Single Review: Carrie Underwood, “Good Girl”

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February 24, 2012

Usually with country records, you know what to expect after the first twenty seconds.

“Good Girl” toys brilliantly with those expectations.

It starts off as a typical Carrie “attitude” song, but even in the opening section, something’s different.  Her voice is raw and gritty, lacking the typical polish that made earlier songs in this vein sound a bit forced.   It leads into a fairly typical country chorus, and as that’s coming to an end, you’re ready for the second verse.

But it doesn’t come just yet.  Instead, the hand claps stop, the band slows down, and she lets the melody hang, repeating “go” and “he’s low” in a hypnotizing, almost soothing way.  Just as you’re being lulled into submission, the record snaps back to life, as she rattles off the reasons a good girl wants to believe in that no-good man.

Familiarity sets in, and as the chorus runs into the bridge, I was reveling in that “go”/”he’s low” construct the second time around, until the rug was pulled out from me again.  Instead of completing the bridge this time, a blistering guitar solo tears through, leading up to a ferocious rock vocal that would make Janis proud.

As the song reaches its climax, I braced for the inevitable. A song that builds up this much energy always ends up crossing the line, ending with a loud and cluttered bang.  Once again, she zags.  Instead of escalating, the band drops out entirely, and the final ten seconds of the song is just Carrie – no backup singers, no band, not even a hand clap.  It actually ends with ten seconds of unadorned a cappella.

In three-and-a-half minutes, Underwood surprised me more than any country recording since “Giddy On Up”, and without any of the accompanying camp.   I’ve always been a fan of hers, because Glory to God in the Highest That Voice, but I never suspected that she’d be this relentlessly creative.

An absolutely exhilarating record.

Written by Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley, and Carrie Underwood

Grade: A

 

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  1. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I might not give it an A, but I actually agree with the (excellent) review. If I think about it as a country single it kind of bums me out, but as a pop/rock single it’s really cool. Not much in the way of lyrics, even for this type of song, but if Carrie’s going to record middling songs her whole career, this is the way to do it – creative production, maximum use of her voice. This is what “Cowboy Casanova” should’ve been.

  2. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    Count me in the slightly bummed out camp, if only because I can find her rock persona in live performances and one-off recordings. But yeah, this is more creative than I predict most people are going to give it credit for, and the vocals are killer.

  3. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    I liked this song pretty much from the beginning, but this review brings out some points I hadn’t picked up on before. It really does toy with your expectations of what you’re going to hear next.

    I had a few minor beefs with the production, but for the most part I think this is a very interesting record, and it does make me excited to hear the rest of the new album.

    Fantastic work as always, Kevin!

  4. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I think I like her best at her extremes – totally traditional like in “San Antonio Rose” or totally rawk like this. All the AC stuff in the middle, I’m like “eh.”

  5. neilNo Gravatar says:

    i love this review and I love God Girl.

    The entire fandom is excited

  6. AlleyNo Gravatar says:

    Great review! Agree completely! I expected a typical fun upbeat boybasher song from carrie- and that would have been just fine. But this song surprised me with how many directions it went.

    It has an old school Shania Twain vibe going on at times but then carrie goes harder and you hear a littld Joan Jet of Heart influence. I like it much better then Undo it or Last Name. They were good– but this song is great.

    It seems like carrie has a rockers soul hiding down there and when it comes out it works for her.

    She is still a country girl at heart but she has a rockers soul.

    Nice to have you back carrie! I for one am sick to death of tween pop taylor swift songs on my radio. This will be a nice change.

  7. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    Actually, the electronic vocal altering aside, to my ears it resembles something off of Linda Ronstadt’s 1980 album Mad Love. And yes, it is a change of pace, not only from the anodyne Taylor Swift, but also from some of Carrie’s earlier records, which I find to be too “soccer mom”-ish.

  8. PatrickNo Gravatar says:

    So glad you are digging this tune.
    Love it myself.
    The world can be really hard on Underwood because we all understand what she is capable of. But this recording is just her at her joyous best.
    Let the Lady Sing!!

  9. TrishNo Gravatar says:

    This song is awesome!

    Carrie Underwood is without a doubt the premiere female vocalist in the world today.

