It’s been 30 years since Martina McBride signed her first recording contract with RCA Nashville.
Since then, the golden-throated McBride has landed 31 songs in the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, including such No. 1s as “Wild Angels,” “A Broken Wing,” “Blessed” and “I Love You.” In addition to upbeat love songs, McBride has fearlessly tackled difficult subjects such as domestic and child abuse, taking topics that other artists avoid to the upper reaches of the charts.
To celebrate the anniversary, Sony Nashville released a double vinyl package Greatest Hits: The RCA Years on Aug. 20. (McBride’s last studio album for RCA was 2009’s Shine). Additionally, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled the new exhibit Martina McBride: The Power of Her Voice last month honoring the multiple CMA and ACM Award winner. The display runs through next August and includes awards, stage wear, handwritten lyrics and personal artifacts.
McBride, who is on select dates with Blake Shelton through Oct. 2, picked five favorites among her hits and shared with Billboard her memories about what made the songs so special for her.
“Independence Day” (1994)
I knew I wanted to record this song immediately. Halfway through the first listen I claimed it as mine. Looking back, it was kind of a ballsy move, I guess…to record and release this song. But at the time I just had a passion and conviction that it was the thing I needed to do. It’s kind of hard to explain my reaction to it. I recognized the brilliance of the songwriting immediately and also felt a connection with this mother and child. I haven’t heard anything else that sounds like it to this day.
“Wild Angels” (1995)
I have always loved the energy of this song and the melody. This was my first No. 1 song. I remember we landed in Dallas and found out it went No. 1 while we were walking through the airport. The album version has a laugh at the beginning from my daughter Delaney, who was not quite a year old at the time.
“A Broken Wing” (1997)
This song just felt really special the first time I heard it. I felt like it would empower someone who needed to hear it. I still haven’t heard a song about emotional abuse that is quite this direct. So many people ask if the woman jumped out the window in the second verse. I never interpreted it that way, but I can see now how it could be. I prefer to think of it as a metaphor for her leaving and claiming her freedom.
“Concrete Angel” (2002)
If I remember right, I had heard this song for the previous album. I hesitated to record it because I thought it might be too heavy. But in the end I followed my gut, which was telling me I needed to do it. It has become one of the most streamed and watched songs in my entire catalog. I think, in the end, it’s a healing song for many.
“This One’s for the Girls” (2003)
It can be difficult to find an uptempo song with substance. I love the way this song hits on different stages of life. It’s really timeless, I think. I look out and see young girls singing it at the top of their lungs when I perform it live. Sometimes I see a couple of generations of women sharing the experience of the song. That’s really cool.