Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream”

The music Carrie Underwood has released since her stunningly successful debut album has been an interesting contrast between commercial music recorded with a clear eye for radio and compelling cover songs recorded for charity. While Underwood has maintained her winning streak at country radio with a trio of #1 hits from her sophomore set, those singles didn’t showcase her talent at delivering truly great material the way that her covers of “I’ll Stand By You” and “Praying For Time” did.

“Just a Dream”, the new single from Carnival Ride, illustrates just how bone-chillingly good a vocalist she is when the material is on level with her talent. It’s a powerful story song about a young widow attending the funeral of her husband, a fallen soldier. Underwood’s vocal is masterful, effective at communicating all of the conflicting emotions, ranging from anger and desperation to distance and denial.

That’s a difficult thing to do, communicating personal feeling while singing in the third person, and Underwood does it as well enough here to be mentioned in the same breath as Reba McEntire. After a year of good songs that Underwood was able to turn into great records with her vocal talents, it’s no surprise that when given a great song, it’s one of the year’s best singles.

Written by Hillary Lindsey, Steve McEwan & Gordie Sampson

Grade: A

Listen: Just a Dream

Buy: Just a Dream

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41 Comments

Filed under Single Reviews

41 Responses to Carrie Underwood, “Just a Dream”

  1. Pingback: Country Universe Reviews JAD - Carrie Underwood Fans

  2. LJNo Gravatar

    ANOTHER single? Already??
    I have to admit I have gradually come to like Ms. Carrie. IMHO, she got better when Music Row quit telling me I HAD to love her!
    She has come a long, long, long way from that first performance at CMA Fest a couple of years ago fresh off of AI. She has really come into her own and has found her place …. again something that seems much more natural and obvious once Music Row let us discover her on our own.

    I imagine she will be around for a long time and that’s a good thing cuz we can use more Carrie Underwoods.

  3. LynnNo Gravatar

    I can’t help but wonder what this record might sound like if done acoustically (like Sugarland’s “Stay”). I feel like the song gets a little lost in the production and Carrie’s voice then starts to compete with the production. It just doesn’t seem like the right way to showcase an interesting song.

    Also, a war song about a young couple that starts out: “It was two weeks after the day she turned 18…” That sounds kind of familiar. ;)

  4. I’m still confused about this song. Is the first verse, where she’s clearly dressed in wedding garb, actually a dream? Or is she wearing her wedding dress to the funeral? Or is she going to her wedding in the first verse, only to find out the news then, and then the second verse is at the funeral?

    Anyway, it is a strong song. I feel like the emotional palette gets kind of lost at the end in the midst of all the big belting, but I’m the only person I know who’s said that.

  5. My impression was that she was heading back to the church that they were married in for the funeral. They married and then he went off to war, and now he’s not coming back. They wouldn’t give her the flag if she wasn’t already his wife, and she would be wearing a veil and holding flowers at the funeral.

    There’s a dream-like quality when you’re living through things like this that the songwriters nailed, IMO.

  6. LeeannNo Gravatar

    I took it as how Kevin explains it too. I can only imagine that something like this would seem like a dream…kind of like you’re not actually in your body and just going through the motions, especially if you were just married and expecting happily ever after but was hammered by quite the opposite. I suspect it would be the only way to cope with such a shock.
    I was a bit confused at first too though. Then again, I think the confusion helps to add to the dream-like quality that the song is depicting. Good stuff…great performance.

  7. LeeannNo Gravatar

    Lynn, it’s late so maybe I’m just slow tonight, but I’m not sure what song you’re referring too?

  8. Leeann, the Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier,” which starts with “two days past eighteen.”

    I like Kevin’s and your interpretation – maybe the ambiguity was sort of left in on purpose to add to the “dream” feel. I never thought of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense. I still can’t make up my mind on it exactly, but it’s definitely an impactful piece no matter how you slice it.

  9. And when I say “the Dixie Chicks'” I also mean “Bruce Robison’s.”

  10. LeeannNo Gravatar

    Yup, I wondered if that was the song, but I couldn’t quite remember the beginning line.

  11. JarheadDadNo Gravatar

    You know Kevin, you can really quit beating around the bush and tell us that you like the song! :-o

    You’re interpretation is correct. In the video you’ll see her receiving “The Letter” and it’ll clear up any confusion some might have. The whole song is set masterfully in a dream state. Exactly what it is like in my experience. Nothing at all makes much sense right about then. I still say one or more of the song writers has had a close experience with the subject matter. At least it feels like that to me.

    Adore the girl. Love the song. Agree with the review. Well said!

  12. TheresaNo Gravatar

    It is a vocal masterpiece– carrie’s best vocal yet, in my opinion. She soars in this song– like an angel.

    The song is very clear– not confusing at all. She is at the funeral of her fiance or husband lost in battle- but she is having trouble accepting the reality of his death– so she imagines that she is actually at her wedding. But she is forced into reality when she hears the military band, etc- and hears the “saddest song she ever heard” by the church congregation. She realizes she is at his funeral, and the pain of it is overwhelming. She cannot handle the reality— so she wants it all to be “just a dream.” It is the best song of the year- period.

