Unlike her more mainstream peers Faith Hill and Shania Twain, country diva Martina McBride has never been a big crossover success. She has a loyal country following and charted many tracks on the Billboard Hot 100, but none have been mainstream smashes. This surprises me when you listen to an impeccable pop tune like her 1997 single, "Whatever You Say." Released in the midst of Shania's Come On Over period and right before Faith's break-through with "This Kiss," McBride's song captures the best thing about the pop-country crossovers of the late 90s--impeccable production with country touches, a strong hook, and a great vocal performance. In fact, it's the performance that sets this song apart because McBride can belt better than most divas.
"Whatever You Say" also focuses on a self-empowered feminism that contemporary country could use. In her best songs, McBride sounds in control of her life. However, she avoids fetishizing property damage and assault as faux-feminist tunes like Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" so often do. McBride doesn't need to act out by taking a baseball bat to your car; instead, she wants to have a conversation, and if you actually value her she might stay. It's a more adult message, not to mention more positive and realistic for younger listeners.
When I rediscovered this song, I felt ten years old again, sitting in my dad's pickup truck. I remember singing this song as loud as I could, waiting for him to come out to the car so we could go fishing. I remember "Whatever You Say" made me feel strong, and I was better for hearing it. We should be able to say that about more music.