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Carrie Underwood teams with Mutt Lange for track on new album

Carrie Underwood's 'Blown Away': A track-by-track review

By Brian Mansfield, USA TODAY
May 1, 2012


Carrie Underwood's Blown Away is an album clearly made for more than country radio. Sure, Good Girl is already burning up the charts, and the album has enough singles to fuel that format for a couple years -- and tracks like Cupid's Got a Shotgun and Leave Love Alone will give programmers as much twang as they want, should they decide they want to go that direction. But with Blown Away's broad range of styles, somebody's thinking about broadening Carrie's fan base, even if Carrie says that wasn't an intentional goal while she was cutting the album.

Blown Away's sequencing almost suggests four EPs and a bonus track -- the trio of dark, dramatic songs that start the album, a brief foray into a catchy acoustic country-pop, a couple of ballads, some throwback country, then a Mutt Lange tune that pops up out of nowhere. Whatever type of country music you like -- or even if you think you don't -- Carrie's got something for you here. After winning American Idol and selling more than 12 million albums to date, she's already the country star that everybody knows. With Blown Away, her best album since 2005's Some Hearts and maybe ever, she seems to want to become the country star that everybody loves.

Good Girl (Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley, Carrie Underwood). Carrie's always had a thing for '80s hair metal -- it's nice to finally see that make its way onto one of her albums. Good Girl's got vintage rock guitar riffs, tons of echo and a melody that lets Carrie wail like Pat Benatar. But those Merseybeat hand claps are what elevate this single to instant earworm status.

Blown Away (Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins). Brought to you by the team that created Before He Cheats, this one comes off like a cross between that song and Martina McBride's Independence Day as a young woman exacts her vengeance on her "mean old mister" alcoholic father. The synthesizers, strings sounds, vocal overdubs and echoing guitars combine dramatically to give Blown Away a neo-'80s feel -- think an Oklahoma version of the Eurhythmics.

Two Black Cadillacs (Carrie Underwood, Josh Kear, Hillary Lindsey). Assuming that Carrie killed Blown Away's "mean old mister" and taking the hint that the "angel in the ground" mother died at his hand, it's time to start the album's body count (three, to this point). Two Black Cadillacs begins with a funeral procession, and if you've ever seen Diabolique (either the 1955 French classic or the 1996 Sharon Stone remake), you'll quickly figure out what led to this moment and why the procession needs two Cadillacs. Funny thing is, Carrie's never seen the movie. Wonder if Josh or Hillary has.

See You Again (Carrie Underwood, David Hodges, Hillary Lindsey). After a very dark start to Blown Away, the mood suddenly shifts to this song of sorrow and hope, initially written to submit to Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The big whoa-oh-oh singalong hook may not have suited that film (producers went with Carrie's There's a Place for Us instead), but it perfectly suits this song and its '80s MOR throb. One of several tracks with crossover-hit potential written all over it. And maybe the person Carrie's singing to just went away for a very long time, but she sings it in a way that suggests she'll have to travel beyond the ends of the earth for a reunion. Body count: Four.

Do You Think About Me (Cary Barlowe, Hillary Lindsey, Shane Stevens). Carrie recalls an early love with nostalgic fondness and a mandolin-heavy acoustic-pop arrangements. It's like Carrie's version of Deana Carter's Strawberry Wine, or something the Band Perry might do.

Forever Changed (Hillary Lindsey, Tom Douglas, James T. Slater). Co-writer Tom Douglas was one of the writers of Miranda Lambert's The House That Built Me, and this devastating piano-based ballad, which Carrie has said is one of her favorites on the album, taps similar seasons-of-life emotions. A daughter recounts her mother's life with a descriptiveness that's almost tactile, then watches, grief-stricken, as Alzheimer's steals her life from her: "Some days it almost kills me, watching her memory slip away a little more."

Nobody Ever Told You (Carrie Underwood, Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey). More catchy acoustic country-pop with fiddle, banjo, steel guitar and lots of la-la-las and na-na-nas. It's got a marvelous loping rhythm to it, somewhere between the hillbilly bubblegum of Taylor Swift's Mean and the Afrobeat of Paul Simon's Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.

