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"SPEAK TO A GIRL": FAITH HILL & TIM MCGRAW

The estimable Holly Gleason surveys the killer new single from Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, which is currently #2 at iTunes overall and inside the Top 20 at Country radio in less than 24 hours.

In this age of full-throttle power-divas, it’s intriguing Faith Hill’s return to the radio eschews the full-scale belting that made “It Matters To Me” a signature song for American women carving out priorities beyond the sheer bling of it all. Instead, the Mississippi-born superstar opts for a warm, confiding tone on “Speak to a Girl,” a slow-building duet with husband Tim McGraw and this year’s highest country airplay debut with the largest one-week add total (146 stations). The song addresses the men who’ve spent years not getting their “game” truly figured out.

If McGraw/Hill’s earlier chart-topping duets—“Let’s Make Love,” “It’s Your Love”—employed that swelling, anthemic tilt, the supernova husband and wife set up their first duet album with a song that cuts to the bone and gets real in a very potent, straightforward way. Hill’s slow, earthy whisper opens with the profession, “She don’t care about your Benjamin Franklins, she wants Aretha/ She don’t care how you’re spending your money, she just cares how you treat her…”

No mystery here, folks. Starting with an understated track and a conversational delivery, Hill’s a woman not on a mission, but someone who knows. With a lived-in delivery, she sees no need to throttle, merely own that earthy sensuality that’s allowed Hill’s smolder factor to slow-burn over the years, making her one of the genre’s most desirable women. “Speak to a Girl” builds a deeper kind of intimacy than mere physicality, and it erupts as the Byron Gallimore/Hill/McGraw production builds.

Unadorned declarations shine, before the ultimate bomb
is dropped: You better respect your Mama. 

The chorus—potentially scolding in less nuanced hands—is the playbook, as McGraw reinforces the expressed truth with harmony vocals that offer dimension and nuance. That’s how you… talk to a woman, speak to a girl, get with a lady. Unadorned declarations shine, before the ultimate bomb is dropped: You better respect your Mama. It all comes down to how you treat her, something more subtle and enduring than texting, swiping, or hooking up.

A straight-up chaser to Hill’s stunning vocal on the second verse. With a man-to-man delivery, it’s the work of someone secure enough to talk straight about how to get past the Bro and into the meaningful stuff. Without flinching, his illusion-puncturing, drop-the-crap verse begins, “She don’t give a damn ’bout your pride or the lies that you’re hiding behind/She just want to feel that you’re real, that she’s near to the man that’s inside…” as strings build without surging past McGraw’s deliberately heart-to-heart performance. Like the track itself, this is not complicated. Strip it back, strip it down, show what’s beneath the surface, forget the bravado—and build something honest and true. More than rudimentary, it’s a profound, if almost elusive, reality. As the notes fall and each line is laid out, “Girl” offers step-by-step instructions for something that’s built to last. A slow jam that’s as much ’70s/’80s soul as the kind of power ballad that exists beyond formats, “Girl” is a record that stands on its own. Even with the swelling under McGraw’s verse, the arrangement falls away for Hill’s bridge to remind the listener: simply, here’s how it works. No matter where, how or whom, it’s a skeleton key to open whatever her heart desires.

As a pair of superstars who’ve demarcated the genre’s romantic plains for two decades, perhaps the most radical thing is this: returning without tricks. To stand so naked and strong is why the pair exist beyond trends, time or being trapped by their own persona. Listen and hear what it means to drop your guard and go deep; it’s easier than most of us think.

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