  10. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    I for one am sick to death of tween pop taylor swift songs on my radio

    I for one am sick to death of every discussion of Carrie or Taylor devolving into a discussion of Carrie VS. Taylor. Can we just stop this right here, please and thank you?

  11. KaylaNo Gravatar says:

    THANK YOU BEN!!! just because you don’t like one artist doesn’t mean every single things needs to become artist vs artist

  12. Jon2000No Gravatar says:

    But if Carrie’s going to record middling songs her whole career

    That’s probably the most frustrating thing about Carrie. With her success, talent and notoriety, I’m sure she has the best songs offered to her at her disposal. But she seems just to not have good taste in choosing music for herself. Or she seems content in elevating so-so songs into another level by use of her talent. I’d like to see her tackle it the other way around for once – find a great song that’s deserving of her talent.

  13. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    Me too, Jon, me too. I’m still holding out hope for the album, though. If it’s anything like Play On, there will be extremes.

    Have you heard this demo? It made the album: http://www.mjsbigblog.com/leave-love-alone-track-on-carrie-underwoods-upcoming-album-demo.htm

  14. PriscilaNo Gravatar says:

    Flawless review.

    As of now in the past releases in 2011 and 2012, GG is an unparalleled uptempo smash.

  15. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    What Dan said: “I think I like her best at her extremes – totally traditional like in “San Antonio Rose” or totally rawk like this. All the AC stuff in the middle, I’m like “eh.”

    I am a big fan of Underwood’s vocal ability, and also get frustrated at some of the so-so material which gets released while other great songs on her albums never become singles.

    But I like when she goes traditional “I Told You So” or rock/pop like this. She has country in her blood, but rock in her soul, I think. I suppose that plays havoc with her song choices.

    Let’s see what the album brings in May. This will be some nice ear-candy until then.

  16. HankNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll give it a D. It’s a pop/rock song not a COUNTRY song.

  17. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Hank, I generally agree with your assessment that it’s a pop-rock song, but I think it’s a very good pop-rock song. It might not be very country, but I don’t think that necessarily makes it bad music.

  18. RicaNo Gravatar says:

    I completely agree with Kevin J. Coyne reviewed. I give A++.This single without a doubt will be another hit for Carrie.It’s a great country pop-rock song. Her voice is amazing, she is not only a very talented lady, she’s also a lady with a big heart. When you hear this song you will dance ’cause it’s really catchy. I love it.

  19. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Sorry, too generic for me. I have, however, liked Underwood’s previous material up until “Play On”, which I thought was a little too AC. Besides, what exactly is a “country” artist anymore? So many pop artists have crossed over into the country segment in recent years that country music might as well not even exist anymore. If you want real country music, and not “Nashville pop”, listen to artists such as Alan Jackson, George Strait, Easton Corbin, Brad Paisley, Hank Williams, Jr., and (surprisingly, yes) Kellie Pickler’s latest NEOTRADITIONAL release, “100 Proof”, and you’ll see what I mean.

  20. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …the empire strikes back! untamed, loud & proud and with a message – sounds kinda like the latest landmark song in fem-pop.

    “before he cheats” was one of the defining country releases of the last decade. with this one, she once again knocks the ball out of the ballpark in genrebusting style.

    swift, lambert, underwood – what sounds like the name of a new england law firm has become one of the most creative spearheads that female country music has ever seen.

    fair enough, this may not sound like your traditional country single but the message in the lyrics fully make up for that and some of its predecessors – just don’t remind me.

  21. NeilNo Gravatar says:

    Don’t get so defensive Ben Foster you’re uber fan is showing.

  22. bobNo Gravatar says:

    Great review. I like the song. Seems like it would have fit in on the Shindig and Hullabaloo shows of the 60′s. I’ll just have to imagine the Hullabaloo Dancers. Maybe they’ll play it during the skate around before Predator games.

  23. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Don’t get so defensive Ben Foster you’re uber fan is showing.

    Is it showing again? Oh dear…

    Actually, I’m not sure I know where you got that. If you’re referring to my most recent comment, I’ll just point out that I’ve made similar points about other pop-rock-leaning artists – not just Carrie. To me, it’s more important that it just be good music, be it good pop music or good country music, than to fall squarely within the conventional boundaries of the country genre. And no, I actually would not consider myself an “uber” Underwood fan, but I do enjoy quite a few of her songs, including this one.

