At a time where artists follow a repetitive cycle in their careers of album making and touring, Carrie Underwood has decided to break the routine she found herself in and take her time in giving the music industry her fourth album: Blown Away.
Two and a half years after her latest offering, Play On, was deemed as mediocre by critics, Underwood figured the best approach for album number four was a “all bets are off.” When you’re among your generation’s best vocalists, why not seek out material that’s fitting and can only elevate your talent?
This is what Underwood does on Blown Away in droves.
Opening with the rocking Good Girl, the album doesn’t relent. It moves into the haunting Blown Away, a song about a girl seeking revenge on her abusive father which Underwood delivers breathtakingly. The album goes even darker with Two Black Cadillacs, where a wife and a mistress at the funeral of the man who betrayed them both, a song that Underwood also delivers in a chilling manner.
See You Again, originally written for Narnia’s The Dawn Treader, showcases Underwood’s nuanced vocals as she tells a very significant person that she’ll see him again despite all. Do You Think About Me is an effervescent country song about a young love that is long gone but which Underwood keenly remembers.
The album’s most personal track, Forever Changed, is an old-fashioned country song that chronicles the life of a woman as she fell in love, gave birth and is now losing her memory while her daughter achingly watches. Underwood’s very subtle, nuanced and subdued delivery of Forever Changed adds another dimension to the storytelling.
Nobody Ever Told You, a country uptempo serves as a simple empowering anthem for young girls. It’s followed by the tropical Bob Marley-esque One Way Ticket, written while Carrie Underwood, Josh Kear and Luke Laird were sipping margaritas. The laid back atmosphere of the writing session translates perfectly to song with goofy lyrics such as “tell your boss man where to stick it” and whistling delivered by Underwood herself.
Don’t let the cliché title of Thank God for Hometowns fool you. The song hits a nerve with anyone who comes from a small town anywhere around the world. The Ryan Tedder co-write on the album, Good in Goodbye, is a haunting track about meeting a former lover with whom things ended badly, feeling regret even though both are happy with their lives now. “Sometimes, yes sometimes, there’s good in goodbye.”
On the folky and repetitive Leave Love Alone, Underwood delivers a foot tapper as she repeats “I just can’t leave alone.” The country-heavy, Brad Paisley-guitar driven, Cupid’s Got A Shotgun is the album’s most redneck track. With references to guns, riffles and shotguns, Underwood is escaping love at all costs. Brad Paisley delivers a masterful guitar performance on the track.
Wine After Whiskey, a song that didn’t make Carrie’s previous album Play On, is an aching regret of a relationship that went sour, getting diluted into something that doesn’t work anymore. Who Are You, the album’s most religious track and written by Shania Twain’s former producer Mutt Lange, serves as a decent conclusion to the album and resonates with the faith Carrie has professed on many occasions.
Blown Away features a set of masterful lyrics, grouped together with chilling composition and extremely well-done production. Carrie’s voice doesn’t fight against the production as in previous albums of hers, it complements the instrumentation and serves to showcase both the songs and her delivery, which has truly matured on Blown Away. There are subtle hints, sprinkled here and there, that turn phrases and add depth and dimensions to lyrics, something Underwood had touched on but never delved in before. She plays with that on Blown Away like childsplay, showing that a good vocal performance isn’t always about reaching the stratosphere notes, something that she took time to learn.
Blown Away is a very cohesive album that’s a collection of fourteen very strong tracks, the only one of those which is reminiscent of Carrie’s previous material being Good Girl. The album spans the gamut themes-wise. It’s dark, mysterious, chilling. And it’s also fun, happy, goofy. Both sides are balanced perfectly. None seem to overtake the other, both working together to elevate the album’s level to places that Underwood hadn’t reached artistically before. Underwood is fierce on Blown Away. She’s unrelenting. She’s gut-wrenching. And she occasionally plays.
Blown Away is an album about a life: the ups and downs, the vacations, the bittersweet memories, the hardships, faith…. It is a collection that is more than worth the wait that brought it here. Carrie Underwood has managed to blow away detractors with her fourth album. Country music, prepare to be blown away by the latest offering of Underwood.
Yes, Underwood is back. To say better than ever with an album like Blown Away would be an understatement. Make sure to grab a copy on May 1st. You won’t be disappointed.
You can stream the album on iTunes here. You can also check out the lyrics for all the songs here.