NYCS First Impression: Carrie Underwood ‘Cry Pretty’
There’s no denying the power of Carrie Underwood within the country music community. The golden-voiced superstar has been a fixture in the genre since her American Idol win back in 2005. Today, Underwood releases her sixth studio album, Cry Pretty, which only further serves to cement her role as the reigning queen of country. However, unlike previous efforts, Cry Pretty shows Underwood stretching her sonic wings, veering in different directions musically, topically, and emotionally.
Sonically, Cry Pretty shows Underwood exploring different sides of her voice, hints of a more R&B/ soulful tone lacing many of the album’s tracks. The LP contains thirteen songs (including a bonus track “The Champion”), with each showing a different side of Underwood. For the first time in her storied career, many of these lyrics sound like they’re coming directly from the singer’s heart, rather than presenting her in character. The album also allows her to wear both her producer hat, co-producing with David Garcia and her writer hat, having written on nine of the album’s tracks.
While Underwood has always excelled in the art of the story song, as evidenced by the likes of “Last Name” and “Two Black Cadillacs,” she truly shines when she lets down her guard and sings from the heart. Nowhere on the album is this more evident than on track 12, entitled “Kingdom.” The song, co-written by Underwood, Chris DeStefano, and Dave Barnes, plays as a love song to Underwood’s own husband and children, remarking that their perfectly imperfect life is their kingdom.
Cry Pretty also shows Underwood tackling some difficult subjects, touching on the long-term and long-reaching effects of a single bullet in “The Bullet.” She also hits on the topics of school shootings and politics in “Love Wins.” While she doesn’t overtly advertise an opinion within these songs, she uses her platform to draw attention to some tough topics, and “The Bullet,” co-written by Marc Beeson, Andy Albert, and Allen Shamblin, provides one of the album’s most poignant moments.
On the album, Underwood also shows off a more lighthearted side, releasing what could be described as her first party song. It would be safest to liken “Southbound,” co-written by Underwood, Garcia, and Josh Miller, to a Little Big Town song in the vein of “Pontoon” or “Day Drinking.” While the song is certainly a departure for Underwood, it does work here, and we expect to hear it blasting at tailgates for the next fifty years. “The Song That We Used to Make Love To” also veers into a more poppy sound for Underwood than listeners may be used to hearing, but with a voice like hers, it works.
“Low” and “Backsliding” show off the groovy side of Underwood, revealing a more R&B side to her voice. “Backsliding,” written by Underwood, Garcia and Hillary Lindsay, is an ode to going back to an ex that you most definitely shouldn’t, and interestingly, wouldn’t sound out of place on a Thomas Rhett album. Alternatively, “Low,” written by the same writing team as “Backsliding” really allows Underwood to show off a different and underused side of her voice. Rather than focusing on belts and glory notes, she explores different tones, riffing and running the notes from high to low.
Other highlights of the album are “Ghosts on the Stereo,” written by Hillary Lindsey, Tom Douglas, and the late Andrew Dorff, and “Drinking Alone,” co-written by Underwood, Garcia, and Brett James. On the latter, Underwood laments the old adage that misery loves company, while the former tells of her “having a ball with Hank, Haggard, and Jones.”
For Underwood fans, Cry Pretty is a unique but engaging offering, stretching the singer outside of her normal realm, yet still keeping her planted in her musical roots. For country music purists, the overall body of work might veer too much away from the Underwood of “I Told You So” and “Jesus Take the Wheel,” but for fans of music as a whole, Cry Pretty offers something for everyone.
The album is available to buy or stream everywhere today.
Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty Track List:
- Cry Pretty (Carrie Underwood, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose)
- Ghosts On The Stereo (Hillary Lindsey, Tom Douglas, Andrew Dorff)
- Low (Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey)
- Backsliding (Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey)
- Southbound (Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, Josh Miller)
- That Song That We Used To Make Love To (Hillary Lindsey, Jason Evigan)
- Drinking Alone (Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, Brett James)
- The Bullet (Marc Beeson, Andy Albert, Allen Shamblin)
- Spinning Bottles (Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, Hillary Lindsey)
- Love Wins (Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, Brett James)
- End Up With You (Hillary Lindsey, Brett McLaughlin, Will Weatherly)
- Kingdom (Carrie Underwood, Chris DeStefano, Dave Barnes)
- *Bonus Track* The Champion (Carrie Underwood, Brett James, Chris DeStefano, Christopher Bridges PKA Ludacris)
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