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I'm a pretty strange version of a 26 year old, I rarely drink, I spend my spare time looking at old buildings, I listen to Terry Wogan in the mornings (alas he's now gone, but I shall probably tune in to the Sunday show when that starts!) and I have a penchant for country music! On my trips to the States I kept hearing a song which really grabbed my interest. However, I never paid too much attention as to who the song was actually by and it wasn't until I had an HMV voucher to spare that I decided to look the album out.
WHO IS CARRIE UNDERWOOD?
Carrie Underwood was the winner of the fourth season of American Idol and therefore follows in the footsteps of another favourite of mine, Kelly Clarkson. She won in 2005 and has since released two albums (with the third coming later this year). She's generally known for country style music although it often has a pop side to it as well. Since winning Idol she's been incredibly successful in America but is not at all well known over her.
Some Hearts was Underwood's first album and was released in 2005. Underwood has a very rich voice which I really like. Mr Tart said she sounded like Christina Aguilera and I have to agree, although there is a country edge to it. Mr Tart also appreciated that Carrie Underwood is somewhat 'easy on the eye' and enjoyed examining the album cover and poster that comes inside. I'll go through the tracks to give you some idea of what to expect.
1. Wasted: This song was the fourth single released by Underwood. The song starts of with quite a soulful sound to it, but the chorus is much livelier. The song is about people being addicted, in the first verse it is a woman who has to leave a relationship and the second is a man who is addicted to alcohol. I think the verses are more soulful to show the people dealing with the addictions 'for one split second, she almost turned around, but that would be like pouring raindrops back into a cloud' whereas the chorus is livelier showing the new positive attitude of the people 'I don't want to spend my life jaded, waiting to wake up one day and find, that I've let all these years go by wasted'. I really like this song, it's not a traditional country theme and I think that makes it stand out and I really like the way the tune mimics the positive actions taken by the people.
2. Don't Forget to Remember Me: Another of my favourite tracks as I really like the sentiment of the song. The song is about Underwood leaving home. The first verse is her mother saying 'don't forget to remember me' and the second is Underwood saying it to her mother over the phone once she's left. I think the words don't forget to remember me are so appropriate for lots of situations. The song is quite slow paced and Underwood's rich voice comes through really well in it.
3. Some Hearts: The title track on the album is not one of my favourites but I can't really explain why. It's quite upbeat and is about someone who is feeling lucky because of her relationship. 'Some hearts just get lucky sometimes, even hearts like mine'. This song is a bit more pop than country. It's definitely still a good song and quite catchy, just not one of the best.
4. Jesus Take the Wheel: Religion is often a theme in country music and God is mentioned more than once in Underwood's songs. This is the most explicitly religious song. It is about a young woman driving home to see her parents on Christmas Eve with her baby in the back when she crashes 'before she knew she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass'. As the car is crashing she cries for 'Jesus to Take the Wheel'. Whether you agree with the religious message of the song or not, it is a beautiful song, quite slow paced as fitting the content and really shows off her voice.
5. The Night Before (Life Goes On): This is definitely a favourite of mine. I think it's a sentiment that most people can relate to. The song is about a young couple who are going to be split up when she goes to university and how they spend their last night together. The music to this song has a country twang and is reasonably quick paced. I think everyone has had a night when they know that something will change the next day and they are enjoying the last night before they face it.
6. Lessons Learned: Another one which I think we can all relate to. This is an upbeat song which is really catchy. The song is about how all the experiences of life are lessons learned and how she appreciates every one of them. 'I'm thankful for every break in my heart, I'm grateful for every scar'. The verses build start slowly and build up to a crescendo of the main message of the song.
7. Before he Cheats: This was the song that I kept hearing on American radio which inspired me to get the album. I absolutely love this song. It has a very country feel and is a really fun song to sing along to. It is about a girl that's been cheated on and how she takes revenge. The verses are her imagining her ex with his new lady 'right now he's probably buying her some fruity little drink 'cos she can't shoot whisky'. The chorus is her revenge 'I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive, carved my name into his leather seats'. The lyrics are great (although Underwood didn't write them) with my favourite line being 'right now she's probably saying I'm drunk, and he's thinking that he's gonna to get lucky'. It's such a catchy song it's no wonder that it's still played all the time on American radio. For me, it is the best song on the album.