  24. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Um, excuse me. If Country Universe has an uberfan of Carrie Underwood, it ain’t Ben. At best, he’s jockeying for third place!

  25. KeithNo Gravatar says:

    While I don’t think that a song has to be strictly within the bounds of “country” music to be good, I wish that artists would just be honest about what type of music they’re recording. Because while this will be found under the “country” genre tab in iTunes, it certainly isn’t even remotely country music. It’s a pretty good pop-rock song, though.

  26. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    At best, he’s jockeying for third place!

    I’ll take it =)

  27. K-manNo Gravatar says:

    I have to agree with Kevin’s review. When I heard the sneak preview of Good Girl, I expected another Cowboy Casanova/Undo It type song. And it basically is. But Kevin is right: this song toys with your expectations over and over and over again.

    This song isn’t particularly memorable lyrically, but that doesn’t bother me, as I mostly look for music that is sonically interesting to me anyway. And she nails it. Not only is Carrie’s high energy pop rock side my favorite side of her, but she blows this song away with those amazing pipes. I had chills when I first listened to this.

    I almost forget how great Carrie is between albums. And then songs like this shock me back into reality and remind me who the Queen of Country is.

  28. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    Um, excuse me. If Country Universe has an uberfan of Carrie Underwood, it ain’t Ben. At best, he’s jockeying for third place!

    So who’s first? ;)

    Speaking of…I’m digging this acoustic version a lot more than the studio version.

  29. White CleatsNo Gravatar says:

    You too, huh Tara? I already said so in the comments section of the video but I didn’t realize how muddled the backing vocals made Carrie’s lead vocal sound until I heard this acoustic version. I’m not hating on the studio version but I’d love to know which one of them has the fetish for the Wall of Sound production style — Bright or Underwood. Either way, I wish they’d quiet the cacophony behind Carrie’s vocals. I think she’d be better served.

    Anyway, great review, Kevin. I think Good Girl is her best tempo song to date. Perhaps people will disagree with me preferring Before He Cheats but that song is no where near her best vocal; it’s not in her range — her lower register lacks dynamics and gets drown out by the aforementioned Wall of Sound. Good Girl, however, is smack in her wheelhouse where her voice is strong, powerful and easy. The acoustic version shows just how easy the song is for her to sing.

  30. KarlyNo Gravatar says:

    This is an immaculate review, Kevin.

    I love “Good Girl,” and I’m glad Carrie has finally gotten confident enough to try something different and step out of her comfort zone. I’m mindful of the fact that she has millions of fans that love her country/pop flavor, so I can understand why this is similar to some of her past hits from a thematic standpoint.

    The lyrics aren’t the strongest, but I think they give the song a distinct “Carrie” flavor, which is something a song with such dramatic/different production could benefit from in terms of being able to still identify the artist behind the microphone. There’s also some interesting wordplay sprinkled in the lyrics, which is refreshing change from Carrie’s past singles. “He’ll lips are drippin’ honey/but he’ll sting you like a bee /so lock up all your lovin’ go and throw away the key & hey good girl too good for him/better back away honey/you don’t know where he’s been.

    I think Carrie has potential as a writer, but people can’t expect her to go from average to great overnight. I’m a huge Underwood fan and I love the magic that she creates when she sings material that lives up to her talent, but I can’t fault her for wanting to have a hand in her own material, either. Carrie seems uncomfortable with the idea that she’s a manufactured artist because she came off American Idol, and I can see where her eagerness to explore herself as an artist would come from.

    I love that the production takes the listeners for a ride, and it makes for a really interesting/fun listening experience. I think Good Girl shows Carrie is just starting to discover herself as an artist, which is something she started to explore on “Play On.” I agree she doesn’t always have the best taste in material, but I always find a certain sincerity and undeniable amount of heart in the songs she records/writes, and that’s not something I can say about most artists on the radio right now.

    Ultimately, I’d like to see Carrie balance the best of both words, but she’s always going to have a golden voice, and I feel like she’s an artist who is distinctive and talented enough to leave her mark on the industry even if she doesn’t end up having an excellent track record of fantastic material down the line. Not every artist has an ear for great music, and that’s something worth noting, in my opinion.

