Carrie Underwood Carries The ‘Idol’ Crown Well On ‘Blown Away’
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Ever since winning the fourth season of American Idol, Carrie Underwood has become one of the strongest female presences in country music. Despite her powerful voice, Underwood has struggled to grow as an artist. Her latest release, Blown Away, is intended to show the growth of an artist, but, the subject material really does not stray too far from things tackled on Underwood’s previous albums. The album is a pleasant listen with a technically outstanding production. None of the songs are that groundbreaking, and in some ways Blown Away comes off as emotionally distant.
The lead single, “Good Girl,” is one of Underwood’s best songs to date. Underwood’s fiery vocal performance is stronger on this track than anything from her previous albums. The song serves as a warning to all potential girlfriends of an ex: “Why you got to be so blind? / Won’t you open up your eyes? / It’s just a matter of time till you find / He’s no good, girl.” What helps this single stand out is Underwood’s conviction in her performance. The country-rock sound also fits into today’s country music scene with ease. Like many previous singles, the upbeat tone of the song also leaves it with the potential to cross over to mainstream radio as well.
“Blown Away” is already lined up to be the second single from the album. This song definitely has more of a pop sound, right down to the interestingly auto-tuned bridge, where Underwood sings: “There’s not enough rain in Oklahoma to wash the sins out of that house.” Like the first single, Underwood sings the hell out of the track, especially on the chorus. It will be interesting to see if country radio accepts the song, because it definitely sounds like it would be more at home at Top 40 radio.
One of the worst songs on the album is “Thank God for Home Towns.” The track features lyrics such as, “Thank God for the county lines that welcomed you back in when you were dying to get out / Thank God for Church pews / And all the faces that won’t forget you.” The problem with this song and others like it (namely, “Forever Changed” and “See You Again”) is that they are fairly generic. While Underwood’s voice sounds great, she does not add any emotional depth to what she is singing. In other words, anyone could be singing them. Underwood has yet to emotionally “let go” on a track, like Miranda Lambert has on “The House that Built Me.” Basically, Underwood is like an actress, playing various roles on her new album—the angry ex-girlfriend, the wife, the devoted Christian, etc. She gives a lot of different performances, but none are Oscar-worthy.
The closest Underwood comes to truly connecting with a song is on “Two Black Cadillacs.” The track has a more folksy sound than the other songs on Blown Away, which enables it to stand out. Tellingly, Underwood co-wrote the track about the funeral of a previous lover. Overall, this would have to be the best track on the album, because it does not rely on country music cliches and is rather inventive, compared to the rest of the record.
Ultimately, Underwood has never sounded as vocally strong as she does on Blown Away. The trouble is that half of the tracks on the album have such generic lyrics that there is often not enough emotional depth for the listener to care about what Underwood is singing. Underwood is often compared to Taylor Swift, her fellow blond and contemporary country pop rival. The main difference between the two, which is utterly apparent on Underwood’s latest album, is that Swift brings a much stronger personal connection to her songs, while Underwood’s product, though beautifully sung, is much more manufactured. Underwood is the better singer, but she could learn a few things from Swift about being more emotionally connected to her craft.