In the follow-up singles, we will learn how to “Chat With a Dude,” “Converse With a Fellow,” and “Gossip To a Baby”…
Jonathan Bradley: Now that you’ve started dating, country music’s mom and dad want to sit you down for a serious talk, and in true parental form, they’ve got good advice, come off terribly old fashioned — mom tries to be cool by talking about “Benjamin Franklins” — and omg, so boring. Can we have the car keys now, please?
David Sheffieck: National treasure Faith Hill and not-bad-either Tim McGraw have individually made great songs during their two decades together. Together they have also made a great many boring duets (their best collaboration is arguably still their first, where McGraw only contributes backing vocals). “Speak to a Girl” continues the trend, with a vague and cliche-packed lyric that instantly begins to chip away at the fun promised by Hill’s opening couplet. And they’re sure not getting any help from the wooden production. Both singers sound great — they always do — and it helps precisely as much as usual.
Thomas Inskeep: I love Faith’s vocal on this: it’s the most ragged, understated singing I’ve ever heard from her, not at all her usual belty thing. Tim sounds marvelous as always; his voice is one of the richest in country today, and I never tire of hearing it. And the production (by Bryan Gallimore and McGraw himself) is solid, and the song is strong, too.
Alfred Soto: Written at a slovenly level, “Speak to a Girl” would crumble into stale cookies if it weren’t for McGraw and Hill’s commitment; whether on 2007’s “I Need You” or 2014’s “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” they share a musical sympathy. But McGraw’s cover of “Humble and Kind” covered much of this territory.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Inexplicably, slang is not universal so hearing Faith Hill drawl out the words “Benjamin Franklins” is appalling in how nobody asked for it, and while sure I’m going to hear it in other songs and not be so taken aback, here I am clutching my pearls. Anyway, the formula of Hill doing the soft intro, McGraw taking that next step and then getting overpowered on the BIG CHORUS is fine, were it not for the fact that hearing “that’s how you talk to your mama” bit is in its own way goofy. There’s a lot of sentiment here that dodges sappy simply by being silly, but not deliberately enough to lighten the mood, just really cloud the goals.
Will Adams: It’s got a similar lilt and theme to Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth,” which I enjoy, but half the energy. While it’s prudent that Faith is the one doing most of the explaining of how to treat women, the recycled tropes wear thin by her second line.
Joshua Copperman: I’m somewhat indifferent toward the gender politics of this song, but I generally like how the message is “just be honest and treat her like a human being.” What I love is the production; after the anemic trap-country of Sam Hunt and artificial pop-country of almost everything else, it’s refreshing to hear something this full and lush, especially when the electronic vocal effects come in during the second chorus and that subtle throbbing bass line enters in the post-bridge section. That bridge could have used more variety, but other than that, this is solid, managing to be warm without being cloying, and topped by a pair of performances with enough chemistry to sell the song no matter its content.