    I’m hoping album 4 is more cohesive than “Play On,” because I felt like it was a collection of good songs that didn’t flow too well together. I’m sure she’ll put some gems on the album because she’s had several on the past three albums, but I’m hoping the songs will fit together, especially if they’re very different sonically. However, the two songs that have surfaced so far (“Good Girl” and “Leave Love Alone”), are very different, so I don’t foresee a shortage of variety, which was something I felt “Play On” lacked, to an extent.

    Overall, this a great change for Carrie, and kudos to her for creating the music her way and actually having a drive to discover herself as an artist with a song like this.

    For anyone that hasn’t heard, Carrie finally decided to join Twitter, and it looks like her husband is the culprit behind convincing her to join. Her twitter is @carrieunderwood

  31. LynnNo Gravatar says:

    @Tara:

    I listened to that Leave Love Alone demo sung by Hillary Lindsey on the reverbnation site (it has been taken down recently, though). I don’t know, I’ll have to wait for Carrie’s version to see if I’ll like it. Hillary did well, but I have a problem with the lyrics, it’s so repetitive.

  32. HankNo Gravatar says:

    Ben, if Rascal Flatts sings a pop/rock song like Good Girl, I’ll bet many people crying about how pop Rascal Flatts is. Actually, those people have cried that many years! Many people are not fair. People like this because of who’s singing it. Carrie Underwood sings pop/rock song, “Well, I don’t care how non-country it is.” Rascal Flatts sings pop/rock song, “A pop group not a country group. They don’t wear cowboy hat. Hate them!”

  33. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I think that Underwood has received her share of “not country” criticism, but that’s not an approach you see much of at Country Universe for any artist.

    When we criticize Rascal Flatts, it’s because their songs aren’t good enough, not because they’re not country enough.

  34. PhillipNo Gravatar says:

    I think Good Girl is a great lead off single for Carrie’s next album. She has one of the most versatile voices in country music and even in all of music.

  35. HankNo Gravatar says:

    Of course, I mean Rascal Flatts’ songs comments not the reviews.

  36. Martin in NYNo Gravatar says:

    I really want to be a Carrie fan. So many people whose opinions I respect (like Kevin) really like her music. I just always seem to miss whatever it is that people like about her music. It all sounds like sometimes overblown or often watered down late 1980s pop music to me. I find that Carrie suffers from what many pop stars with great voices suffer from: inferior material choices. People like Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera or Celine Dion also have great voices and make records that are not great. I think another one of the reasons that I don’t like Carrie’s music is that her music just sounds so safe to me. Even when she seemingly takes risks, it just sounds like safe risks. There is something about her music that just feels manufactured to me. I love her voice, but I just don’t get her songs. Also, I can’t even find a way to discuss her in terms of country music. All she conjures up for me is pop music from the past. I love pop music and I love country music. She is a pop artist. A pop artist with an amazing voice.

  37. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    Martin in NY, I appreciate your honest thoughts about Carrie, and your discussion of her song choices. I used to think the bigger star you become, the more control you surely have over your career. But because of the power record labels seem to hold over choices of singles and such, I kind of wonder. Any insight is appreciated. For example, it is fascinating to me to think the person actually singing the songs may not have final say on album material. Or do they? Or is this just a case-by-case issue? As a non-music person, I have no idea how it all works.

  38. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Though I’m enjoying this particular single, Martin articulates my general feelings really well.

    I can only specualte, but I suspect a lot of what’s keeping Carrie in this basic musical ‘zone’ is that she’s still got essentially the same team she’s had since Idol. Same management, and Idol management doesn’t take a lot of risks. Perhaps more importantly, she’s still with Mark Bright as a producer, and together they’ve stuck to a certain inoffensive groove.

    Perhaps this is right where Carrie wants to be; if so, best to her. But for me, it’s still exciting to imagine how she might surprise us if she started taking more chances with her approach, the way Idols like Kellie Pickler and Kelly Clarkson and even Chris Daughtry have.

