gives rise to that message quite quickly. We don’t get this life back once we use it, and thus, how we live it is up to us, as we know full well that what we do and say will have ramifications in the end. ‘Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me’, a duet with husband Tim McGraw, showcases love in the most committal way- that what we do or say can be in fact crazy if love and proving of it is concerned. Love will challenge you to do things you wouldn’t dare think about, and this song can hopefully be a catalyst for such a change as this.

The highest charting album of her career thus far, Breathe incorporated more of a pop sound moving forward, and showcased, I reckon, her biggest radio hit to date- ‘Breathe’. The song itself captures the essence of love in the form of magic and sunlight, butterflies and hearts beating fast, and everything else that comes along when love comes unexpected. Faith gave to us a song that has become, 20 years later, an anthem to sing for anyone who is in love or who is figuring out what they’re feeling is love or not. ‘Breathe’ is by far a song that stands tall amongst other singles by other artists within the 1990s decade, and for me, is one of my favourite songs by a country artist, maybe even on par with Shania Twain’s ‘From This Moment On’. ‘The Way You Love Me’ is the sole other single from Breathe, and relays a theme about love without strings attached as we watch the video in conjunction with the song- in the music video, we see Faith in a variety of different outfits portraying different roles that a woman can- mum, working class woman, in varying different vocational roles, reminding us all that when we say we love someone, we love every part of them, not just the parts that are pretty or that are convenient. Breathe also showcases a few other unique songs- ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ is a track originally by The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, and a song that I knew I heard before (maybe from Bruce), while the song ‘If My Heart Had Wings’, the last single from Breathe and a song that stood out for me upon ‘shuffle’ on Spotify, is a track where the persona is away from their loved one, and wants to be with them. The title of the track, ‘If My Heart Had Wings’, is an allusion to the fact that if hearts did in fact have wings, she would be with the one she loves. Upbeat and emotional, ‘If My Heart Had Wings’, alongside ‘Breathe’ and ‘The Way You Love Me’, anchor the 1999 album artistically and thematically, as 20 years on, Breathe becomes Faith’s most popular album she’s ever created thus far!

Both Cry and Fireflies followed on after Breathe, and both had different atmospheres and general feel over them- Cry was a much more mature and crossover pop sound, at times darker thematically as the title track itself discussed the theme about revisiting past hurts in childhood that had been buried underneath a happy exterior since. The message of the title track, and in turn the message of the album in general, is to indeed cry and to feel emotions, to make peace with the past and gain perspective and healing after revisiting tragic memories. ‘One’, the longest song, not just on Cry but the longest song Faith has ever recorded, speaks of the potential of a strained relationship to move towards the direction of divorce, as Faith herself sings that ‘…one is breaking into two and my heart is turning blue…’ Since Faith herself is happily married to fellow country singer Tim McGraw, one can only assume that this song ‘One’ speaks about the topic of divorce in a general sense- or maybe Faith knows someone going through such an event. ‘When the Lights Go Down’ speaks of what happens to each of us when no one is looking, when all we have is our secrets we bear and the truth about our soul that we contemplate upon, while ‘Stronger’ sees the aftermath of a breakup that was ultimately for the best- and that crying for the other person in the initial stages of grieving said relationship is what is going to make the people in the broken relationship stronger because of it. ‘You’re Still Here’, the last song from Cry, and arguably one of the most emotive and vulnerable songs Faith has ever recorded, speaks of the loss of someone (either through death or moving away), and her seeing them wherever she goes, a sign that she is missing their presence in her life. While much of the album of Cry is mellow and contemplative, heartfelt and having a much more adult-contemporary/pop sound as opposed to country, Faith nevertheless delivers some of her most poignant songs, as this songstress challenges us all to be real with our emotions no matter how ugly they may look on the outside.

Fireflies followed in 2005 and showed more of a country roots sound that seemed to have deviated in Cry. Songs like the up-tempo ‘Mississippi Girl’, the ballad ‘Like We Never Loved at All’, the thankful and joyous ‘The Lucky One’, alongside ‘Sunshine and Summertime’ and the identity-wondering ‘Stealing Kisses’, are all standouts on an album that has more of a happy atmosphere compared to her album 3 years prior. Nevertheless, Faith still presents strong themes of hope, love, life, and just being thankful for the life we do have, in much of Fireflies– ‘Mississippi Girl’ speaks of how people who are indeed famous, and those who deviate into a genre of music (or film) that isn’t really their first love, should in fact remember whence they came from and where their ‘hometown’ is, while ‘The Lucky One’ allows us all to say our thanks for the life we live, albeit a little messy and uncertain. ‘Sunshine and Summertime’ is a fun summer-esque melody that is perfect for long summer drives and speaks of all the things that one can partake during the three months of extreme heat, while ‘Stealing Kisses’ allows us to ask the questions of who are we, even when we are in the midst of general home activities. And then there’s ‘Like We Never Loved At All’, a collaboration Faith undertakes with her husband Tim McGraw, as the song tells of a couple whose love is withering away, and that it may come to a point in the crumbling relationship that there could be a moment where love won’t be felt, by either person. A sad, but nevertheless realistic and sobering melody, Faith still presents a bright and sunny atmosphere on Fireflies, and gives us all permission too to move away from the dark into the joyous moments of the light- shown through a topical and message difference when comparing Fireflies with Cry.

