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