Carrie Underwood, the second most successful artist to surface from American Idol, released the follow-up to her six-time platinum debut album “Some Hearts” Oct. 23. (Kelly Clarkson still stands as the Idol winner with the most successful career.)
To begin with, I had high expectations for this album after the success of her first record. Underwood exceeded those expectations.
“Carnival Ride” begins with the country rock track “Flat on the Floor.”
“If I told you once, I told you a thousand times / You can't knock me off my feet, when I'm already on my knees / 'Cause I'm flat on the floor with my head down low / Where the sky can't rain on me anymore / Don't knock on my door 'cause I won't come / I'm hiding from the storm 'til the damage gets done,” Underwood belts.
The song, about not being able to be pushed any lower than you already are, brings an upbeat chorus and series of beats and created the perfect opening for the album.
“And now, he's wrapped around her finger / She's the center of his whole world / And his heart belongs to that sweet, little, beautiful, wonderful, perfect / All American girl,” she sings on “All American Girl.”
The lyrics tell a story. Each time the chorus represents a different situation. First, you have a young couple having their first child. The father wants a son to take the baseball team to state. “But when the nurse came in with a little pink blanket, all those big dreams changed,” Underwood sings.
Then, the “All American Girl” dates the football star, who becomes “wrapped around her finger.” They get married and give birth to a child who just happens to be another “All American Girl.”
I love how the song goes full circle to tell the story. “All American Girl” is perhaps my favorite song on the album.
The first single “So Small” follows.
“Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand / What you've been up there searching for forever is in your hands / When you figure out love is all that matters after all / It sure makes everything else / Oh it sure makes everything else / Seem so small,” she sings on the typical, yet good, country ballad.
Underwood, like many other country artists, recreates painful events through her music. “Just A Dream” does just that.
A military wedding provides the basis for the track. However, due to the loss of a life in the war, the wedding does not happen.
“Baby, why'd you leave me? / Why'd you have to go? / I was counting on forever, now / I'll never know / I can't even breathe / It's like I'm looking from a distance / Standing in the background / Everybody's saying, he's not coming home now / This can't be happening to me / This is just a dream,” she sings in a strong voice.
The very sad song presents all the needed material to become a successful single. If it does, the accompanying music video will no doubt be like a mini movie that tugs at your heart, especially those with family in the military.
To pick things up from the sorrow, Underwood provides the upbeat track “Get Out of this Town.”
“Let's get out of this town tonight / Nothing but dust in the shadows / Gone by morning light / Somewhere we won't ever get caught, ever be found / Baby, let's just get out of this town,” she sings.
Residents of small towns will relate to this song. When everyone gets on your case, you want nothing more than to get out of there.
Kelefa Saneh, of the New York Times, described the next song “Crazy Dreams” to be like a TV commercial. She’s right.
The lyrics, “Here's to you free souls, you fight for life chasers / Street climbers, porch swingers, air guitar players / Here's to you fearless dancers, shaking walls in your bedrooms,” almost make no sense, but would be effective in a commercial.
Who cares? Sense or no sense, they’re catchy. “Even crazy dreams come true,” she adds later on.
Prepare yourself for vocals that are out of this world.
“I Know You Won’t” stands out among all the songs on the album. The notes hit showcase the range of Underwood’s voice.
“You say you'll call, but I know you / You say you're coming home, but I know you / You say you'll call, but I know you won't / You say you'll call, but I know you won't,” Underwood literally soars.
This album’s “Before He Cheats”-like song, “Last Name,” makes me laugh every time I hear it. It goes to show too much to drink has its side effects.
“It started of, hey cutie where you from / And then it turned into, oh no, what have I done / And I don't even know his last name,” she sings at first.
The next morning, when she wakes up and sees the ring on her finger, that last line becomes “I don’t even know my last name.”
“You Won’t Find This,” without hesitation, will be one of my favorite songs ever. The guitar solos and incredible vocals make the song simply amazing.
“You can hold any girl that you like / Fall in love when it's easy at night / But, you'll wake up wondering why she ain't ever something better / Follow what I already know/ In the end, closer's all there is / Oh, in the end it's me you're going to miss / 'Cause you won't find this,” she sings.
The reason I like this song so much could be that I’ve been there. Change the lyrics to fit a guy’s perspective, and it becomes my story.
Underwood takes on Randy Travis’ 1988 hit single “I Told You So.”
“If I told you that I realize you're all I ever wanted / And it's killing me to be so far away / Would you tell me that you love me too / And when we cry together / Would you simply laugh at me and say / I told you so / Oh, I told you so / I told you someday you'd come crawling back and asking me to take you in / I told you so / But you had to go,” she sings sadly.
Out of the desire to compare, I located Travis’ original version. Underwood knocks him out of the park. Randy’s was good and if you liked his version, you’ll love Carrie’s.
Despite how offended I was by this next song, I still can’t shake the funny way she sings the line “I don’t think so,” after she describes each guy.
The song titled “The More Boys I Meet (The More I Love My Dog)” hilariously makes fun of men Underwood dated. She sings, “It's not like I'm not trying / 'Cause I'll give anyone a shot once / And I close my eyes / And I kiss that frog / Each time finding / The more boys I meet the more I love my dog.”
Next, Underwood sings about a new relationship on “Twisted.”
“It's twisted, messed up / And the more I think about it / It's crazy, but so what / I may never understand it / I'm caught up and I'm hanging on / I'm wanna love you even if it's wrong,” she sings.
A mid-tempo track, just like “You Won’t Find This,” she uses her vocals and lyrics to produce one of the best songs of her career.
The title of the album comes from the last song, “Wheel of the World.”
“God put us here on this carnival ride / We close our eyes / Never knowing where it will take us next / Babies are born and at the same time, someone's taking their last breath / It's the wheel of the world / It's the wheel of the world turning around,” she sings.
On her official Web site, Underwood says, “This part of my life has been absolutely crazy, and to think it all started from one little decision I made to get on that ride. That's why Carnival Ride works as my album title, because it describes the wonderful craziness I've been through over the past couple of years.”
Underwood really did save the best for last. Nothing can be found wrong with “Wheel of the World.”
Underwood co-wrote four of the 13 tracks on her sophomore album. From the lyrics on the album, I have no doubt she will continue to grow as a songwriter.
“Carnival Ride,” in my opinion, outshines “Some Hearts.” That’s pretty remarkable considering “Some Hearts” was a great album and was the fastest selling album on the country charts in history. It was also the best-selling female country album in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Those are impressive records for a new artist.
Before reviewing this album, I took one listen to it before sitting down. It took me a while to figure out a way to describe the record without just saying, “This record is amazing!”
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©The Voice 2007
Revised 01/13/2008 03:20:23 PM — http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/5_8/underwood.htm