Album Review: Carrie Underwood – Blown Away

About a year ago I could’ve started this review out by saying I am diametrically opposed to country music. Unfortunately, my stalwart musical stubbornness failed me somewhere along the way and I’ve since warmed a bit to a small slice of pop-country. And Carrie Underwood fits that small slice of pop-country better than almost any other artist out there, so I gave her record a spin. Half of the tracks are almost devoid of your stereotypical country elements and veer much closer to something you’d expect to hear from a pop/rock band, but she still manages to place her distinct stamp on every track. As an album, Blown Away is a strong effort with a few tracks that even non-country fans might find enjoyable.

While I wouldn’t say that the album ever really drags, it is still definitely front-loaded. The lead single “Good Girl” is the most rock-flavored track and kicks off the album with high energy and Carrie’s trademark country girl swagger. This eases itself into the album’s title track and most-inspired offering “Blown Away”. The driving piano and plucky strings create an atmosphere that feels immediately epic and build into a swelling chorus highlighted with crashing cymbals and Carrie’s soaring voice. Aside from a mention of “tear-soaked whiskey” and namedrop of Oklahoma, it’s devoid of country elements. “Two Black Cadillacs” does a decent attempt at mimicking this, but compromises with a little more twang and a flattened climax.

The first, and most radio-ready, ballad of the album is “See You Again” which goes exactly as you’d expect it to. It steadily builds into a swooping chorus and then all but dissolves into a tender bridge. Perhaps a tad formulaic, but nonetheless effective. Another potentially typical ballad, “Wine After Whiskey” feels like it was made for a music video of a girl looking out on a rainy day while remembering sepia-toned clips of her past. It’s got the strongest lyrics on the album and killer emotional gravitas that makes it a spectacular listen. Both are much better than the last track, “Who Are You” which mixes similar ingredients but comes up with a less palatable result.

For one of the few songs with a distinctly “country” stamp, “Do You Think About Me” does its job well. Carrie’s voice follows a lilting melody over a sweet banjo and the final product goes down easy. It’s light listening before the heavier, more intimate “Forever Changed” which was factory-made to tug at your heartstrings. In a vocal that drips with yearning, Carrie sings lines like, “Some days she’ll talk about Aunt Rosie / The sister she lost / Asking when she’s coming over / and why she hasn’t called.” In the same vein, “Thank God For Hometowns” plays a similar game but lacks the sparse, effective instrumentation of “Forever Changed” and ends up being a pleasantly forgettable listen.

There are only a few real misfires on the album, one of which is “Nobody Ever Told You”. With a pre-chorus that Colbie Caillat would be jealous of and a mostly light-hearted vibe, the chorus gets too frenetic and the hook that the song’s production promises never gets delivered. “Leave Love Alone” is similarly disappointing, with a beat-clap breakdown that screams drunken bar sing-along but ends up loud and hook-less. “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” nearly suffers the same fate; it begins with the gas floored and never lets up, throwing every instrument in the studio at you all at once, all the time, but saves itself with sheer spunk and willpower of delivery.

“One Way Ticket” is the epitome of fun. It combines whistling, feel good lyrics and a playful catchiness that’s absolutely instant. If Taio Cruz and Miley Cyrus have taught me anything, it’s that when a song insists that you raise your hands in the air, it is destined to be a toe-tapping earworm.

Finally, the least obvious standout of the album is “Good In Goodbye”. It’s relatively simplistic and doesn’t stretch Carrie too far, vocally or musically. The entire song is one slow build that eventually ends with Carrie belting the title lyric. Though it has relatively little flashiness, with a concept that everyone can relate to and stellar production, it seems like a clear grower.

I don’t think I’ll be wearing out a copy of Blown Away any time soon, but it’s definitely an entertaining listen with a few tracks that I’m going to end up buying as they gnaw at my brain. Carrie has never tried to reinvent music, but in her fourth studio album she does a good job pleasing her fans while evolving her sound.

Stream at iTunes


1 Response to “Album Review: Carrie Underwood – <i>Blown Away</i>”

  1. 1 Anonymous Trackback on April 29, 2012 at 11:13 pm

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