8. Starts with Goodbye: A really powerful song. It starts out with Underwood singing very soulfully, but the chorus is faster paced and very strong sounding. The song is about breaking up with someone 'it's sad but sometimes moving on with the rest of your life, starts with goodbye'. The only bit of the song I don't like is the ending with the lyrics 'na na na na' being repeated - I don't think those lyrics go with the song but the rest of the song is really good.
9. I Just Can't Live a Lie: This song is about problems in a relationship but how she doesn't want to give up on it. The title actually relates to how she would feel if she ended the relationship rather than how she feels in it. This is another soulful song with stronger choruses and another one that I really like.
10. We're Young and Beautiful: This song sounds very Christina Aguilera like to me. It's one of the most upbeat songs on the album. 'While we're young and beautiful, we'll party down on main street, wearing next to nothing, feeling every heartbeat'. I really like this one and find myself dancing along to it.
11. That's Where it is: Not my favourite song on the album but still good for a sing along. The lyrics relate to her finding someone and when she's in his arms 'that's where it is'. Again the song follows the pattern of soulful verses and a more powerful chorus.
12. Whenever You Remember: This is a slower song with Underwood again showing the range of her voice. The lyrics are about looking back over a relationship, 'when you look back on times we had, I hope you smile, and know that through the good and through the bad I was on your side'. This song is really beautiful and one of the best I think.
13. I Ain't in Checotah Anymore: This is one of my favourite songs on the album. It's very upbeat and is the only song on the album that Underwood helped to write. This is a very country sounding song. Underwood is from the town of Checotah in Oklahoma. The song describes the town and the differences she comes across now she's famous and living in New York, 'My hotel in Manhattan, holds more people than our town, and what I just paid for dinner, would be a down payment on a house'. This song is really fun and the lyrics are quite funny. I especially like the mention of my Mecca when I'm in the States - WalMart! Definitely a sing along song that gets everyone moving.
14. Inside Your Heaven: This is the song that Underwood released as the winning American Idol single. The song is quite slow paced. It's a good song but not my favourite on the album, I think because it's a little different from the other songs as it was written for the show rather than for the album.
This is definitely my album of the moment. I absolutely love it! I have it on in the car and quite happily sing along! Underwood has an amazing voice and her songs are great. Even the ones that I've said aren't my favourite I would still rate highly. It certainly isn't an album that will be to everyone's taste but if you like country style popular music then you should check this out.
I must praise the UK music scene for being one of the most diverse in the world. It really seems far easier for new artists to gain a foothold here, than in the US. However, one of the biggest shames is that for whatever reason, Carrie Underwood has not been launched here. While she was the winner of American Idol Season 4, this should not at all be a stigma. She has become a star in her own right, and dare I say it, the biggest reality show winner ever. While most people in the UK only see Kelly Clarkson as the show's most successful contestant, it is a little known fact that in half the time, Carrie Underwood has been able to already outsell Clarkson in the US.
'Some Hearts' was her debut album, and was released in late 2005. A testimony to it's quality and it's success is that as I sit here, on January 2nd 2010, the album is STILL on the American charts. Selling over 7 million copies and producing 6 hit singles, the album garnered 3 Grammy Awards too. Carrie's sound is a mixture of country and pop, much like Taylor Swift and Shania Twain (who have experienced a lot of success in the UK). However, with more consistent material and a stronger voice than either of these country starlets, it could be argued that Carrie Underwood dwarfs any country star to launch in the UK to date.
The album begins with the track 'Wasted', which is a fantastic introduction to Carrie's music. The song is fairly guitar driven, meaning that it definitely has broad appeal - perhaps, more towards rock fans. However, there is a really strong hook for pop fans and the occasional lick of strings to maintain that country sound. The lyrics deal with themes of addiction, alcoholism and failing relationships - but has an incredibly positive and upbeat feel to it, as Carrie's voice soars in the chorus, declaring: "I don't want to spend my life jaded/To wake up one day and find/That a lot of these years go by/Wasted." It's quite simply, a stunning track.
Like with all good country music, what is so appealing is that the lyrics often tell a story. 'Don't Forget to Remember Me' is a ballad about leaving home, and how while you initially crave that independence, it can get lonely. It's a song about family, and the lyrics are beautiful. It's a fairly laid back song but works so well with Carrie's voice. She really digs deep and puts across a lot of emotion in the song. I also love how the title of the song, comes to mean so many things by the time your 4 minutes of listening to it are finished. It's a definite grower, in terms of being interesting musically, but if you look at it from an emotive perspective, it is perhaps one of Carrie's most touching songs.