One Way Ticket (Carrie Underwood, Josh Kear, Luke Laird). Carrie Underwood travels to Kenny Chesney/Zac Brown Band terrain for this summery jam, which has, of all things, a harmonized whistle melody. A certain single at some point, this'll wind up being a highlight of Carrie's fall tour, with lyrics like "Raise your hands in the air tonight/Put a little love back in your life/Get your feet up and just kick it/We got a one-way ticket."

Thank God for Hometowns (Ashley Gorley, Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey). Blown Away takes another stylistic shift of direction with its second funeral procession (quick, name another album that has more than one), but this is the kind for which people pull to the shoulder of the road and let it pass as a sign of respect. On 2005's Some Hearts, Carrie sang I Ain't in Checotah Anymore; now, she sings, "Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in when you were dying to get out." Body count: Five.

Good in Goodbye (Carrie Underwood, Hillary Lindsey, Ryan Tedder). Think of this torchy ballads with its jazzy piano chords as the song Carrie wrote about the guy before the guy she wrote Mama's Song about. Or as her version of Garth Brooks' Unanswered Prayers.

Leave Love Alone (Gordie Sampson, Hillary Lindsey, Troy Verges). The big swig of Dobro that starts this down-home stomp signals another change in musical direction. It's got '70s-style country harmonies on the chorus (Carrie and producer Mark Bright actually removed a lower male voice from the mix to keep it from sounding too much like the Oak Ridge Boys), cool percussion tracks and a great mandolin solo.

Cupid's Got a Shotgun (Carrie Underwood, Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins). For Remind Me, Brad Paisley asked Carrie to sing with him. Carrie returned the favor by asking him to play guitar on this track. If you know Paisley's style at all, his chicken-picking solo is unmistakable. No word on whether or not a hologram Brad will play the solo at her concerts this fall, the way she sings Remind Me with him in his shows. Oddly, it's the closest thing to a love song on the album.

Wine After Whiskey (Carrie Underwood, Dave Berg, Tom Shapiro). This leftover from the Play On sessions finds a home on the traditional-country portion of Blown Away. Connoisseurs of country drinking songs will appreciate the metaphor Carrie uses to describe having to settle for lesser relationships after tasting perfect love.

Who Are You (R.J. "Mutt" Lange). Shania Twain's ex-husband and former producer (and the guy behind the distinctive sounds of bands like Def Leppard and AC/DC) contributed the album's final track. It's got the simple melody and complex song structure of a downtempo Shania track but more range. It's a final, undeniably catchy twist to an album that stretches Carrie's musical boundaries beyond anything she has previously done.

My favorites: Blown Away, One Way Ticket, Leave Love Alone, Who Are You


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Carrie Underwood, ‘Blown Away’ – Album Review

As expected, the cover of Carrie Underwood‘s ‘Blown Away’ album foreshadows the mood of the project’s 14 songs (eight co-written by Underwood). It stops short of tempestuous, but she spends more time looking back at the darkness than she does forward to sunny days.

That said, there will be few finer collections of songs on a country album this year. Between her work with a pen and the work of many other fine Nashville writers, Underwood is able to paint vivid emotional portraits with just a few vocal brush strokes. ‘Blown Away’ and ‘Two Black Cadillacs,’ for example, will get all praise, as they hypnotize you with eerie stories of betrayal, abuse and murder.

There’s not enough rain in Oklahoma / To wash the sins out of the house / There’s not enough wind in Oklahoma / To rip the nails out of the past,” Underwood sings on the title track.

‘Do You Think About Me’ and ‘Forever Changed’ are just as tight, but not as flashy. On the former, the singer gives her best vocal performance on the album. Of course, expecting that Underwood will be perfect vocally is a given, but it shouldn’t go unmentioned.

