Release Date: Oct 23, 2015
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Country, Pop/Rock
"Something in the Water," the new single tacked onto Carrie Underwood's 2014 compilation Greatest Hits: Decade #1, was an operatic blowout on par with her 2012 smash "Blown Away" -- something grand and melodramatic, suggesting Vegas as much as it suggested inspirational music. Storyteller, her fifth album and first since her career recap, certainly contains cinematic elements -- Underwood has been proud to be a diva ever since she prowled the stages of American Idol a decade prior -- but the title isn't a feint; she spends a good chunk of the album reiterating, singing about heartbreak, hair triggers, red wine, dirty laundry, and smoke breaks, the mundane details that turn life so joyous and tragic. Subtlety isn't Underwood's strong suit so the songs tend to be a bit on the nose, whether she's pledging devotion to her newborn son on the sweet closer "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted" or streamlining Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe" via the stomping "Choctaw County Affair," but that directness is key to her appeal: there are no greys in Carrie's music, only blazing primary colors.
As the Earth careens toward the Winter of Adele, spare a thought for Carrie Underwood. We’re still waiting for her to release a non-American Idol single that doesn’t go country Top Ten. A number of those singles have grown to become wronged-partner classics every bit the equal of “Rolling in the Deep.” And on Storyteller, Underwood finally has a set of songs nearly as massive as her star.
There's as much Janis as Patsy in Carrie Underwood's delivery, as much Heart as Harlan Howard. It's that voice that makes her the only truly unfadeable American Idol success story: a country-pop-rock superpower that sweeps in like the sanctified cyclone of her 2012 hit "Blown Away," laying waste to drunken-lout fathers, abusive partners and cowboy casanovas before settling back into a honeysuckle breeze. Underwood is the archetypal good girl turned avenging honky-tonk angel.
One thing seems sure about Carrie Underwood: She doesn't do anything halfway. The 32-year-old's ascent to the height of the pop music pyramid was breathtaking, and her dominance up there has been nearly total since she ran away with the American Idol crown in 2005. She is, undeniably, one of the world's biggest pop stars; that she emerged from Nashville only underlines the effectiveness of her cross-genre mainstream appeal.
The title of Carrie Underwood’s fifth album, her strongest yet, was clearly purposeful. While the Oklahoma native has firmly operated in the commercial pop country realm — with the occasional dip into more traditional sounds as well as gospel-tinged numbers — since her “American Idol” win, she has always included a few vivid narratives on each of her albums. On “Storyteller” she embraces even more, co-writing and choosing a clutch of tracks that chronicle tales of deadly romantic triangles, the perils of social climbing, cheatin’ hearts, and familial bliss, alongside more typical love songs.
In recent years, the two poles of female country music could be neatly distilled to Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. Ms. Swift brought youthful, diaristic intensity to the genre, before leaving it behind to be the world’s pre-eminent pop star. Ms. Lambert championed for country’s scrappier ….