Martina McBride should be on Broadway. Her music videos prove that. With her expansive gestures and balcony-shaking voice, she’s the Ethel Merman of Music Row — but a lot more attractive.
Look at her rhapsodizing in such mini-musicals as “Anyway,” “Blessed” or “This One’s for the Girls,” and you can easily imagine her as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Marian the Librarian in The Music Man or the title character in The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
In her most memorable videos, however, McBride embraces loftier themes than simply being someone’s adorable love interest. Her breakthrough in this arena came in 1994 with the harrowing “Independence Day,” the story of an abused wife who finally strikes back in desperation by burning down her house with herself and her tormentor in it.
So powerful was this video statement against domestic violence — and so firm has been McBride’s commitment to the theme — that she returned to it in “A Broken Wing” and “Concrete Angel.” Threaded throughout her other videos is the assertion that women are and must be strong, even as they luxuriate in the comforts of true love.
Viewed in their totality, McBride’s videos show her to be one of the most socially conscious artists in country music.
Counting her cameo roles or co-starring appearances with Matraca Berg, Jim Brickman, Jimmy Buffett, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and Bob Seger and her Christmas videos, McBride has at least 35 clips to her credit.
Here are 12 you may want to revisit:
“The Time Has Come” (1992) — McBride’s first video, shot less than a year after she quit her job selling T-shirts at Garth Brooks’ concerts. The theme is breaking away, and it’s illustrated by scenes of McBride striding purposefully down a long and empty highway, boarding a train and walking beside a horse. No drama, but plenty of attitude. This was the first country video to employ closed captioning.
“Cheap Whiskey” (1992) — Clad in a long black dress, McBride sings the cautionary tale of a drunk who kills his wife in a car wreck and repents too late. Grimly effective both as a message and as proof that this breezy newcomer can handle hardcore country lyrics.
“My Baby Loves Me” (1993) — McBride is pretty as a picture in this pastel-colored greeting card. In fact, she sings out of a picture frame as a series of other women similarly revel in the fact that “my baby loves me just the way that I am.”
“Independence Day” (1994) — Shot in stark black and white and sung from the point of view of an 8-year-old daughter of an abused mother, this remains one of the most powerful music videos ever made. It juxtaposes scenes of chilling domestic violence with those of a concurrent Fourth of July parade and brings the two together as the victim burns down her house like a macabre fireworks display. The little girl’s life to that point is pretty much summarized by her terrified face as she watches two clowns in the parade playfully hit each other. This was the first video by a woman to win the Country Music Association’s video of the year award.
“Safe in the Arms of Love” (1995) — Presented as a dream sequence, McBride sits and swings happily as members of Cirque du Soleil perform on trapezes and high wires behind her.
“Cry on the Shoulder of the Road” (1997) — She’s had enough of her insensitive lover, so now McBride’s in her car, on the road and dealing with mixed feelings of freedom and fear. A newlywed couple crops up in several roadside scenes to serve as her emotional reference point of bad love vs. good. Unlike most of her videos, in which she stands outside and lyrically comments on the action, McBride actually gets to do some acting here. The harmony singer in the chorus is the inimitable Levon Helm of The Band.
“A Broken Wing” (1997) — Here the domestic abuse is more subtle and less physical than in “Independence Day.” But it’s just as disabling. Instead of burning down her house, the victim simply “flies” away one Sunday morning. The pretty house in which the abuse scenes are shot — and in which McBride sings — is an effective counterpoint to the corrosive ugliness. It’s your classic bird-in-a-gilded-cage scenario.
“Love’s the Only House” (1999) — More acting for McBride as she plays a supermarket clerk whose work brings her face to face with the pain caused by poverty and indifference.
“Concrete Angel” (2002) — Only the hardest heart can watch this video without breaking. Objectively speaking, it is blatantly sentimental. But we also know that the story it tells is true, that there are children like this little girl who are being battered and killed every day — and often without anyone to interview or grieve for them. To the degree that it stirs our pity and moves us to action, this is a great video.
“Anyway” (2006) — Positive thinking turned up to 11.
“For These Times” (2007) — Except for providing the vocal narrative, McBride doesn’t appear in this video. Apparently shot on the streets of New York, it asks passersby to write on a large pad the thing they most wish for. At the end, it poses that same question to the viewer. Both the faces and the written responses are fascinating.
“I Just Call You Mine” (2009) — In black-and-white vignettes, alternating with color scenes of McBride singing, the video shows couples young and old marveling in the wonder of absolute love.