As an album, ‘Blown Away’ comes across as somewhat separated from what fans know of the reality of Underwood’s life. She hasn’t been shy in admitting that she loves adding theater to her music, but songs that find her pining for lost love or running from love completely are difficult to come to terms with. ‘Cupid’s Got a Shotgun’ might be the most fun track on the album, but it may not be the best match. Similarly, ‘Wine After Whiskey’ leaves more questions than answers, but the melancholy ballad does a better job of opening itself up for fans to attach their own stories to the lyrics. This isn’t as much a criticism as it is a warning to forget what you know about the country singer’s happy personal life when listening.

‘Who Are You’ and ‘See You Again’ are the low points of the record. For the most part, Underwood rides the line between pop and country like a professional — songs in the delicious middle might be the most country she’s ever recorded — but the drum track and backing vocals on the latter and Mutt Lange’s lyrics on the former make them difficult to finish. ‘Who Are You’ sounds like a song Shania Twain would have cut 10 years ago.

Time will tell how this album stacks up against Underwood’s previous three, but from a songwriting perspective, it’s her finest. Look for ‘Cadillacs’ and the heartbreaking ballad ‘Forever Changed’ to be future singles, in our opinion.


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Review: Carrie Underwood squanders her talent on lackluster new album 'Blown Away'

By Sean Daly, Times Pop Music Critic
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

They don't make 'em meek in Oklahoma, and Carrie Underwood sure proved that at first, launching into overnight fame with considerable Sooner grit. Yes, she was an American Idol champ, and yes she smiled and sparkled like a shiny Disney princess. But the girl could holler, and her breakout singles, Jesus, Take the Wheel and Before He Cheats, were bold in their own heavenly and hell-on-wheels ways.

But after her initial surge of popularity, Underwood started playing it safe and safer on her records. Her fourth album, Blown Away, released today, continues the 29-year-old's wishy-washy ways. That's too bad, as fellow country blond Miranda Lambert has thrived commercially and critically by embracing a leather-first, lace-later approach. Lambert is a real artist; Underwood now exhibits all the authenticity of a Barbie doll.

Cliche pleadings for lost love dominate Blown Away, which sounds a lot more Hollywood safe than Nashville tough. Some cuts don't try to be vaguely Southern at all; with its generic synth washes, whoa-ing backing vocals and absolutely zero soul, the overproduced See You Again could have been a giant hit for Celine Dion in 1993.

Underwood co-wrote several of the new cuts, and she gets some songwriting help from usually reliable pens (Hillary Lindsey, One Republic's Ryan Tedder), but no one has much to say. If the handclap-rock of so-so Good Girl is your top option for a first single, you know you're in trouble. Even Mutt Lange, Shania Twain's ex-hubby and former producer of AC/DC and Def Leppard, contributes a track to the LP, but Who Are You flounders in a borderline middle range — perfect for Shania actually, but not doing anything for Carrie.

Instead of developing Underwood's Okie bona fides — a gorgeous girl with a big voice and the moxie to sing about the Lord and keying a cheating boyfriend's four-wheel drive — a couple songs settle for blatant mimicry. Thank God for Hometowns is a cloying knockoff of Lambert's far superior The House That Built Me. And the faux-reggae carpe diem of One Way Ticket ("Life is like a ride on a party bus / Turn the radio up and sing along with it") is a really bad, and downright laughable, Kenny Chesney impression.

There are a few nice moments among the 14 tracks. Cupid's Got a Shotgun sounds like a Gretchen Wilson B-side, but it's dumb sing-along fun. The stomping blues of Leave Love Alone gets loud and angry, like a impromptu jam that allows Underwood to cut loose. And Good in Goodbye, a cutthroat ballad about a past love, is poised to be a monster hit, as a fully invested Underwood sings the ever-lovin' heck out of it.

For the most part, though, the talented singer induces another yawn. But I guess there's just too much money to be made with blah love songs for her to change things up now. Still, whenever I hear another disappointing Underwood album, I think of her live shows, specifically those encore moments when she covers, lo and behold, Guns N' Roses. There's an edgy rocker, a real person, under that princess dress. And if all goes well, one of these days, she really will blow us away.

Sean Daly can be reached at Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.



