Carrie Underwood’s new album is a triumph.
There’s no other way to say that what she’s done is mature, classy, appealing, timely and extremely approachable. Serviceable to boot. This album is chockfull of massive songs and meaningful moments that let you into her state of mind, something she’s rarely done before.
I’ve been listening to Carrie since Some Hearts, her debut album after being crowned the 4th American Idol. Her albums, always appealing, became formulaic. She knew the winning formula and each subsequent release had songs that teetered the same emotional narratives: done-wronged ex-girlfriends and wives, finding new love, death, drinking. All-American Girl, one of Carrie’s biggest hits, is so aggressively anti-feminist I frankly wonder how many songs like this there are out there, and how they all went so far on country radio.
If you pay attention to the song and its lyrics, you will learn that the man has the football career, talent, and life to on the line; while the woman is the pretty, all-American girl who is his distraction.
Cry Pretty, however, presents a new Carrie. After finding herself in the public eye under some negative scrutiny, Carrie seemingly felt she had to explain. She does. The album starts with Cry Pretty, an admission that she’s tried to keep it together for years, but finally, she realized that it isn’t always pretty and sometimes once the tears start flowing you can’t hold them back, and the cracks will show. What a testament, and what a song. It’s a shame it didn’t peak higher than number 8.
Side note: The current top 10 country songs are all by males. Bebe Rehxa is the only female in the top 20 country airplay list, and it’s on a duet.
Cry Pretty strays from Carrie’s formula. She typically starts her albums with upbeat, bombastic songs and slows things down for her tried-and-true ballads, before picking up the pace with a drinking song, and winding things down with a thoughtful capstone of a ballad to close the album. Cry Pretty is mainly moderately paced, but each song just pulls you in and entices you to stay. I’ve not been so wrapped up in an album in quite some time.
Ghosts on the Stereo, Low and Backsliding are some of the best things are some of the best songs I’ve heard this year… in quite some time really. The way Carrie emotes, the lyrics, the pacing of the verses, the large choruses. These songs are so powerful. Carrie leans into R&B on two very entertaining and daring songs, That Song We Used to Make Love To and End Up With You. Both slyly incorporate R&B leaning stylings with country vocal grit that only Carrie can supply.
Carrie goes deep with this album. She does something that many men in the country music scene probably wouldn’t even dare do… talk about guns. The Bullet and Love Wins both address current topics that universally garner the attention of the news, talk shows, and even social media. Gun violence and love. The Bullet begins at a funeral, talks about prayer, discusses how after a while the attention dies down… but the wound lives on… “the bullet keeps on going”. Love Wins discusses how social topics have truly divided the people of our country, “politics and prejudice, how the hell did it come to this?” Carrie sings. She resolves that we must accept that “in the end, love wins.” These are two statements men on the radio have yet to even dare speak. Carrie proves her strength. Without being overtly political and pushy, she tackles two subject matters in graceful ways that are effective and engage the listening in pensive reflection.
The album finishes with Kingdom, a song that describes her home, her family, her life as her kingdom. A true testament to anyone who dare speaks about the possible drama behind the scenes.
Cry Pretty is definitely something to be proud of. Carrie has curated an amazing album full of life, character, honesty and emotion. This is truly a success and I can only hope radio leans into it, and leans into women… because women aren’t afraid to touch upon the subjects that really matter: life, love, loss. Something, men rarely seem to do these days.
Congrats, Carrie! Please go stream and/or buy Cry Pretty RIGHT NOW!