We Just Heard Carrie Underwood’s New Album — Here’s What You Need to Know
Carrie Underwood wasn't kidding when she said her new Cry Pretty album would be packed with a new kind of drama. A central theme leads the 11 songs fans haven't heard yet. Then there's that song about guns ...
Perhaps unexpectedly, much of Cry Pretty finds Underwood and her co-writers celebrating, lamenting or describing lost love. In fact, five of the first seven songs put the "Cry Pretty" singer at the end of a relationship by choice (or maybe not?). Her sixth studio album is dominated by real lyrical depth — the kind that will endear fans for a lifetime or upset a few people. Or maybe both.
Taste of Country was on hand as the 35-year-old previewed the new album in Nashville on Monday (Aug. 21). It was an emotional night for her, and several times she fought back tears talking about her journey. Here are our first impressions of all 12 songs from Cry Pretty ("The Champion" — her duet with Ludacris — is included as song No. 13, a bonus track).
1. “Cry Pretty” — The current radio single. It's almost a Top 10 hit, so there's probably not much more to say about it.
2. “Ghosts on the Stereo” — Think "Record Year" by Eric Church. The song finds Underwood getting over heartbreak with some of her favorite country legends. Technically it's a ballad, but she brings great energy to this radio-friendly arrangement.
3. “Low” — If Chris Stapleton influenced Underwood's writing and recording at all, it's evident on during this soft, acoustic heartbreaker. "Low" is simply brilliant — even a Song of the Year candidate, should she choose to release it to radio. By holding back vocally, she allows the brilliant metaphors room to breathe.
4. “Backsliding” — This is another "can't get over you" kind of song that finds the protagonist backsliding into bad habits. We're four songs in and there's been no real uptempo song.
5. “Southbound” — There it is! "Southbound" is an easy beach song with plenty of smiles, margaritas and chatter. Without a doubt it's the most playful song on this album.
6. “That Song That We Used to Make Love To” — Underwood wasn't joking when she said she took bold chances on Cry Pretty, and from a production standpoint, we hear it during this song. An usual piano-like plinking carries the arrangement. Lyrically the mid-tempo track finds her again thinking about an old relationship. "I probably shouldn't say it, but I just wanna play it," she sings during "That Song That We Used to Make Love To."
7. “Drinking Alone” — This is a great song in any era of country music. "Drinking Alone" showcases Underwood's more mature understanding of soul and blues. The backing vocalists act as her subconscious during this jilted lovers union. "You got me thinking we should be drinking alone, together," Underwood sings. Where does that lead? We can only imagine.
8. “The Bullet” — "The Bullet" is going to steal headlines, and since it's not available to be heard in its entirety, we'll be careful about how we describe it. The song details a mother burying her son, using a refrain about how a bullet keeps moving long after it has hit the target, ripping holes in the hearts of everyone the deceased knew and loved. It's a statement to be sure, but without the benefit of a second listen or the song lyrics on paper, we'll stop short of calling it anti-gun.
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9. “Spinning Bottles” — This is the second of two straight box-of-tissue songs. "Spinning Bottles" is somewhat open for interpretation, but we heard a wife singing about her tortured, alcoholic husband. The song brings great empathy to substance abuse. It's a brilliant vocal performance that truly stretches her capabilities.
10. “Love Wins” — "Love Wins" also makes a statement, albeit a much more agreeable one. Courageous lyrics and a positive message make this the kind of song fans will only realize they love later. Honestly, it gets kind of lost after "The Bullet" and "Spinning Bottles."
11. “End Up With You” — A straight-forward love song.
12. “Kingdom” — When Underwood released her track listing on Sunday, we had this pegged as a religious song, but it's not really. Her "Kingdom" is the home she's built with husband Mike Fisher. Anyone looking for a reference to her November 2017 fall can stretch to find it here — the opening verse refers to a creaky board on the front porch. A big chorus helps wrap Cry Pretty with a heartwarming, everything-is-gonna-be-OK smile. "It's our life, it's our heart, it's our home, this is our kingdom," she sings.
13. “The Champion” (Feat. Ludacris) — "The Champion" is a bonus track. Like "Cry Pretty," you've likely heard this song.
Conclusion: A single listen is woefully insufficient for a critical review, but it's impossible to ignore the changes Underwood has made between albums. There's less theater and more first-person heart on her new album. In some ways Storyteller felt like an extension of Blown Away, but Cry Pretty truly begins a new chapter. This is a bold and demanding album that isn't afraid to offend or make you uncomfortable.
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