100 Greatest Women, #25: Faith Hill

100 Greatest Women

#25

Faith Hill

The story of Faith Hill begins in the small town of Star, Mississippi. When she was only nine years old, she saw Elvis Presley in concert and knew immediately that she wanted to be an entertainer. Thanks to her ear for a great hook and ease singing diverse styles, she has become one of the top-selling female artists in country music history.

Like many singers, she began singing in church. When she was just seventeen, she fronted a country band that played in local rodeos. At nineteen, she quit college and move to Nashville to pursue her dream. When an audition to be Reba McEntire’s backup singer was unsuccessful, she sold t-shirts while looking for an industry job. She briefly married Dan Hill, an industry executive, and kept the surname after the marriage ended. She landed a job as a secretary at a publishing company. A co-worker heard her singing to herself, which led to Hill singing demos for the staff songwriters.

Gary Burr, a top songwriter, asked Hill to lend vocal support to his performances. One night at the Bluebird, a Warner Bros. executive was impressed by her talent, leading to a deal with the label. In late 1993, her debut single “Wild One” was sent to radio. It took off quickly, spending four weeks at #1, the longest run for a debut female single since Connie Smith’s “Once a Day” in 1964. She won the ACM Top New Female Vocalist the following spring. She scored another #1 hit with her second single, a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” and a #2 with the title track from her debut album, Take Me as I Am, a set that eventually sold three million copies.

Hill toured with Reba McEntire and then Alan Jackson in support of the set, but while preparing her second album, a blood vessel on her vocal cords ruptured. She would later call this a blessing, as it gave her more time to select material for her sophomore project, It Matters to Me. She launched the album with the catchy “Let’s Go to Vegas,” and followed up with four more top ten hits, the biggest of which was the title track that topped the charts for three weeks. The album went on to sell four million copies.

While touring with country superstar Tim McGraw, the professional partnership turned personal. They soon wed, and she sang the harmony on his single “It’s Your Love” in 1996. It was a huge smash, topping the singles chart for six weeks. It won them four ACM awards and a CMA trophy for Vocal Event. Hill had an even bigger hit when she returned in 1998 with “This Kiss.” The lead single from her third set Faith, it hit just when LeAnn Rimes and Shania Twain had scored some crossover success. Hill’s catchy hit found an audience in both country and pop, making her a much bigger star in the process.

“This Kiss” won Hill more awards, including her first of three ACM trophies for Top Female Vocalist. “Let Me Let Go” was another #1 hit from the album, which went on to sell six million copies. Her next set, Breathe, was even bigger. The title track topped the charts for six weeks, and was a massive pop hit, becoming the most-played song on the radio on all formats for the entire 2000 chart year. The album went on to sell eight million copies, while “The Way You Love Me,” “Let’s Make Love” and “If My Heart Had Wings” scored at country radio. Hill won the CMA Female Vocalist trophy in 2000, and after having no luck at the Grammys in previous years, she won three in 2001, including the prestigious Best Country Album trophy.

After scoring a big pop hit with “There You’ll Be” from Pearl Harbor, earning a performance slot at the Academy Awards, Hill moved further in the pop direction with her ambitious fifth set, Cry. The Angie Aparo-penned title track won Hill a fourth Grammy. and while country radio was cool to the project, pop radio embraced “Cry” and “One.”

After a couple of years out of the limelight, Hill returned with what was arguably her strongest album to date, Fireflies, in 2005. A lot of attention was given to the contributions of songwriter John Rich to the project, and he did pen three of the big hits from the project, “Mississippi Girl”, “Like We Never Loved at All” and “Sunshine and Summertime.” But the soul of the album came from songwriter Lori McKenna, who penned the title track and the brilliant “Stealing Kisses.” When Hill went on tour with hubby Tim McGraw, they invited McKenna to open for them, a prime gig given that it ended up being the most successful country tour in history.