    BRAVO CARRIE!!!! I see grammys ahead in your future. :) Brilliant!

  13. JaneNo Gravatar

    I am so glad that this song is being released. It’s one of the best songs from the album and is quite different (Subject-wise) from the other singles. I think it will do well, and I’m looking forward to seeing the video for it.

  14. lcbNo Gravatar

    The fact that the lyrics make you consider various points of view only enhances it. In dreams, our minds often “float” from the real to the imagined and back again. I think it’s “Song of the Year’ material, maybe “Record of the Year,” and on the strength of this one, Ms. U will challenge for yet another Female Vocalist prize. I just hope the video retains some of the “dream” and isn’t too literal and leaves some soft edges.

  15. yeah kevin totally agree with your review and interpretation

    i just hope that the video will be able to showcase the emotion of the song, and the meaning without being too confusing
    fingers crossed!

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  17. For all of those wanting to hear the acoustic version here you go. It’s been up for a week or so on Roughstock. Just A Dream – Acoustic.

    As a note on the song, it’s one of those that is open for opinion about what the first verse means. However, it is still quite jarring and while I lost a friend and not a love at 18, I can relate to the song in that way that someone you hold dear has suddenly passed away (albeit my friend wasn’t a military member).

  18. LeeannNo Gravatar

    I’d just say that the song may be jarring, but so is the situation that is presented in the song. So, the two fit together rather well.

  19. Pingback: The 9513 Reviews JAD - Page 4 - Carrie Underwood Fans

  20. Haven’t yet heard this song, but I saw Carrie Underwood at the Grand Ole Opry on June 3…and was underwhelmed. She has great vocal power, but that’s about it: zero stage presence, zero phrasing and emotion in her singing. I caught her late show (11:30) that night, and all she had to say to the audience was, “Why are you guys here so late? It’s 11:30! I wouldn’t wait up for ME until 11:30, I’d be in bed!” I almost fell out of my seat–you silly girl, this is the OPRY, for crying out loud! Then she went on to yell her way through another song.

    [sigh]

  21. LeeannNo Gravatar

    You don’t even have to youtube it…it’s at the bottom of the review.:)

  22. SugarlipsNo Gravatar

    Oh Miss Kitty, maybe if you had a sense of humor you might be a little happier, I was there as well and she is vocally the best female country singer today. If you think she has no stage presence or whatever the hell you said, you are really sad.
    If you call that yelling I can’t imagine what you think of Taylor Swift.

    (sigh)

  23. LeeannNo Gravatar

    Sugarlips, please try to be a little more civil and avoid personal attacks.

    Jake, I’ve gotten to enjoy Carrie more and more over time as well. I’m not sure what my turning point was though.:)

  24. AllisonkraussfanNo Gravatar

    MissKitty– I was at the Opry that night and Carrie was FANTASTIC! She did not scream at all- and she was very engaging with the crowd. I am sure she was tired by 11:30 as that was her second show of the night. The first show, she was a bit more chatty…But Her joke was funny– she was laughing at herself…What is wrong with that?? At least she doesn’t brag at every performance like Taylor swift does…I saw Taylor at the Stagecoach fest- and she spent the whole night bragging about her 1 number 1 hit, and her album sales, etc. She is the most annoying, an underwhelming, singer out there today. She can’t hold a tune to save her life.

    Carrie is an incredible singer, and person. This song is the Jesus Take the Wheel of her new album- and I expect great things from the song.

  25. bresenolouieNo Gravatar

    I strongly agree with your review. Everyone in our family, including my brother who was deployed in Baghdad, Iraq for 14 months, all agreed that this is the most powerful song we ever heard.

  26. RUSTYNo Gravatar

    PLEASE don’t mention Carrie in the same breath as Reba, SERIOUSLY. In her and your dreams.

  27. SD

    I agree with Rusty.
    I like the song and how Carrie sings it, but I really don’t think it’s enough for her to be mentioned in the same breath as Reba.

  28. bresenolouieNo Gravatar

    Never in my entire life of 34 years I have shed lots of tears for one song like I did in “Just A Dream”. This song is a definitive masterpiece of our time. Carrie’s classic and tremendous vocals complement and blended so well with the interplay of the instruments. This is crucial to the creation of the emotional tension in this song’s aesthetic in order to emphasize the emotional aspect of this song, the emotional pain and suffering of losing a husband. They did it perfectly right and it is a very powerful song. The first verse is a very strong dramatic musical cues. The writers used a “Flashback” – the young widow’s memories of their wedding day at the church before the church doors opened up wide and she put her veil down trying to hide the tears. The young widow is losing her husband, the inspiration of her life, at this funeral…She is losing her HOPES and DREAMS which started during that wedding…She is counting on her husband forvever for these HOPES and DREAMS and now, they are gone at this funeral…It is just so painful to deal with. This very strong dramatic musical cues were supported by lots of very powerful stuff in conveying the emotional pain and suffering of this young widow. LOTS OF TEARS FLOW THROUGH MY EYES.