Apart from Faith’s Christmas album (full of Christmas carols and a new song ‘A Baby Changes Everything’) released in 2008, Faith also gave to us a collaboration album released in 2017, with Faith recording the full album with her husband Tim McGraw and titling it The Rest of Our Life. Spawning 2 singles (so far) in ‘The Rest of Our Life’ and ‘Speak to a Girl’, we see the couple passionately declare love and affection for one another as they long to spend life with each other by their sides (‘The Rest of Our Life’), while a song like ‘Speak to a Girl’ is a reminder of how we should treat women, and that often how we treat our mothers and sisters, is ultimately how we’re going to treat our wives one day. Compilation albums were also unveiled at various points throughout Faith’s career, starting off with an international album in There You’ll Be– incorporating four of her early albums throughout the 1990s (alongside the bonus song in ‘There You’ll Be’). As for the song itself, ‘There You’ll Be’ was written for the 2001 movie Pearl Harbour and is a love song between personas where one is forced to travel- either because they are in the military, or otherwise. Poignant and heartfelt, this song originally was written for Celine Dion to sing, but alas, that wasn’t the case. ‘There You’ll Be’ is a catchy song, sung from the POV of the person who is not doing the travelling as we see and ponder the raw nature of said song. Nevertheless, Faith continues to wow us with heartfelt and poignant singles- inclusive of (and not limited to) her two new songs she wrote and recorded for a best-of project unveiled in 2007- ‘Lost’ and ‘Red Umbrella’. Both these songs delve into the spiritual aspect of life, as we’re reminded that often, losing, being lost, and feeling worry aren’t always the same thing. To be lost in someone is to immerse yourself totally in their presence- which is the basis of the song ‘Lost’, while ‘Red Umbrella’ speaks of a love of a significant other (or maybe even the love of God) that is like a red umbrella- shielding us from difficulty, uncertainty and chaos that is often present in the world we live in. In 2016, there was yet another compilation album release- this time the entire song-list is for lesser-known songs we may not have heard before- until now. And though there is a very long gap between 2008 and 2017 in terms of new full-length music, Faith was still active musically- in 2011 she undertook a cover version of OneRepublic’s new song ‘Come Home’, while in 2012, another single titled ‘American Heart’ released- a song about patriotism and the pride and love that people feel in being American and what it means to people.

Then there’s the song when it all began for me- the first song I did hear Faith in a few years back- ‘Keep Your Eyes on Me’. One of my favourite songs to ever come out of that motion picture album (songs based on the movie The Shack starring Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell and Octavia Spencer), ‘Keep Your Eyes on Me’ is as inspirational as you’re gonna get. A song about being steady in your faith and keeping your eyes straight ahead, on the prize and on the Lord, rather than just looking to the left or the right; we are reminded that God wants us to ‘…keep your eyes on me, when you can’t find your way home…’ A song that for me has always been my go-to melody to inspire myself during difficult or uncertain moments, both Tim and Faith have to be congratulated for creating such a crossover hit in ‘Keep Your Eyes on Me’. Personally I haven’t seen the film, maybe later on in the future, but what I know is this- the book, written by William Paul Young, for me it was revolutionary. Frankly, I was an early teenager when I read The Shack, and at that time, I don’t know if I grasped all the concepts fully. But regardless, God is certainly using such a song like this for His kingdom and glory and our good. As Faith’s husband Tim relays, ‘…I was watching the movie with Faith, because they’d asked us to write a song for it. It wasn’t completely finished yet, but it was done where you could get the essence of it. There must have been six parts where there were complete fall-apart moments. We walked out with some song ideas. We actually wrote a couple songs, but that was the favorite one we’d written. That actually came from a line in the movie. There’s a part where that line is spoken, and it was so powerful, and we took that and ran with it…’

Faith’s music as a whole is very much underrated in the sea of country music, while an artist like Shania, as good as she is, is a slight tad overrated. Nevertheless, Faith’s presence in country music and in music in general has given me hope that good quality music isn’t entirely dead. And with songs like ‘Keep Your Eyes on Me’, ‘There You’ll Be’, ‘Breathe’, ‘Lost’, ‘It Matters to Me’ and ‘Cry’, just some of the many, many songs that have anchored, both musically and thematically, her career thus far; it’s no wonder why such an artist, though only releasing 8 albums in her 20+ year career, is one of music’s highest selling female artists in recent history. Popular at the moment? No way! Popular back then? Most definitely. Influential, full stop? You betcha! Faith has proven with heartfelt and faith-based songs (inclusive of the very gospel-heavy message in ‘There Will Come A Day’, from her 1999 album Breathe) that emotion and music that tugs at your soul, will always trump over music laden with electronics and underlying vocal effects, every time. There’s something about music from the 1990s, and Faith’s discography, especially her self-titled album and the subsequent Breathe, reminds us all that songs from yesteryear are just as good as songs and albums from today!

Does Faith Hill make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Has this country superstar delivered music that can transcend walks of life and maybe even walks of religion as well? Has there been some songs that have spoken to you about yourself or maybe God Almighty in the process? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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