The title track, 'Some Hearts', was penned by Diane Warren (the woman responsible for Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, Celine Dion's Because You Loved Me, Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart to name but a few). It is perhaps the most pop-sounding song on the album. It's got a wonderfully upbeat feel to it, and is about being lucky and being rewarded with successes in life - be it romantically or with a career. It's a little generic but you can't fault the vocal delivery or the mood enhancing properties it has. It's just a fun track, and shows that Carrie doesn't always have to do emotionally intensive songs.
'Jesus, Take the Wheel' is first and foremost, an enticing title. Whether you are Christian or not, this song is truly one of the most beautiful I have ever heard in my life. The lyrics speak of a young single mother, who lives a hectic and unfulfilling life. She feels lost and empty, but as she is driving home, her car skids out of control. The lyrics of "Jesus, take the wheel/Take it from my hands/Because I can't do this on my own/I'm letting go/So give me one more chance/Save me from this road I'm on" can obviously be taken literally. However, more metaphorically, it's about the idea of surrender and giving yourself over to a higher force and trusting them to help you through dark times. It's truly beautiful. Carrie's voice is flawless, and what really differentiates her from the other "divas" as it were (Celine, Whitney, Mariah) is that she never over-sings. She practices restraint and uses her power wisely, so she never erodes the message of a song. I really can't speak highly enough of this track.
That feeling of a summer love that ends far too quickly is reflected perfectly in 'The Night Before (Life Goes On)'. It's not my favourite song on the album, as it's a little dull musically. However, as it sandwiched between such strong tracks, I believe this is only a judgement I'm making relatively speaking. It's a really good song though but warrants repeated listens to enjoy more fully.
'Lessons Learned' is another Diane Warren song and is similar to 'Some Hearts' in that it has a very pop-friendly appeal to it, and a very uplifting feel to the lyrics. "And every tear that had to fall from my eyes/And everyday I wondered how I'd get through the night/Every change, life has thrown me/I'm thankful" Carrie belts in the chorus. It's about how everything which happens to you - good or bad, make you a better and a stronger person. It's a wonderfully positive song and I know from personal experience, if you're having a particularly grey day, this song is the one to listen to if you want to see the silver lining on that cloud.
'Before He Cheats' is a deliciously dark song, and is Carrie's biggest hit to date. It was the song which helped her crossover into ever genre there is - country, pop and rock. It appeals to everyone. A strong guitar riff, but strong southern vocals make this such a memorable song. Carrie's voice sounds so tough and angry as she talks about vandalising her womanizing boyfriend's car - smashing up the headlights and carving her name into his leather seats. So next time, he'll think "before he cheats". The song is so catchy and has just got such a unique sound and charm to it. It could be a massive hit in the UK if it were promoted right. I just love the whole concept of it.
The next track, 'Starts With Goodbye', begins with a delicate piano melody. There's a beautiful vulnerability and sense of real emotion in Carrie's vocal performance in the song. The music gradually builds momentum as the soaring chorus hits, with some impressive sounding drums and guitars. The lyrics talk about having to end a relationship with someone so you can move on with your life, and take on new experiences and challenges. If you've gone to university, or had to move, or simply felt like you've had to break out of a rut - this song is so easy to relate to. It's really powerful.
'I Just Can't Live a Lie' is a heartbreaking ballad, with a beautiful piano in the verses. It's followed with a really powerful chorus that really puts across the message behind the lyrics, which tell of that horrible conflicted feeling you have when you want to leave a relationship because you are being mistreated, but you know deep down, you could never do it because you love the person so much. Powerful stuff.
There is almost a 70s rock feel to 'We're Young and Beautiful' but has quite a heavy country sound to it. I don't know if I'm in the minority here, but for me, it just sounds dated as opposed to a good throwback song. The song irritates me a little bit and the melody is fairly dull. I would say without question, this is the weakest link on the CD, however, this is more down to my personal taste as I know a couple of people who adore this track. I just think it's a bit too clichéd for me.
'That's Where It Is' is another of the really bright moments on the CD, which really lifts your mood. I really admire Carrie and her producers' song selections, finding the perfect balance between feel good songs and emotionally heavy tracks. This song talks about the joy of being in love and always makes me smile. While I feel like a broken record for saying this - Carrie's voice just sounds flawless. I cannot fault her as a singer.
There is a very nostalgic tone to 'Whenever You Remember', which talks about moving on in life but remembering good times. I love how the lyrics reflect Carrie's journey to stardom, as with a lot of songs on this album, but it's subtle enough to not seem forced or clichéd.
