There’s no escaping Carrie Underwood’s grasp on Blown Away, the country diva’s captivating fourth studio album, due in stores May 1. Like a lightning strike starting a fire, an intense tour-de-force ignites Carrie’s first record since 2009’s double-platinum Play On as the singer/songwriter displays compelling emotional range.
Blown Away opens with three songs that, quite honestly, serve as a potential watershed moment for what “Pop Country” can achieve. The crisp power chords and handclap fills of current Top 10 single “Good Girl” fuel Carrie’s electric vocal through rapid melodies building to an engaging hook. The intense title-track “Blown Away,” with tough sentiments like, There’s not enough rain in Oklahoma / To wash the sins out of that house, comes unhinged amidst swirling harmonies and kinetic instrumentation. On the dramatic “Two Black Cadillacs,” with a tale of revenge that would make even the staunchest traditionalist sit up at attention, rumbling percussion and meticulous strings set the scene as the song rages on. Yet, even with heavy thematic elements, the songs impressively maintain a pop/crossover shine and accessible sound, courtesy of Carrie’s pristine voice and modern delivery.
Working again with producer Mark Bright, Carrie co-wrote eight of the album’s 14 songs, including the aforementioned “Good Girl” and “Two Black Cadillacs.” This continues the trend of her taking on more of a role as a songwriter on her albums. The uplifting and empowering “Nobody Ever Told You” skips to an optimistic beat as Carrie sings, You shine like a diamond and glitter like gold /And you need to know, with the love of an older sister. On the lighthearted, “One Way Ticket,” Carrie’s voice glides over island-inspired rhythms while singing, Raise your hands in the air tonight / Put a little love back in your life, with a groove that should make both the ‘Bama and NYC girls hit the dance floor.
Blown Away succeeds in showcasing Carrie’s dynamic range. While the album begins with its darkest songs and moves toward its more optimistic, Carrie holds the collection together by continuously building on her previous work. The touching ballad “Forever Changed,” which deals with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s, has a similar feel to the mature understanding found in 2009’s “Temporary Home.” On “Cupid’s Got A Shotgun,” a fiery and fun barnburner complete with a duel against the god of love himself, Brad Paisley provides a healthy dose of guitar twang as the two reconnect after their No. 1 hit duet, “Remind Me.”
The stories here are often dramatic, but they’re grounded in relatable details. Songs like the nostalgic “Thank God for Hometowns” speaks of subtle Americana like ‘Prescott Lane’ while the curious “Do You Think Of Me” shares a universal sentiment by finishing the title’s question with, like I think about you? Carrie doesn’t shy away from complexities, and with a powerful voice unafraid to push the envelope, Blown Away could be just the album to show what’s possible for pop-influenced country.
Key Tracks – “Good Girl,” “Blown Away,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” “Nobody Ever Told You”