Release Date: May 1, 2012
Record label: Arista
Genre(s): Pop, Country, Adult Contemporary, Pop/Rock, Pop Idol, Contemporary Country
The forecast is stormy on Carrie Underwood's fourth album – as usual. Cloudless skies don't suit the country superstar – she's most comfortable leaning into a stiff breeze, letting a blues growl creep into her phrasing while unleashing songs like "Two Black Cadillacs" (in which a wife and mistress murder a cad) and the title track, a wind-whipped ballad about, yep, a tornado. Underwood's voice is as powerful as ever, but Blown Away tries too hard, ratcheting up melodrama with strings and effects.
Country’s powerhouse diva and multi-Grammy winner Carrie Underwood bursts back onto the country music scene with her latest album Blown Away. Blasting off with the red-hot barnburner and current hit single “Good Girl,” the 2005 American Idol winner’s fourth studio release is loaded with an abundantly rich amount of high caliber songs (eight of which were co-written by Underwood with some of Nashville’s best writers), which grab you instantly on the nearly seamless 55-minute disc. The album’s aphotic cover immediately alludes to the more mature and darker material found on Blown Away, which may simultaneously surprise and satisfy skeptics and fans alike.
Prior to the release of her fourth album, Blown Away, in the spring of 2012, Carrie Underwood claimed that she was getting back to having "real things to write about and real things to sing about" -- a sentiment that's all well and good but has precisely nothing to do with the brassy blowout of the finished product. Dispensing with any pretense that Underwood remains a down-home country girl -- the kind who takes carnival rides and sticks a daisy in her hair -- Blown Away is an unabashed glossy pop album, positioning Carrie as the heir to Shania Twain and Faith Hill's country diva act, pushing the comparisons so far that she looks like a runway refugee on the album cover and she concludes the hourlong marathon with a song written by Twain's former husband, Mutt Lange. Naturally, this showstopping act suits a former American Idol winner but, better still, this exercise in turn-of-the-millennium nostalgia is executed with skill and savvy, offering the kind of larger-than-life power ballads and cheerful, clomping arena country that have fallen out of favor in the early days of the 2010s.
Are you a Taylor or a Miranda? That’s Nashville’s version of the Jackie-vs.-Marilyn question. Either you’re a country-pop prom queen, plotting world domination in a heart-shaped diary (Ms. Swift), or you’re a honky-tonk rebel, aiming a deer-hunting bow at anyone standing in the way (Ms. Lambert).
Look at her there on the cover. She’s poised, her skin aglow, dress billowing, hair blowing, but not the way most people’s hair blows—so messy and pitiful you wanna offer them a comb. Carrie Underwood does not need your comb. She has an entourage of supplicants whose sole job is to ply her with combs, and anyway she controls the wind.
Seven years and four albums after winning American Idol, Carrie Underwood is turning her attention to the UK. Her first release here combines her current US album and tracks from the others, tracing her progression from sentimental country balladeer (Jesus, Take the Wheel) to glossy country-pop star (the opening Good Girl starts with a blast of rock guitar and Vocoder, asserting that the line between country and pop is fine indeed nowadays). However predictable the package, there's fun to be had in these tales of bad dads, cheating husbands and cold, cold hearts, and Underwood delivers them with sweet purposefulness.
Had Carrie Underwood not been so grossly, globally overpraised right out of the gate, her fourth album, Blown Away, would stand a better chance of being received as the significant step forward it actually represents in the singer’s development. Though the album is still a far cry from being great on its own merits or from being a fully realized, well-calibrated statement of artistic identity, it’s nonetheless a welcome surprise to hear Underwood finally making some substantive headway toward recording music that aspires to be more than merely pleasant and safe. Even when she and her go-to team of producers and songwriters falter on Blown Away, Underwood at least takes far more creative risks than she ever has before and occasionally strays from a formula that had become stale and predictable.
“Blown Away,” the new album by Carrie Underwood, the shiny but tough country star, starts out loud, sassy, rollicking and wise. “Good Girl” is the first song — a little Pat Benatar, a little Tanya Tucker — and it plays out like a sequel to Ms. Underwood’s 2006 smash “Before He Cheats,” except, instead of taking out her rightfully stoked dissatisfaction on her ex, she opts for unity and warns the next woman instead.
Seven years after she won season four, it’s clear that Carrie Underwood would have been a major star with or without her “American Idol” victory. Likewise, genre is an afterthought for the Oklahoma-bred singer whose latest album is as much about country charm as it is about arena-rock bombast. “Blown Away,” Underwood’s fourth release, is deliberately familiar to anyone who has listened to commercial country radio — and Top 40, for that matter — so much so that it ends saying little about the woman who made it.