More recently, Hill released her first American hits collection, The Hits. It included her latest duet with McGraw “I Need You,” which was also on his album Let it Go. She also found singing partners in artists as diverse as Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin, and she is currently prepping her first Christmas album Joy to the World, which is due for release later this year. To date, Hill has sold 25 million albums in the United States, trailing only Shania Twain and Reba McEntire in total sales by a solo female country artist.

Faith Hill

Essential Singles

  • “Wild One,” 1993
  • “It Matters to Me,” 1995
  • “This Kiss,” 1998
  • “Breathe,” 1999
  • “Cry,” 2002
  • “Like We Never Loved at All,” 2005

Essential Albums

  • It Matters to Me, 1995
  • Faith, 1998
  • Breathe, 1999
  • Cry, 2002
  • Fireflies, 2005

Industry Awards

  • ACM Top New Female Vocalist, 1994
  • ACM Single (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
  • ACM Song (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
  • ACM Video (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
  • ACM Vocal Event (“It’s Your Love”), 1998
  • ACM Single (“This Kiss”), 1999
  • ACM Video (“This Kiss”), 1999
  • ACM Vocal Event (“Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me”), 1999
  • ACM Top Female Vocalist, 1999, 2000 & 2001
  • ACM Video (“Breathe”), 2000
  • CMA Vocal Event (“It’s Your Love”), 1997
  • CMA Video (“This KIss”), 1998
  • CMA Female Vocalist, 2000
  • Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Breathe”), 2001
  • Grammy: Best Country Album (Breathe), 2001
  • Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Let’s Make Love”), 2001
  • Grammy: Best Female Country Vocal Performance (“Cry”), 2003
  • Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Like We Never Loved at All”), 2006

==> #24. Connie Smith

<== #26. Martina McBride

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List

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14 Comments

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14 Responses to 100 Greatest Women, #25: Faith Hill

  1. Ok, I think Faith and Martina should both be higher up, but that aside I think Martina should be just in front of Faith, not the other way around, just a personal thought. Of course Faith was a bigger fad in pop music than Martina was so I suppose it’s apporpriate, but I think McBride has been much more consistant more recently.

  2. LynnNo Gravatar

    I’ll stick up for Faith here, because it seems like very few people want to these days (Sadly, how times change). I think Faith’s biggest contribution to country music may have been simply making it cool and welcoming to a HUGE number of people who never would have given it a chance. Her vocals, personality and looks appealed to everyone. I didn’t grow up in a community where country music was popular (quite the opposite, in fact), but everyone liked Faith Hill. I believe she played a big part in moving country music to where it is today (whether you like that or not).

    I also believe that you have to applaud Faith for rising above her looks and popularity and attempting to record material that has some meaning. Whether people think its pop rather than country, she’s taken chances and hasn’t rested on pretty, which would have been very easy for her to do.

    Faith has become feisty in recent years. I have to admit that I like her better that way. Edgy works for her. As some may have noticed, I’m not a fan of the “All-American princess personality-less type.” It makes her more interesting and real. I feel like I’m finally getting to know the real Faith. Her next album is a Christmas album, but I’m curious to see where she goes after that.

  3. LanibugNo Gravatar

    I have to agree with Cowboy Blue, Martina should have been ahead of Faith — not that Faith has not done a lot of country music – but I did like her first album — but after that I have not been a fan

  4. JakeNo Gravatar

    I think it was right to put Faith in front of Martina, even though Martina is per say “more country” in terms of music. But I can still remember when I was a kid in late 90′s and Faith was a big star, she was one of the country artists that helped pull more listeners in, and while she had a great pop audience her music is good! I have her Faith album and Cry. And they both are very good. Faith(album) has that nice feel to it and Cry really shows off her vocal talents.

  5. JakeNo Gravatar

    Haha, know I shouldn’t double post or anything but I found this comment/info on the video you posted:

    [quote]saw jeffrey steele on gac special and he talked about co-writing this and how it made him feel so good for her to get this standing ovation and he said she walked back stage and hugged him for it and he said that was the best part,”when you get a hug from Faith Hill” that is worth it.[/quote]

    That video with that info about it makes me agree more that Hill is just a little higher than Martina. Although I must say I think Hill should be a little higher along with McBride but I haven’t seen all the people ahead so I’ll still have to see. But Shania better be in the top 10! Haha, but still I think your list is pretty accurate for the most part, and if I haven’t said it before thanks for doing the list it’s really entertaining to come on every day and see the next woman on the list.

