Martina McBride, ‘Eleven’ – Album Review
Last summer, Martina McBride tweeted, “I’m a little bummed out today. It’s so frustrating when something should “work” and it doesn’t. Honestly, I think I need a drink!” While only McBride knows if she was referring to her new album’s debut single, ‘Teenage Daughters,’ dying a premature death on country music charts, the timing certainly fits. Soon after that June 23 tweet, she announced ‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It’ would be the new single.
Her new album, ‘Eleven,’ may leave her scratching her head in a similar way. It’s sort of like the New York Yankees. Despite a healthy budget, lots of star power and almost two decades worth of experience, the project doesn’t quite live up to its potential. On paper this is a great album, but in ways explainable and not it never comes together as the project that will return McBride to the upper crust of female country singers.
‘Teenage Daughters’ is the most interesting of the 11 songs (a deluxe edition contains four others). It’s darker and more personal than anything the singer has released thus far, and she was right to wonder why it didn’t “work” well enough to at least crack the Top 10. Songs like ‘Broken Umbrella’ and ‘You Can Get Your Lovin’ Right Here’ deviate from that blueprint, however. Both are frothy and outdated. ‘Marry Me’ (featuring Pat Monahan of the rock band Train) is like musical Ambien. These songs are tracked consecutively, leaving a big hole the singer has to fight to overcome.
One finds relief with ‘Whatcha Gonna Do,’ the best of the ballads. The piano driven cut brings the classic soaring McBride vocal style together with the new perspective she finds on ‘Teenage Daughters.’ ‘When You Love a Sinner’ does the same, to a lesser degree. It’s a song that, like ‘I’m Gonna Love You Through It,’ will resonate eternally with a specific audience.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of ‘Eleven’ is that the songs that take the biggest risks (the “stupid” lyric in ‘Always Be This Way,’ for example) are the most nourishing — and it’s those that seem built for radio success that fall flat. McBride isn’t an aging singer that is losing touch. She may in fact be a more relevant artist than ever if she learns to live on her creative edges.