Faith Hill finally owns up to what we knew all along. She may be from deep-dish Mississippi, but she isn't a country singer, and never has been. This babe's a diva now. And, as she says in her best Diana Ross voice on "Free," "There ain't nothin' I can do about it." But what she could exercise some control over, as the coproducer of her fifth studio album, is the quality and style of her particular brand of über-pop, which on Cry considerably ratchets up the noise factor from 1999's Breathe. The songs, many written by tunesmiths long working in Nashville, often come stocked with meaningful messages, i.e. the emptiness of addiction ("If You're Gonna Fly") or the momentary connection with a loved one who has passed on ("You're Still Here"). Yet Hill and company (longtime producers Byron Gallimore and Dann Huff, in conjunction with Marti Frederiksen) obviously think the best way to make an R&B/pop record is to build a huge, airless production around screeching guitars, wall-rattling drums, and Big Mama choirs. The singer herself may be, indeed, turning out her best vocals ever. But the album itself is a self-conscious mess--a big, wallowing cacophony of sound that leaves the listener numb. In the end, it's a miserable failure. This chanteuse's R&B just ain't got no soul. --Alanna Nash
First album since 1999's seven-times-platinum, three time Grammy winner Breathe. This enhanced CD includes a 'making of the video' feature, links to the 'Cry' video and exclusive content. Warner. 2002.