ALBUM REVIEW: Carrie Underwood – ‘Cry Pretty’

Carrie Underwood is back on the scene with her brand new 13-track album ‘Cry Pretty’, which at the time of writing this has achieved the biggest female album debut of 2018 across all-genres. It’s been an eventful time for Mrs Underwood over the last few weeks; such a shame we didn’t get to see her at The Long Road but I’m sure we can all agree that we’re delighted to see she’s fully recovered and back in form!

Her first release since 2015’s ‘Storyteller’, ‘Cry Pretty’ sees Carrie teaming up with some of Nashville’s most-acclaimed song writing talents, including the likes of Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, David Garcia, Chris DeStefano and many more. From the title track, which was the lead single, you could be forgiven for expecting the usual vocal gymnastics and anthemic choruses that we’ve come to associate Carrie with over the years, however the rest of the project is a real mix of styles, influences and story lines. It has it’s real bright moments as well as some questionable moments; definitely a collection which will divide opinion.

A personal favourite of mine is ‘Ghosts On The Stereo’, which is just as radio-friendly as the title maybe suggests. It’s an interesting perspective of someone trying to get over a break-up, needing that one night alone to unleash the emotion and regain strength. “There ain’t no last call, I’m having a ball with Hank, Haggard and Jones”. It’s got a great ‘girl power’ vibe of resilience that I’m sure will connect instantly with Carrie’s fan base.

‘Southbound’ is a massive highlight. We’re so used to hearing Carrie’s anthemic power ballads so it’s so refreshing and enlightening to hear her letting loose with a funky, dance-infused tune that’s tailor-made for the country discos. We’ve all got to “get a little southbound” every once in a while, right?! It’s such a feel-good, care-free party tune that instantly stands out on the first listen.

There are a few experimental tracks thrown in along the way that will raise eyebrows. There seems to have been more of a focus on an R&B-influenced style in places which we’ve never really seen Carrie delve into on previous projects. ‘Backsliding’, ‘The Song That We Used To Make Love To’, are undeniably infectious but off-piste for a previously consistent artist in terms of her sound. Listen to the album with an open mind free from country-centric tendencies and you’ll embrace these moments – I’m all for artists showcasing diversity and Carrie’s done it with immense crossover potential.

‘End Up With You’ is one of the aforementioned ‘questionable’ moments. Give it time, it’s a grower, but initially it’s so far removed from anything she’s ever released that it may be difficult to grasp for some. It’s Carrie-meets-EDM; don’t be surprised to see some remixes done in the near future (see Thomas Rhett’s ‘Leave Right Now’ as an example). I can see the label really going to town on this one for the mainstream exposure.

‘The Bullet’ and ‘Spinning Bottles’ provide the real impactful section of the album, and it’s the Carrie we know and love, with great poignancy in the lyrics that tug on the heartstrings. Songs like ‘Temporary Home’ and ‘Mama’s Song’ show off Carrie at her best; those songs that make you sit, ponder and take them in for a while after they’re finished. ‘The Bullet’, addresses the ever-growing issue of gun crime and paints the picture of a victim’s funeral. The main line “the bullet keeps on going” conveys such a powerful message that comes at a perfect time in modern society. The way the thumping melody gradually develops is sublime, and needless to say, Carrie’s vocal delivery is second to none. I hope this one sees the light of day as a single; it’s a true moment of depth and emotion that needs to have its exposure.

‘Spinning Bottles’ is another one with great social relevance; a stunningly delicate tune about the trials and tribulations brought about by alcoholism. “Round and around and around they go, will it end? Nobody knows… She’s all cried out on the kitchen floor, spinnin’ rooms, spinnin’ wheels, spinnin’ out of control, spinnin’ bottles”. Spine-tinglingly good!

Although it has seemingly divided opinion amongst the country faithful, this album is an attention-grabber. It’s daring and diverse at times, deep and meaningful at others; certainly one of her most intriguing releases to date.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan