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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Play On by Carrie Underwood

Where I Got the Album: Target! Love that place.

Before I begin, let me say how excited I am to finally be reviewing something from Carrie Underwood. Carrie is definitely one of my favorite, if not my top favorite, artists. No, I don't watch AI (confession: I've only watched a few reruns of the auditions because, you know, that's the really funny part). No, I've never been to her concerts--I've missed the opportunity to twice (*pout*). But yes, I own all of her albums, I can sing all the lyrics to almost all of her songs without looking them up, and I also own the duets she has done with other artists (AND I'm very happy that she just got married a few days ago!)

Okay, so let me give a quick rundown of what I thought of her third album. There's usually this odd tendency for me to prefer sophomore albums over third (junior?) albums, and, to be honest, though I was afraid the same wouldn't happen for Carrie Underwood, it did. I really loved her debut Some Hearts, as well as her sophomore Carnival Ride, Play On was a little flat. Don't get me wrong--it's a nice album and definitely worth the buy for any Carrie Underwood fan, but something was definitely lacking in this third show. Unlike the freshness of Some Hearts and the honky-tonk rawness of Carnival Ride, Play On was a little too cleaned up with pop finesse for the true country fan who knows who Carrie truly is as a singer and knows what to expect from her. There are some gems---both of the more country sort and of the pop variety--but others failed to display Carrie's true talents. One thing though, speaking of her talents: I was glad to see that she got more involved with the writing of her songs. Singer-songwriters FTW.

*1. Cowboy Casanova (Carrie Underwood/Mike Elizondo/Brett James): This. Song. Is. So. Addicting! Play On starts off with a strong country song, one that powers out a similar story and tune as those in Carrie's previous hits "Before He Cheats" and "Last Name". You can be insanely happy or insanely angry, and still sit back--or dance like mad--to this song. This is what Carrie Underwood is about: sassy, girl power tunes country fried to the right degree. Score: 10/10

*2. Quitter (Max Martin/Shellback/Savan Kotecha): Though this is called one of the weakest songs on the album, I can't help liking this song. It's a nice segue after "Cowboy Casanova", but perhaps because the first song is so good, this one seems to fall a little flat. The songwriting isn't very strong, but it's quite catchy and cute--maybe too cute. For the record, I love the musical bridge. Score: 9/10

3. Mama's Song (C. Underwood/Kara DioGuardi/Martin Frederiksen/Luke Laird): First off, I think you have to be in the right mood for this song. It's rather simple, but it's very sweet and resounds of a wonderfully strong bond between a mother and daughter. However, the first time I listened to it, I thought it was rather boring. Listen to the lyrics carefully, and you'll see that this is actually a very beautiful, poignant song. Score: 9/10

4. Change (Katrina Elam/Josh Kear/Chris Tompkins): Where's the country-ness here? Nonetheless, this is a rather touching song, though it's quite pop-ish. One problem: if one doesn't listen to the song carefully and only ends up catching the words of the chorus, the message gets sent all wrong. Not to mention that some charity TV ads ARE scams (much of the donated money actually goes to their advertising, not to third-world countries). Score: 8/10

*5. Undo It (C. Underwood/K. DioGuardi/M. Frederiksen/L. Laird): This is Carrie's current single. I'm not quite up-to-date on all things country at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is doing very well. This song has the same, girl power country tune as "Before He Cheats" and "Cowboy Casanova". Though one can say that the eponymous verse of "I wanna uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it!" is slightly corny, I personally think it's just catchy and fun--so ENJOY it. Score: 10/10

6. Someday When I Stop Loving You (Hillary Lindsey/Steve McEwan/Gordie Sampson): Dear Ms Lindsey, You're one of my favorite songwriters ever, so when you write a song for Carrie Underwood that make me yawn...I mean, really?? I'm sorry to say that that is what your song "Someday When I Stop Loving You" did to me. Apparently, every top critic sings his or her praises about this song, even if they thought "Quitter" was weak and "Undo It" was corny, but I'm not seeing what's so great about this one. Don't worry--I still love all your other songs. Sincerely, The Nerdette. Score: 6/10

*7. Songs Like This (Marty Dodson/Jerry Flowers/Tom Shapiro): After that yawner "Someday", the album finally gets back into some honky-tonk action with this track. Though it isn't quite as powerful or downright GOOD as "Cowboy Casanova" or "Undo It", it's still a pretty nice song. Thumbs up for the girl power, thumbs down for the weakness. I can't quite pinpoint what was so weak about this one--my guess is the music--but nonetheless, the title is quite clever, considering country isn't really known for its songwriting prowess. Score: 10/10

*8. Temporary Home (C. Underwood/L. Laird/Zac Maloy): The first time I heard this song, though it was slow, I actually enjoyed it. It made me sad, though for the wrong reason (I misinterpreted the first verse as being about the little boy dying). I haven't watched many of Carrie's videos as of late, but I did see this one...and oh my goodness. I hardly every cry watching movies or reading books, but this one very nearly teared me up. Hollywood, get Carrie on the big screen pronto. This singing sensation would do fabulously on stage or on film. Score: 10/10

9. This Time (H. Lindsey/S. McEwan/G. Sampson): It seems that Hillary Lindsey did a writing session with these two other fellows and wrote this song as well as "Someday" on the same day. "This Time" was, yes, weak. Perhaps not as weak as "Someday", for it has some prettily written verses here and there, but the music was much too cleaned up and pop-ish. Score: 7/10

10. Look at Me (Jim Collins/Paul Overstreet): I believe this is a cover, and though it's probably not a bad cover, the song itself is just a yawner. It doesn't matter who's singing it; the music is boring, the lyrics are boring--must I expound on this more? No, I'd rather not. Score: 5/10

*11. Unapologize (C. Underwood/H. Lindsey/Raine Maida/Chantal Kreviazuk): Another pop turn here--and not too bad of one. By the song title, one would assume it's another of Carrie's hard-hitting, boy-dissing tunes. Actually, it's anything but. It's sweet and cute, though again, perhaps a little too cleaned up for a true country fan. Nonetheless, a nice song. Score: 9/10

*12. What Can I Say (C. Underwood/David Hodges/S. McEwan): I said before how much I love Carrie's duets, right? This song is simply gorgeous. The lead singer of Sons of Sylvia, a new country band currently touring with Carrie, has an amazing voice. Everything about this track--the music, the lyrics, the voices, the integration of the two talents here--fits beautifully together. If you're only going to buy a few songs form this album, this should definitely be one of them. Score: 10/10

13. Play On (C. Underwood/Natalie Hemby/L. Laird): Finally! Now we know why this whole CD is called "Play On". Now, the titular track isn't a bad song; however, it's subject matter is a bit clich√©d. The lyrics are all right, the music falls flat. I would still give this one a listen, but don't expect anything that will knock your socks off. It's inspirational if you're in a bad mood, I suppose.

Red Flags: Check out Common Sense Media, but this is a pretty clean album.


Grading:
Vocals: 10/10
Instrumentals: 8/10
Songwriting: 8/10
Lasting Value: 9/10
Enjoyment: 9/10
Overall: 44/50

Tidbits:
Producers: Mark Bright, Max Martin, Shellback
Genre: Country
Record Label: Arista Nashville/19 Recordings
Release Date: November, 3, 2009
Length: 48:28

Also Recommended:
  • Need You Now by Lady Antebellum
  • Carnival Ride by Carrie Underwood
  • Kellie Pickler by Kellie Pickler
Check It Out!

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