By Hannah Amante
“Blown Away,” which came out on May 1, is former American Idol champion and country sensation Carrie Underwood’s fourth album.
With her powerhouse vocals and memorable tunes that even non-country fans can recognize, Underwood is known as the most successful American Idol alumna when it comes to selling albums.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly prior to the album’s release, Underwood said she liked country songs with a “darker story line,” and that “Blown Away” would go in that direction, not that she hasn’t already been known to explore the grittier sides of love and life in her music.
“Good Girl,” the opening track of “Blown Away,” clearly mirrors the anger from 2006’s “Before He Cheats,” with lyrics such as “He’s really good at lying / Yeah, he’ll leave you in the dust / ‘Cause when he says forever / Well, it don’t mean much.”
But “Good Girl” is even better, with a throwback 80s rock ‘n’ roll feel a la Pat Benatar. This time, Underwood is urging another woman to leave a bad relationship before it damages her even more. The chorus and hook are really catchy, and Underwood’s energetic vocals, coupled with strong beats, are what rightly made it her first single off the album.
The title track is even darker, telling the story of a girl who prays that a tornado will blow away and destroy everything, including her abusive father. It is hard to get an exact feel for what Underwood or her producers were going for stylistically. The echoing vocals and supernatural orchestra effects seem to imitate bands such as Florence + the Machine. “Blown Away” is the most that Underwood strays from typical country fare.
Several songs on the album seem to center on death and funerals, such as “Two Black Cadillacs” and “Forever Changed.”
Other tracks, however, steer away from the darkness a bit, such as “Do You Think about Me,” a light, bouncy pop-country tune that could easily just have been sung by Taylor Swift.
In the song, the singer recalls a past love whom she can’t get her mind off. Even though they’ve both moved on, her memories are mostly happy instead of heartbreaking. “I met a boy a lot like you,” she sings. “It’s funny how he used to sing it too / But he’s always just a little out of key / So much different from you and me.”
“One-Way Ticket” introduces a bit of reggae into the album. The carefree, summery mood of the song doesn’t seem to go with the others; yet, the title itself brings us back to the theme of life’s fragility. But it is optimistic, as Underwood urges the listener that life is too short to waste on worrying or regretting the past.
Perhaps the most moving track is “Thank God for Hometowns,” where the singer wonders whether to attend a funeral and a wedding in the town she was raised in, a small town she hasn’t seen in a while. When she decides to attend both, she feels immediately grateful. What could have been a very typical, sappy song is somehow made relatable by the bittersweet arrangement. “Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in / When you were dying to get out,” she sings. “Thank God for church pews / And all the faces that won’t forget you.”
What is most enjoyable about Underwood’s music, whether you’re a fan or not, is that her singing is so heartfelt and sincere. She does not seem to hold back when expressing her emotions in each song, no matter what musical style she’s lightly experimenting with.
Another thing that unexpectedly stands out in this album is the element of storytelling. Underwood is convincing in whatever character she is embodying ” and there are many of them.
There are a few forgettable tracks, too. The enticing introductions may disappoint the listener with the mediocre lyrics that follow.
So as far as a pop-country album goes, “Blown Away” isn’t extraordinary, but still manages to blow the roof off with several standout tracks.
Courtesy Sony Music Entertainment
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