Over the years, the queens of country music have certainly had their say: Sassy Shania Twain celebrated that every girl should “feel like a woman”, the headstrong Dixie Chicks proclaimed that they aren’t quite “ready to make nice”, while beautiful Faith Hill urged us to simply “breathe”. This May Day, rising country queen, Carrie Underwood, released her fourth studio album, Blown Away, showing all of us “good girls” how to explore our darker sides.

Photo credit: www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com

Blown Away celebrates Underwood’s return to the spotlight, with her co-writing 8 of the 14 tracks on this album, including the single “Good Girl”, released on 23 Feb, that showcases her signature country rock style. Reminiscent of her previous hits “Before He Cheats” and “Last Name”, “Good Girl” expresses how a girl “just wants to believe the best in the guy she’s with no matter what”, says Underwood in the behind-the-scenes footage for the music video. Featuring the 5-time Grammy Award winner playing both characters of the “good girl” and the edgy rock star, the music video is packed with a gazillion fabulous wardrobe changes from sweet and feminine to sexy and chic that indulge every girly girl’s fantasy.

Carrie plays both the “good girl” and “woman scorned” in the “Good Girl” music video.

Photo credit: www.directlyrics.com

The album art features the tanned and toned Underwood braving an oncoming storm that instantly distinguishes Blown Away from her previous 3 albums, which depicted her as the sweet girl-next-door. She also takes more creative control and dives head first into darker themes previously unexplored.

In the next 2 tracks “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs” you will find Underwood uncovering family conflicts, scandals and death. The lyrics unfold the stories like a movie in your mind and the moody melodies plant you right in the thick of the tension. UrbanWire can’t get enough of these sinister tracks and applauds Underwood’s brave venture from uplifting, soulful songs to dip her toes into this eerie pond.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find this 27-year-old almost unrecognisable in this upbeat, cheeky reggae number, “One Way Ticket”. Like trading your straw fedora for a cowboy hat, this track takes you on a joy ride with a country twist. On an equally jolly note, “Nobody Ever Told You” seems like the love child of the motherly Martina McBride and quirky Sugarland, offering advice about inner beauty to a young soul wrapped in a fun, catchy tune.

Blown Away will not be a Carrie Underwood album without her classic emotional ballads. Following familiar themes of family, growing up and loss, these tracks all seem to meld indistinguishably into one another. “See You Again” displays a faith and conviction in true love, but neither vocals, emotional expression, nor even lyrics or melody suggest anything particularly country except the occasional twang on the guitar. A tender depiction of a woman’s journey through life, “Forever Changed” has a melancholic tune that bears semblance to her previous single, “Temporary Home”. “Thank God For Hometowns” touches on the return to small town life in America, while “Good in Goodbye” seeks to find comfort in sad departures. Although these tracks showcase a gentler, more vulnerable side to her vocals, they’re nothing listeners haven’t already experienced in previous more emotionally compelling ballads like “So Small” and “Just a Dream”.

However there are some soulful ballads in the mix that undeniably tug on your heartstrings. “Do You Think About Me”, a spritely mid-tempo tune, gently reminds us of the sweet nostalgia of a young love lost. For a song with mild lyrics and a moderate beat, this country crooner successfully delivers the emotions required of this ballad without overpowering the underlying story. Carrie Underwood’s emotional delivery reaches its peak while pulling off poetic juxtaposition between alcohol and heartbreak in “Wine After Whiskey” that makes your heart ache with every adlib.

This album isn’t without a dash of lively country charm. With a clear swampy Louisiana flavour of the 1980s, “Leave Love Alone” is about as country as you can get with this album. “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” is a tongue-in-cheek track, casting the traditionally cherubic Cupid as a cowboy who’s armed and determined to make an unwilling lass fall in love (“Cupid’s throwing love grenades and I’m under attack”).

After previous collaborations with fellow country artist, Brad Paisley, in his duet “Remind Me” and a hosting gig together for the Country Music Awards (CMAs) from 2008 to 2011, their camaraderie can be seen again in this track with Brad’s impressive guitar skills adding a fun, finger-snapping dynamic. According to her official website, this resulted in a delighted Underwood gushing that “[Brad] added that last piece of the puzzle, and it’s just so country”. If you found that the album lacked a certain southern quality so far, it was more than made up for in these 2 tracks.

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley showcase killer vocals and stellar guitar skills performing “Remind Me’ during the CMAs 2011.

 Photo credits: www.aceshowbiz.com

“Who Are You” is a powerful finale to the album, that could either be read as a tribute to a loved one or an anthem of faith, perhaps driven by her 3-year marriage to National Hockey League (NHL) star Mike Fisher or her Christian beliefs (“You’re my saviour, you’re my centre, my beginning and my end”). Either way, it comes off as somewhat preachy, and may leave listeners slightly overwhelmed.

Blown Away contains a hearty dose of darker tracks and previously untried genres like reggae, branding this album as Carrie Underwood’s most ambitious one yet. While a good part of this album may come off as formulaic and repetitive, the highlights are undeniably her tried-and-true numbers, such as country rock track “Good Girl” and unique ballads like “Wine After Whiskey”. Look out for her performance on the Billboard Music Awards 2012 on May 20.

Album Details:
Artist: Carrie Underwood
Album Name: Blown Away
Rating (out of 5): 4/5
Language: English
Genre: Country
Record Label: 19 Recordings Limited/ Arista Nashville
Release Date: 1 May

Track List

  1. Good Girl
  2. Blown Away
  3. Two Black Cadillacs
  4. See You Again
  5. Do You Think About Me
  6. Forever Changed
  7. Nobody Ever Told You
  8. One Way Ticket
  9. Thank God for Hometowns
  10. Good in Goodbye
  11. Leave Love Alone
  12. Cupid’s Got A Shotgun
  13. Wine After Whiskey
  14. Who are You