Carrie Underwood = Long Sigh

Posted by Greg on Dec 2, 2012 in Music |

Once upon a time country music was brimming with young female stars who could belt and wore their country roots proudly on their sleeve (read: Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette). These days that reality feels quite distant. Contemporary country queen Carrie Underwood, who vaulted into the limelight courtesy of American Idol, began her career with earnest, prairie-inspired fare (”Jesus Take the Wheel,” “All-American Girl,” “Some Hearts”). But these days those chart-toppers seem like a distant memory. Case in point, her latest disc Blown Away.

Whether its the stormy title track with its windswept guitars and weighty subject matter or the reggae-tinged “One Way Ticket,” there’s very little that resembles country music on this, her fourth disc. And its not just the lack of country stylings that makes Blown Away so cumbersome. Its the histrionics, the layers of strings, the candy-coated ballads, the feigned rocker attitude, none of it feels genuine anymore. Granted Underwood does deserve some credit for tackling darker subject matter and taking a risk (if you can call it that) but courage and moxie can only get you so far.

What Blown Away most represents is the sea change in contemporary country music, one in which its stars feel hog-tied to writing stadium-ready rockers and VH1-driven ballads. There’s no denying that Blown Away was written for crossover appeal and with mainstream audiences in mind. And therein lies the problem. Will there ever be a country diva that sticks solely to her country roots? Is that too idealistic a proposal? The fact of the matter is the farm-raised, corn fed Oklahoma beauty can sing the dickens out of pretty much anything she touches, but so too can Celine Dion and her career isn’t exactly skyrocketing.

With a running time just over 50 minutes, the fourteen songs on Blown Away run the gamut. There’s the Mutt Lange-helmed “Who Are You,” a paean to Martina McBride; the Ryan Tedder-penned “Good on Goodbye,” and the overwrought “Forever Changed.” And yet even with all these duds, Underwood still finds a way to be charming. If it’s not the affecting ballad “Thank God for Hometowns,” or the deeply pained “Wine After Whiskey,” its the rustling “Two Black Cadillacs,” and the gritty “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun.”

Even lead singe “Good Girl,” which pretty much begs the listener to two-step, has its flaws. Granted its a step ahead of “Cowboy Casanova,” but not by much. Machinated and misguided it seems to hint at a veritable point of no-return in Underwood’s career. With an album like this under her belt, the chances of her making a genuine country record seem further and further from the truth.

Many will cite American Idol as the scapegoat for this problem and others will point to the money-hungry record labels. But that of course would be giving Carrie a free pass. She deserves some of the blame here and anyone who thinks otherwise is only fooling themselves. Underwood can sing, that much is certain, but where she posits herself as an artist is a completely different story. From start to finish, Blown Away wreaks of celebrity, glitz and money (just look at the cover art).

Oh Nashville, where have you gone wrong?

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