  39. White CleatsNo Gravatar says:

    I agree completely with the criticism of Carrie’s song choices — they’ve made me want to pull out my hair as well. Time and time again I’ve liked something a bit but not really or didn’t like something at all only to succumb to it after enough listenings simply because I adore her voice. Material I would never listen to a second time gets played on a loop because I just like hearing her sing.

    Dan, I will say that I think comparing Carrie’s musical journey to her fellow Idol counterparts — at least in terms of Kellie — is apples and oranges. Kelly made a bold move at the height of her popularity with My December but Kellie’s new direction came on the heels of her extinction. She had maybe one more album in her before being dropped from her label and all but forgotten. When you’re in a do-or-die it’s easy to take a risk because have you no where to go but up.

    When you’re a superstar you risk so much and it’s a terrifying place to be. One false move with the fan base and down you tumble and for someone like Underwood that’s a long ass fall. I’m not even sure how much her label would allow her to change it up, say if she wanted to go traditional country. There’s no telling how much power she has.

  40. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    You’re right that it’s apples and oranges, White Cleats. I just meant to speak to the basic concept of switching up your team, which both Kelly and Kellie did successfully (Kellie with 100 Proof, Kelly with Breakaway – she got new management [though she later switched out them, too, apparently less successfully]).

  41. White CleatsNo Gravatar says:

    Dan, I do agree with your comments about her team. I too would love to hear her without Mark Bright and without whomever else has been with her since day one. Though I suspect she’s at least equally responsible (or guilty, depending on your point of view) for her sound as Bright et al. Given her personal taste in music and how she grew up the woman has one foot in Arena Rock/Hair Metal and all the bombast that is inherent in that and one foot in Traditional Country.

    My guess is even going forward her albums will always seem uneven and not consistently thematic because of those musical leanings.

  42. Susank K.No Gravatar says:

    Thematically, this song is too close to “Cowboy Cassonova”, which threw me at first. But I do think the song structure is creative and fun.

  43. JonNo Gravatar says:

    Perhaps this is right where Carrie wants to be; if so, best to her.

    In her past 3 albums, Carrie has been consistent in saying “there’s something for everyone…”

    IMO, that’s where the problem lies. If she really wants to please everyone, the result is you get an album that’s kind off all over the place, filled with mostly mediocre songs with one or two keepers.

    Her fans also have the sentiment of “let Carrie do her traditional country album when she’s no longer selling anymore…” which is kinda sad. Carrie gets played on radio and consistently reaches #1 even with crap songs – why not use that power to record and release an awesome country song then? Pending how album #4 goes, I’ve kinda accepted the fact that Carrie will probably do her best album when her fans now no longer care about her.

  44. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think her catalogue is nearly as bad as we’re making it out to be – actually, I think it’s pretty great. My issue is more with the continued gap between her material and her potential, not with the material itself.

  45. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think Underwood’s song material is generally bad either. Mostly just inconsistent.

  46. GavinNo Gravatar says:

    jon, I can’t imagine her fans giving up on her ever it is just not in their blood. She is more than a singer she is a way of life. They look up to her not only as a singer but as a person. They want to protect her. She will always be loved no matter what. Her “How Great Thou Art” performance on TV will never be topped, period, by anybody ever.

  47. Dani PaigeNo Gravatar says:

    I actually agree. This is a good piece of music. I like how she’s starting to change her music, because before this, it seemed kind of “bubble gum pop”-like. I wouldn’t necessarily give it an A, but it would be in the B range for my opinion…

  48. TravisNo Gravatar says:

    This song is not a country song. I bet we all can agree to that. The rest is opinions and each ones taste. I have never cared for Carries voice because when she hits the bridge of the song it sounds pinched and screechy. It’s like finger nails on a chalk board. She has a great voice otherwise. Other singers know how to round the notes at the end she doesn’t and it just makes me squirm in my seat when I hear her do that ( I always have to turn the radio station) The worst part about it she loves to over sing and have those big moments. She needs a beautiful ballad that she can just sing and not sound like she is still auditioning for American Idol.

  49. JulieNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent review. I agree that the song is not bad even though that it sounds less country. She is after all, needs to be a darling to pop genre. There is also another amazing girl from Texas who can definitely sing and the complete package – Bethany LaPrade (facebook.com/BethanyLaPrade).I hope she can be as successful as Carrie.

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