A little over 4 years after winning American Idol, Carrie Underwood is still churning out the hits and proving to everyone that she is one of the biggest superstars in the music industry. Her third studio album, Play On, is in stores now, so here’s a track-by-track review of her latest effort:
- “Cowboy Casanova”- The first single from shows that Carrie’s got that star power. It’s a great vocal, of course, but more importantly it shows signs of growth in Carrie’s writing and shows that she’s not going to keep doing the same old thing. With Hot AC and Pop showing great interest, I see this as being the next “Before He Cheats” in terms of crossover success. 9.5/10
- “Quitter”- Once again, Carrie pulls out something new and different with this song. This is another song that I see being really successful on country radio, as well as Hot AC and Pop. It’s insanely catchy, and it would be a great single for next summer. 9/10
- “Mama’s Song”- This song will mean a lot to mother’s and their daughters I’m sure, but it’s probably my least favorite on the CD. It’s not bad, but it’s kind of boring. I know it means a lot to Carrie though. 8/10
- “Change”- Some have called “Change” preachy, I call it epic. Sure it’s about helping others, but what’s wrong with that? Not to mention the vocals and musical arrangement are phenomenal. I can’t wait to see Carrie knock this out of the park on the CNN Heroes special. 9/10
- “Undo It”- This one screams cross-over, even more than “Cowboy Casanova.” It’s also phenomenal live, as evidenced by the Jimmy Kimmel performance. If they choose to release this as a single, it’ll be a smash on multiple formats. 9.5/10
- “Someday When I Stop Loving You”- Once again, Carrie changes things up with “Someday When I Stop Loving You.” The whole song is pretty low-key, but the vocals and arrangement are beautiful. Probably Carrie’s most restrained vocal yet, not to mention it’s one of the most true country songs she’s done. 10/10
- “Songs Like This”- This song, more than any, just really makes you want to dance. Every time my iPod shuffles to this song, I want to jump and embarrass myself. The only problem is that it’s a bit too short, but the aggressive vocals make up for it. 9/10
- “Temporary Home”- If this song doesn’t show just how much Carrie has grown as a writer, I don’t know what well. This deep ballad showcases Carrie’s vocals, but the real magic is the writing. As I said in my single review of “Temporary Home”, the lyrics don’t beat around the bush and instead deliver the message without complicated metaphors. “This is our temporary home/It’s not where we belong” sums up quite nicely. Songwriting awards, engage. 10/10
- “This Time”- This smooth country/pop number could be a surprise single pick around the end of Play On’s run, with it’s catchy and light lyrics and delivery. It’s definitely not like anything Carrie’s released as a single before, so it would keep with the theme of changing things up. The only problem this song may face is the placement on the CD, where it could be lost among the highlights of the album. 8.5/10
- “Look At Me”- Like “I Told You So” before it, “Look At Me” features a soaring vocal by Carrie on a cover of a classic country song. “Look At Me” is stronger than its predecessor, though, with Vince Gill on harmonies and Carrie bringing her A-game. It’s the perfect song to keep those who want Carrie to be strictly country busy. 8.5/10
- “Unapologize”- To many listeners, “Unapologize” may seem like an off the wall song when you look at the grand scheme of Play On. I, however, think it only adds to the amazing dynamic of the CD. Sure “Unapologize” is about as country as “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon, but who says you can’t have a little variation on a CD? Certainly not me, and that’s what makes Play On so great. “Unapologize” is pop/rock straight-up and shows off some great vocals by Carrie and a brooding musical arrangement. It’s got a great chorus, and could see success on Hot AC and pop radio. 9/10
- “What Can I Say”- Another beautiful song with a really cool intro. Sons of Sylvia are on hand for a duet, though Carrie far outshines their lead singer. That aside, the duet still works marvelously. I hope this is a single, but I’m not holding my breath. I can’t wait to see this on the Christmas special coming up. 9.5/10
- “Play On”- The title track takes us back to Carrie’s music when she was fresh off of Idol. It’s a great little throwback, and I like the encouraging message. Carrie sings the heck out of the final verses, showing us she has been hard at work perfecting that beautiful voice. 8.5/10
Play On has a little something for everyone, and that’s what makes it an amazingly engineered album. It’s definitely Carrie’s best album from her young career, and arguably one of the best albums of 2009. As someone who was a little disappointed in Carnival Ride (The first 4 singles were all wonderful, but outside of those and 2 or 3 more I wasn’t that impressed with it), Play On is refreshing indicator of where Carrie is going as an artist and just how much she has grown through the years. I can’t wait to watch her and her career continue to grow into something truly incredible.
Overall Score: 95 out of 100
Staff Hot Picks: “Cowboy Casanova”, “Quitter”, “Change”, “Undo It”, “Someday When I Stop Loving You”, “Songs Like This”, “Temporary Home”, “Unapologize”, “What Can I Say”
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