One of the cutest and most endearing songs on the album is the autobiographical, 'I Ain't in Checotah Anymore'. Before becoming one of the wealthiest and most successful women in music, Underwood was simply a small town farm girl. This song deals with the changes her life has been through since becoming a star, in a light-hearted manner: "My hotel in Manhattan/Holds more people than our town/And what I just paid for dinner/Would be a down payment on a house" she observes. Musically speaking, the song starts with quiet plucking on the guitar, and gentle vocals - before launching into a full on country hoedown and soaring vocals. There is such a quick changeover in the song, between an almost lullaby sound, a country dance and a rock song, it's incredibly enticing. I just love it.
'Inside Your Heaven' is the final track on the CD, and was Underwood's winning song from American Idol. While it was a big hit, I personally do not particularly enjoy it. Like with most of these coronation songs, they seem a bit too sickly sweet. While all of Carrie's ballads are beautiful, touching and unique - this seems very syrupy and clichéd. However, it does have a nice melody to it and it is very catchy. I can't say I dislike it, but I can't rate it as highly as I would the other tracks on the CD.
Quite simply, this is one of the most impressive debut albums I have ever listened to. There is such consistency in quality yet a very good balance between sounds, tempos and lyrical content. It feels incredibly balanced and unlike in a lot of albums you hear these days, works well as both an overall collection of 14 songs but also individually. I will admit that if you never listen to country music, you may be taken aback by the southern lilt to Carrie's voice and some of the strings and guitars used in the album. However, it should be noted that this is country-pop. This means that it has broad appeal to all tastes and is not something that should just be limited to country fans. If you bring an open-mind, you will not be disappointed, as I can say with 100% certainty, this is a fantastic album.
I don't think too many people this side of the Atlantic have heard of Carrie Underwood but for me, she is one of my favourite country artists. Carrie rose to fame in the fourth series of the American Idol television show which she won.
Since then she has gone on to be very successful indeed. According to an article I read she is now a multi-platinum selling recording artist, a multiple Grammy Award winner, was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and is the reigning Academy of Country Music Awards Entertainer of The Year.
I think it helps that she is also a very pretty young girl with an amazing voice. Of course, she has had her critics, mostly those who love the old school country and do not appreciate a newcomer turning country music into more main stream pop music but I really think she's great. She has really brought country music to the forefront of modern culture and sings fun, heartfelt songs. Yes, they follow the same type of country song set up, telling a heartbreaking story with lots of pain but she also sings some songs with fun, girl power lyrics. One of my favourite songs, Last Name, talks about her going to Vegas, meeting a guy on the dance floor, ending up married and not even knowing her "Last Name."
Some Hearts was her debut album. It was certified seven times platinum, is the fastest selling debut country album in Nielsen SoundScan history and is also the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history. Not bad for a debut album! The cover has a really pretty picture of her in a corn field holding a piece of corn, very country in my opinion. The album contains the #1 singles "Inside Your Heaven", "Jesus, Take the Wheel", "Don't Forget to Remember Me", "Wasted" and "Before He Cheats", her biggest hit to date.
Before he cheats is another one of my favourite songs by her. It basically tells the story of a woman taking revenge on her potentially unfaithful boyfriend by doing lots of unspeakable things like scratching his favourite truck, smashing the headlines, slashing the tyres in the hopes that this will make him think, "before he cheats." A very girl power song in my opinion and definitely one that struck a chord with lots of females as it is her most successful single to date, with sales of over 2.82 million digital downloads and the second most sold single from an American Idol contestant.
The rest of the tracks on the album are as follows:
2. Don't Forget to Remember Me
3. Some Hearts
4. Jesus, Take the Wheel
5. The Night Before (Life Goes On)
6. Lessons Learned
7. Before He Cheats
8. Starts with Goodbye
9. I Just Can't Live a Lie
10. We're Young and Beautiful
11. That's Where It Is
12. Whenever You Remember
13. I Ain't in Checotah Anymore
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Don't Forget To Remember Me
3 Some Hearts
4 Jesus Take The Wheel
5 Night Before (Life Goes On)
6 Lessons Learned
7 Before He Cheats
8 Starts With Goodbye
9 I Just Can't Live A Lie
10 We're Young And Beautiful
11 That's Where It Is
12 Whenever You Remember
13 I Ain't In Checotah Anymore
14 Inside Your Heaven