It’s been well established by this point that Carrie Underwood’s eighties pop/rock runs deep in her musical roots. Being part of the MTV generation, this isn’t surprising, as the days of country artists who were only exposed to country music are long gone.
Underwood draws on those roots more than she’s ever done on a traditional single, but fans from her Idol days will have flashbacks to her star-making performance of “Alone” when they listen to “Cowboy Casanova”, as Carrie does her very best to channel Ann Wilson and often pulls it off. I have to say that the verses are catchier than the chorus, though, and if you’re going to do eighties power pop, you need a stronger, bigger chorus.
That’s a shortcoming that speaks to the larger dilemma that “Cowboy Casanova” creates. There’s a large group of people who don’t want eighties pop anywhere near their country music, so this song will be a loser for them right out of the gate. For people like me, who get a kick out of cheesy cross-genre pollination, the track doesn’t go far enough. If you’re going to kick off the song with backing vocalists that sound like Tears For Fears, you might as well go all the way.
The comparisons to Shania Twain are inevitable here, and Underwood is on record as a big fan of Twain’s. The genius of Twain’s best work is that she made brilliant pop records with country instruments. It is very difficult to do pop well in the first place, let alone incorporate country instrumentation into it. On “Cowboy Casanova”, Underwood makes a strong attempt but doesn’t quite pull it off. We’re left with just a decent single that doesn’t feel quite country enough or quite pop enough to make it a keeper.
Listen: Cowboy Casanova