  6. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    As with Martina, I understand why there are such staunch Faith Hill fans; and as with Martina, I have never quite gotten into the idea of being a fan of Faith’s either. And it’s not only because I think that, like Martina, her crossover appeal seems to be to an adult contemporary radio audience that probably doesn’t have any real long-term abiding interest in the country music genre.

    The other thing that has kept me from really liking Faith is that I just don’t like what she did with “Piece Of My Heart” whatsoever, and I never have. To turn this classic, gut-wrenching 1960s R&B/rock standard, which had been done not only by Janis Joplin but also by Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister) and Dusty Springfield, into a two-step hoedown was very repellent, in my brutally honest (and probably controversial) opinion.

  7. Faith is not the singer Martina is, nor is she the artist Shania is. I expected Faith to be higher rated, but am pleased she is not. I am glad to see Kevin is putting superior singers and artists like Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood ahead of Faith even though they were not as commercially successful.

  8. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Faith’s best albums were her first two – it’s been largely downhill since then although FIREFLIES was okay and she has crafted a few good singles

  9. Ms. TNo Gravatar

    Oh were would Faith be if it weren’t for her fiancee being a producer and then marrying Tim McGraw….?
    Makes you wonder if her record deals came from talent or elsewhere??
    Martina’s contributions are far greater to the music business than anything Faith has ever done or is capable of doing!

  10. JosephNo Gravatar

    First of all, let me say that I am a fan of Martina and that I think she is quite talented. That being said, some of the criteria you are using to assert Martina’s superiority are utterley ridiculous. If you want to hold it against Faith that she chooses to experiment with her music and sing whatever she feels like, then you’d have to hold it against Reba, Dolly, Barbara Mandrell, Lee Ann Womack, and countless other female singers. Female singers pushing boundaries and recording music that goes against the country mold is nothing new. Besides, Martina hasn’t exactly steered clear from A/C and pop radio (“Anyway,” “I Love You,” anyone?).

    And I know this is subjective, but I tend to prefer Faith’s voice over Martina’s. Faith can sing just about any kind of music, without sounding like she is trying to hard. Martina tends to oversing, in my opinion, and most of her post “Wild Angels” singles tend to follow the same format: slow, restrained verses + belted chorus (“A Broken Wing,” “Whatever You Say,” “How Far,” “Where Would You Be,” “In My Daughters Eyes,” and “Anyway”). Don’t get me wrong; I like a lot of those songs. I just think it goes to show that Faith has succeeded more, especially as of late, as far as artistry is concerned. “It Matters to Me,” “Cry,” and “Fireflies” were all great albums that showcased different styles of music.

  11. BrookeNo Gravatar

    I would like to start by saying that I am a fan of both Faith and Martina. I think both of them should be higher on the list because they have both contributed a lot in their own ways. I agree that Faith has been more commercially successful, but I disagree with Joseph saying Martina over sings. All singers have their own style of music and she chooses that belting chorus because she can handle it with power and class. I have no doubt she could take any song and sing it just as well if not better than the original artist. I am not saying Faith doesn’t have talent. Faith has a beautiful voice, but if I had to choose one I would pick Martina over Faith. Martina is bold, daring, and consistent. She chooses songs with a message and I admire that because other artist wouldn’t dare touch them. With that said I should give Faith kudos for singing what she wants and experimenting… Regardless – they should both be higher up…

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  13. PatrickNo Gravatar

    Breathe is one of my favorite albums

  14. What impressed me about the “Breathe” album was that every song sounded strong enough to be a substantial hit. There were no songs on the album that could be labeled as “filler.” In addition, she tastefully incorporated pop elements without overshadowing the country qualities. All in all, “Breathe” was a bona fide classic.

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