Taylor Swift is enjoying an incredible amount of success at the moment, as she not only has a firm grip on the country music world (expect her to steal the show at Wednesday night's CMA Awards) but also on the larger pop music landscape. While nobody has ever done it quite as big as Swift, her success is not entirely unprecedented. A handful of female country artists boldly kicked the door down to score mainstream radio play and to permeate the larger cultural landscape. Shania Twain certainly took care of business at the end of the century, and on this day in 1999, Faith Hill released Breathe, one of the first great pop-country crossovers.
Though Hill was new to most non-country fans in 1999, Breathe was actually her fourth album. She had already established herself as a player in Nashville, as her first three releases — 1993's Take Me As I Am, 1995's It Matters to Me and 1998's Faith — were all rousing successes in the country music universe, and she had become famous not only for her excellent delivery but also for her striking good looks (even for a country music diva, she was especially foxy). Faith began her push toward the mainstream, as the single "This Kiss" (and its dictionary-friendly chorus) gained some traction outside of Nashville.
Though Breathe wasn't necessarily a conscientious crossover, it happened anyway. The title track (and first single) scored instant success and nearly topped the Billboard Hot 100 (it was blocked by Santana's "Maria Maria," of all things), and the follow-up single "The Way You Love Me" also made a big splash (it got up to number seven on the same chart). All told, Breathe went on to sell eight million copies and, perhaps most importantly, made Hill the first female country star to debut on top of the Billboard album chart. Given how lovely and catchy "Breathe" is, it's no mystery.