Former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood released her sixth studio album,”Cry Pretty” (2018), on Sept. 14. This release follows Underwood’s previous effort, “Storyteller” (2015). “Cry Pretty” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making her the first woman to have four country albums reach the top of the Billboard charts, perhaps a reminder of former American Idol judge Simon Cowell’s predictions of Underwood’s success.
The 13-track album’s lead single is “Cry Pretty,” in which Underwood reveals a more vulnerable and truthful side of herself. Underwood debuted “Cry Pretty” at the 2018 Academy of Country Music Awards in April to a standing ovation. The music video is also aesthetically moving, featuring Underwood crying under the shower and performing with running mascara.
In the song, Underwood proclaims that “I hold my composure, for worse or for better/So I apologize if you don’t like what you see/But sometimes my emotions get the best of me/And falling apart is as human as it gets/You can’t hide it, you can’t fight what the truth is.” Underwood explained in an interview with SiriusXM that she expressed hope to change the mindset that women must only “cry pretty.”
“I feel like today we are judged for being emotional,” Underwood said. “As a mom and a wife, you’re supposed to just keep things going together. You’re supposed to just power through whatever, but it’s okay to let it out.”
Underwood co-wrote nine of the 13 tracks of this album, frequently expressing personal emotions. Equally impactful was “Kingdom,” which acts as a documentation of Underwood’s personal life with former NHL player Mike Fisher. In the song, Underwood cries that “It’s been late nights, a few good fights/Wouldn’t sleep until we worked things out/ It’s been long days of leanin’ on faith/Even when we had our doubts,” but ultimately she wouldn’t give it up for anything else, for “It’s our life, it’s our heart, it’s our home/And this is our kingdom”.
While the tracks “Cry Pretty” and “Kingdom” no doubt shed light on Underwood’s personal life and her beliefs, they pale in comparison to previous Underwood songs that have been deemed personal, such as “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted” (2015). Nevertheless, this should not take away from Underwood’s vocal performances in the album, which have been stellar once again.
Other highlights of the album include “Low,” a slow-jam filled with tambourine and drum beats. The song demonstrates Underwood’s vocal range, as she passionately cries out for a lover. In a similar vein, “Drinking Alone” is a soulful song that is clearly influenced by blues, discussing her thoughts about a lost lover, suggesting that “we should be drinking alone together.”
Another highlight of the new album is “Spinning Bottles.” While the track is dark (it concerns chronic alcoholism), the track is quintessentially Underwood: a song written in a narrative-style that has been definitive of Underwood’s other major singles such as “All-American Girl” (2007), “So Small,” (2007), “Temporary Home” (2009) and “Jesus Take The Wheel” (2005).
The real up-tempo track of the album, titled “Southbound,” acts as a refreshing change-up midway through the album. The track will be familiar to college students, discussing spring breaks and margaritas in a light-hearted fashion. Football fans who are used to Underwood crooning the Sunday Night Football anthem will also find something for them in “The Champion” featuring Ludacris — a bonus track on the album, previously released for Super Bowl LII.
Underwood’s “The Bullet” track should also be highlighted for its powerful social commentary on gun violence. The 35-year-old Underwood took inspiration from the Las Vegas shooting that occurred in October 2017 at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, which predominantly featured country singers. The set-up is simple, but its commentary is deep. Underwood laments that “You can blame it on hate or blame it on guns/But mamas ain’t supposed to bury their sons.” Underwood believes the impact of gun violence in general runs deeper than that, as “The wound’s still open/The bullet keeps on goin.’” For a genre that is associated with conservative Republican voters, “The Bullet” hits home in a refreshing way.
The album hits a high note as it nears its end, reminding all of us that ultimately, “Love Wins.” The song acts as the second single from the album, as Underwood sings passionately that “I, I believe that you and me are sisters and brothers … we’re made to be here for each other.” In a world filled with division, “Love Wins” acts as a powerful anthem and heart-warmer.
Underwood will be touring in Boston at the TD Garden to promote her album in October 2019, after she gives birth to her second child.