Carrie Underwood's credentials as a singer have never much been in doubt. But you can't say the same about her chops as a songwriter. Following her smash debut Some Hearts, Underwood co-wrote four songs on her second album Carnival Ride. And on 2009's halfhearted Play On, the number went up to seven.
Carrie Underwood's fourth album, Blown Away, continues her lean toward pop, and her bent toward songwriting (total credits: eight), but it makes a far more appealing package than its predecessor.
Watch Out, Fellas
A tornado kills an abusive father on "Blown Away." Wife and mistress collaborate on murder in "Two Black Cadillacs." And on "Good Girl" Underwood warns a young woman to drop her no-good bad boy before it's too late. More well-meaning misandry comes our way on "Cupid's Got a Shotgun," featuring fretwork by Brad Paisley and lyrics under the influence of Miranda Lambert.
Underwood is known for blustery arrangements flanked by forthright vocals, and both are in ample supply on Blown Away. But the small twists to the formula make for a listening experience that might surprise some of her most ardent critics.
A Slog Through Familiar Territory
Still, "Forever Changed" loosens the spigot of lukewarm songwriting that starts to seep into the rest of the record. The refrain "Nothing ever stays the same / Forever named, forever changed" seems cut-and-pasted from other songs. The radio-ready "See You Again" is saved by its keyboard arrangement. But other ballads aren't so lucky. By the time "Good in Goodbye" (track 11) comes around, the lyric sheets get positively soggy: "Sometimes life leaves you down a different road / When you're holding onto someone that you gotta let go."
Even the reliably addictive quiet-loud treatment of "Who Are You" succumbs to vague lines like "Who are you / The one I give my life to / Who are you / Who loves as deep as I do." They seem designed to muddy up the song's two ostensible, but mutually exclusive, subjects: her lover or her Lord.
Such filler stands in sharp contrast to the album's truly exemplary material, chiefly the charming "Do You Think About Me." The love song's contemplative tone and gentle acoustic backing make it one of the best things Underwood has ever recorded.
Also of note are the nostalgic "Thank God for Hometowns" and the white-sand party tune, "One Way Ticket," an itchy break in decorum that features such imperatives as "Grab yourself a gal, grab yourself a fella / Grab yourself a drink with a pink umbrella" and "Life is so good, it's sticky sweet / It's a carnival cotton candy treat / Unwrap it like a lollipop: lick it."
Such advice will come in handy when listening to Blown Away, if you can follow it.
Best Songs on Blown Away
- "Blown Away" (preview/download)
- "Do You Think About Me" (preview/download)
- "Good Girl" (preview/download)
- "One Way Ticket" (previous/download)
Track list for Blown Away
1. "Good Girl"
2. "Blown Away"
3. "Two Black Cadillacs"
4. "See You Again"
5. "Do You Think About Me"
6. "Forever Changed"
7. "Nobody Ever Told You"
8. "One Way Ticket"
9. "Thank God for Hometowns"
10. "Good in Goodbye"
11. "Leave Love Alone"
12. "Cupid's Got a Shotgun"
13. "Wine After Whiskey"
14. "Who Are You"
Release Date: May 1, 2012