  29. lcbNo Gravatar

    Reba is great, and so is Carrie. Yikes, I mentioned them in the same breath. Come on, folks, legends like Reba have nothing to fear from any comparisons that come along. By the way, almost no comparisons to Reba are ever made seriously about anyone. Carrie should be flattered. I don’t think she is being compared to Reba for her relatively short career–it’s way too early. I think it’s more that Carrie is showing an ability to take country songs to an emotional level that only Reba has done in recent years. Soaring vocals, memorable songs/lyrics. all the things Reba conquered years ago. To me, it’s like, “Whew. Finally another great country female vocalist, following in the tradition of Patsy, Tammy, Dolly, Reba and Martina. At least that’s how I view it. Not a competition, but a tribute to Reba because she helped lay the groundwork for someone like Carrie.

  30. GaryNo Gravatar

    Just another Carrie shriekfest.

  31. bresenolouieNo Gravatar

    In the song “Just A Dream”, Carrie’s classic and tremendous vocal is tecnically skilled, powerful and gorgeous. There is a supple quality in Carrie’s vocal and there are touches of vibrato that show incredible technical skill which is the SIGNATURE of Carrie’s vocal in all her songs. Then she can leap it up high, up to the TOP OF A HUGE MOUNTAIN. Her vocal gymnastics do not overpower the song. These vocals complement and blended so well with a well crafted interplay of instruments that created a very powerful emotional tension in this song’s aesthetic, the emotional pain and suffering of the young widow in losing her husband in which she was counting on forever for their HOPES and DREAMS. Carrie’s vocal soared and she felt and captured the strength and the sincerity of the melody and the lyrics of this song and she sang it with conviction. MASTERPIECE!!!

  32. michael 10 year old childNo Gravatar

    i love carrie underwood best singer in the whole world and this is the best song in the world!!!it’s so powerful

  33. michael w.

    I think that Just a dream is a powerful song that 100% suits her for a new single. Out of the three that she has put out from this album, I would have to say So Small was the best so far. All-American Girl was a fun, up tempo song and Last Name was just a good song to showcase reckless abandon and going out and just being, excuse myself for being redundant, but reckless. I loved So Small because it just let everyone know to not sweat the small things. But Just a Dream is by far my favorite off the album. It is just a great song and I think, or at least hope, that it does great on the charts and gets Carrie some more Grammies. Lets all say thanks to Arista for picking this as the next single. I was reading some of the comments on here and to the person who said that she went on and yelled another song, that was so dumb. She has a big voice and she knows how to work it.

  34. ZachNo Gravatar

    hey has anyone seen the video?
    reminds me of stay but I got chills!!!!!!!
    The Best video Carrie has done so far!!!

  35. BKNo Gravatar

    Yeah. I saw the video too. It’s really great. As someone mentioned above about hoping that the video maintains the dreamlike quality and isn’t to literal and confusing.. i think Roman White nailed it. I hope it does well on the charts and at the award shows. I’d like to see a stripped down acoustic version of it at the upcoming awards shows… no big, dramatic production…just carrie and a simple set & instrumentation. I think it would be very powerful and could have the potential of being the performance of the night just like Tim McGraw’s “If Your Reading This” performance was last year.

  36. ZachNo Gravatar

    I totally agree BK! One can only hope ;)
    I get chills just thinkin about if she performs it acoustically!! :)

  37. ZachNo Gravatar

    also with this song I think I feel her next Grammy nomination for Female Country performance :)

  38. bresenolouieNo Gravatar

    I saw the music video of “Just A Dream”. Brilliant music video!!! Gorgeous cinematography!!! “Best Actress Award” for Carrie Underwood!!! It started with the conversations of the military husband and Carrie in the car, the night before he is going to be deployed to war. Husband, “So you are thinking about tomorrow? We have some rules.” Carrie, “What rules?” Husband, “Well, I have decided that tonight is just between you and me…” Then Roman White used the “FLASHFORWARD” cinematic device for the funeral of her husband who died in that war. Her memories of the church is their wedding day and flashed into her mind while at the funeral while walking down for the interment and then the white dress and wedding veil was transformed to black dress and black veil indicating that she was awakened in the reality that she is now at the funeral of her husband and actually wearing the black dress and black veil when the church doors opened up wide. Scene 3 of the conversations is the most powerful. Husband, “I have our whole life plan for us. It’s perfect.” Carrie, “Promise?”. Then they showed Carrie crying in the funeral and then she is in front of the coffin of her husband and she held on to that American Flag given to her, THAT IS WHAT IS LEFT OF HIM. Man…I shed lots of tears.

  39. Sam

    I wasn’t impressed when I saw the video she created… I love the song and her, but the video could have been better.

  40. GailNo Gravatar

    I started liking Carrie a lot when the curly blonde came on the scene with her bubble gum music that can’t sing and Music Row is now shoving her down our throats….(as LJ stated about Carrie). At least, IMO, Carrie can actually sing! I actually do like “Just A Dream”…it’s a beautiful song.

  41. TomNo Gravatar

    …played “just a dream”, bashed taylornation in my mind, while listening – but i still find it nothing special. did i miss a step, gail?