August 3, 2011
After changing record labels and subsequently releasing the refreshingly sassy “Teenage Daughters”, not to mention interviews that hinted that she hadn’t been completely happy with the direction that her music had taken in recent years, it seemed that blessedly gone might be the days of overwrought, cloying power ballads with generic productions for Martina McBride. The release of “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”, however, laid that hope to rest for those of us who had tired of such songs a zillion Martina songs ago.
The most frustrating thing about this recording is that the song actually has a good story underneath the boring, glossy production. We get to see a loving husband who sensitively stabilizes and loves his wife through grueling breast cancer treatments that ultimately result in her losing both breasts. The story deserves to be told, as this composition admirably does, with such stark reality and detail, but McBride has used up her capital for these types of songs. It’s difficult not to feel desensitized at this point. Grade: C
Well, so much for feeling optimistic about her song choices after “Wrong Baby Wrong” and “Teenage Daughters” broke a decade-long streak of artistic stagnation. As far as McBride’s “important” “issue” songs go, this one is far less maudlin than “Concrete Angel,” less saccharine than “God’s Will,” and less self-congratulatory than “Anyway,” but it still goes for the easiest, cheapest kinds of emotional manipulation, and the knowledge that she’s capable of better will never make one of these songs anything but a let-down.
The verse about the mastectomy is, at the very least, the kind of detail-oriented, personal songwriting that each of those other three singles sorely lacked, and I’m sure this song will find a vocal audience among breast cancer survivors who will use this as an anthem of empowerment. To which, sure. But it’s not like McBride deserves a medal or any awards-show hardware for wailing about how cancer is bad but loving your spouse with cancer is good. We hear you loud and clear, Martina, but we already agreed with you. Grade: C-
Considering the number of people who have battled cancer and the family members who have supported them, Martina McBride’s new single can resonate with pretty much everybody. “I’m Gonna Love You Through This” is a touching concept, but it’s only moderately successful as a song.
There are some well-written details in the lyrics, particularly the references to the woman wearing baggy shirts and yearning to feel like a woman again. There are likely countless breast cancer survivors out there feeling the same way, and while they may not want to discuss those feelings with their family, maybe hearing McBride singing about it will help them to come to terms with their loss.
Given the song material, though, it’s difficult to stay on the side of “touching” without crossing over into “maudlin.” While the lyrics yank on heartstrings, as expected, the production is what really takes it over the top. The string section is syrupy enough, but when McBride bursts into full-blown Diva Mode, it just gets to be too much.
I can appreciate the song from a technical standpoint, but I have no desire to hear it again. Grade: C+
The concept is better than the finished product here.
The song gets a lot of the details about cancer right, but that’s what makes the message of the chorus sound so trite. I think they would’ve been better off picking a character in the song and singing it in the first person. The experience of the wife receiving that unconditional love while they struggle with an illness, for example. Or even better, the contrast between the brave front the supportive spouse is presenting to his wife and the fear and terror he’s feeling inside.
The typical post-Wild Angels criticisms apply: she sings too loud, and the band plays even louder. It’s the contemporary country spin on the chicken or the egg: Is the band trying to be heard over Martina, or is Martina trying to be heard over the band? Grade: B-
It’s not inherently a bad song, even though cancer songs are easy to dismiss as pandering. The throwaway chorus is the weakest part of the lyric, but the verses include an added level of detail and specifity that set the lyric above some of Martina’s past inspirational anthems. The woman is 38 years old. She has three children. She loses her breasts to the cancer. That helps make the story seem like an actual story instead of a vaguely-developed concept.
The production is what kills it. It’s so typical. So expected. We hear the cello run through the opening verse, the rising string section, and then a predictably overdramatic finish with Martina belting it out for all it’s worth. Lyrically, this song is better than many of the Martina power ballads that have preceded it, but the arrangement causes it to run together with all the rest. Sonically, it’s nearly indistinguishable from Martina’s 2007 hit “Anyway.”
This single is particularly disappointing coming in the wake of the witty and off-beat “Teenage Daughters,” which dramatically heightened my expectations for Martina’s new album, and makes “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” seem like a definite step backwards. I’m still holding out a glimmer of hope that Martina’s new album as a whole will favor edgy, interesting material in the vein of “Teenage Daughters,” and that “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” will prove to be only an isolated misstep. But I can’t say I’m overly optimistic. Grade: C+
Listen: I’m Gonna Love You Through It