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Carrie Underwood: CMT Insider Interview (Part Two)

She Talks About New Songs, Upcoming Tour and Getting on Twitter

May 28, 2012

Carrie Underwood has stormed the charts with her new album, Blown Away. In the second segment of a two-part interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, the "Good Girl" singer discusses her approach to making music, recording a song written by famed producer Mutt Lange, how husband Mike Fisher created her ultimate acceptance of Twitter and her motto for the upcoming tour.

Blown Away is your fourth album. Are you feeling more confident, like you really know what your fans want from you musically?

Underwood: I try not to think too much about what other people want from me. I feel like that's somebody else's job to be like, "Carrie, you've gone too far." I don't know statistics, and I don't know what kind of songs people download more. I just know what I like, and I know when I'm singing what feels good for me to sing and what songs I'd turn up on the radio and which ones I'd change. So I kind of write for myself, I sing for myself, and if people like it, I guess they're a lot like me.

You have a Mutt Lange song on the album. Tell us how this came about.

I do. Well, he submitted it. He sent it in. He's really secretive and private about what he has. Lord knows how many songs he has stashed away some place, but I guess he had me in mind at some point.

Did he write "Who Are You" for you?

Honestly, I'm not really sure. I don't know when he wrote it, but somewhere along the way he must have thought, "Hey, Carrie would sound good on this." I don't know what he thought but I'm glad whatever he thought, he thought it, because he sent it in. It was a nice last track. It really fit there nicely. ... The great thing about that song is it can be whatever you need it to be. It can be about a parent. It can be about somebody that you love, guy or girl, whatever. It can be about God. It's just about that rock, that person, that thing in your life that saves you.

Yeah, it's a huge song. Bringing up Mutt, though, makes me think of Shania Twain. [Editor's note: Lange was married to Twain, wrote songs with her and produced her albums.] And that makes me think of something I wanted to ask you after "Before He Cheats" came out. If you had a night of Shania karaoke, what song would you sing?

I love the classic Shania, the kind of original Shania. The "Any Man of Mine" kind of Shania. Those are always a lot of fun. Of course, I listened to her growing up. So, yeah, I'd definitely pick some of the early Shania.

I would love to see you doing karaoke. (laughs) There are currently only five solo females on the entire country singles chart. Do you wish there were more females in country music, or is there a competitive side of you that's like, "No, we have plenty"?

A little bit of both, to be honest. I could totally lie right now and be like, "I totally wish there were more." I wish it was more accepted. I'm sure at some point we all feel a little... "oppressed" isn't the right word, but we're all part of this boys club. So maybe a little out of place. But the ones that we got are killin' it, so maybe it's not about quantity. Maybe it's about quality. If us five or so can dominate, then I'm OK with that.

It took you a little while, but you're on Twitter now. What do you love and hate about it?

I like having that extra way to communicate with fans, and it's a great information tool. I was checking scores for something one day and I couldn't get it on my score checker app. I looked on Twitter, and I found scores to a game, so it's a great informational tool. You can find out what's going on in the world and what people think about it. People are not shy about telling you what they think about everything, It's just a great tool letting people know what you're up to.

But it did take you a while to get on there.

It did. New things like that scare me. I want to see them established and see what they are before I figure out if I want to be a part of it or not. I saw Mike do it. Mike did it for a year before I joined, and he really used it for good. He did not use it for evil. He used it for good. He put out positive messages and thanked people. Seeing him do it took the fear out of it for me.

Yeah, and like you said, it's just such a good way to connect with people.

When I'm on tour especially, I think it's going to be great letting them know like, "I had such an amazing night tonight. Thank you so much, Cleveland!" or wherever I'm at. It's going to be really, really fun to have that immediate interaction before and after things happen.

Speaking of touring, you wrote on your fan page that you'll be touring your face off in 2012.

Yeah, we're planning on starting September-ish. Right now, we're talking creative and trying to figure all that stuff out. We have some great ideas already, but I'm really excited to see what else we come up with.

The last tour was pretty theatrical. Lots of wardrobe changes.

Yeah, this album's got more drama, and I want [the tour] to be a feast for the eyes and ears. I'm excited to see. We're definitely going big or going home, and I think we're going to go big.

Read the first part of CMT Insider's interview with Carrie Underwood.


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