Single Review: Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away"

t/uploads/2012/07/Carrie-Underwood-Blown-Away-Single-150×150.png” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />Four albums into her career, Carrie Underwood’s career growth has been fairly stunning.

It’s hard to imagine that the talent-show winner who sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” would morph into a fully fledged pop superstar with speaker-rattling pop-rock songs like “Good Girl” and “Blown Away.”

While the evolution has been fascinating to watch, the problem is that someone who was thought of as the next female country superstar has effectively left country music behind and moved on to bigger things, and it’s a loss for the genre.

“Blown Away,” Underwood’s new single, has some of the most interesting lyrics she’s had to work with in some time, courtesy of writers Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins. It borrows a little from the Miranda Lambert songbook, where an abusive father is made to account for his sins with death by tornado. While it’s a bit more passive than a Lambert song (she would have shot the SOB a few times before letting the twister carry him away), there is a satisfying sense of Old Testament-style vengeance to it.

Many of the main story elements are absent – the age of the narrator, exactly what the father did that was so awful – but there’s still plenty create some vivid imagery. Much like Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” never reveals the actual fate of the mother, “Blown Away” lets listeners fill in their own details.

As noted though, this is not being sung by Carrie Underwood, Country Singer. Instead, this is Carrie Underwood, International Pop Diva, and the song is glitzed up and glossed over to make it pop radio-ready. It’s been so thoroughly produced and sanitized that there isn’t a trace of a country song left in “Blown Away.” There have been “country” remixes of Kelly Clarkson singles that sound more traditional than this one.

The frustrating thing is that the gloss is so uncalled for. The altered vocals, the bombastic instrumentation, those things just take away from the vocals. It’s all well and good if the singer is Katy Perry or Ke$ha, as they need all the help they can get. But Carrie Underwood? Aside from a few impressive and effortless high notes that serve as a reminder of her capabilities, her vocal abilities are effectively buried.

Pop music today is very restrictive – possibly more so than country music – and a certain type of sound is needed to get significant airplay. So if the idea behind the song was to make Underwood sound like every other pop singer out there, then it’s a success. The downside, though, is that everything that made her special in the first place is getting lost in the process.

Written by Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins

Grade: B-

Listen: Blown Away

49 Comments on Single Review: Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away"

  1. I so agree with this. This is way too overblown despite of the interesting lyrics. If only she knew the art of subtlety.

    As a whole, I’m not feeling the Blown Away album at all. Too many pop leaning ballads that sound like Martina McBride when she went for a more crossover sound in the last decade. I fear Underwood is losing herself. “Good Girl” came like a slap out of nowhere, and really changed my opinion of her.

    That being said, “Blown Away” is my favorite song on the whole album, because of the lyrics. It’s the most interesting lyric she’s tackled since “Just A Dream,” my favorite single of her career. (I so miss her Carnival Ride days).

    But I’m still looking forward to her appearance at the CMA Songwriters Series in Boston at the end of this month. That’s going to be a great and intimate night and I can’t wait to see her in that setting.

  2. The more I listen to this song, the less I like it (for the record, I didn’t like it too much to begin with anyway). I find it exciting that the subject has more depth than the usual Carrie Underwood song – definitely a step in the right direction. But I really, really don’t like the production. It’s way too much.

    Additionally, regarding lyrical depth, the *concept* of the song is interesting. But I find the lyrics themselves majorly lacking. I feel that there is a lot that could be done with such a subject, but the lyrics just fall flat for me. I’ve read so many positive things about this song because it’s apparently so “serious” and has so much “depth”…but for a song with so much potential subject-wise, there isn’t a single lyric that stands out positively in my opinion (and there are a few that stand out negatively). I don’t know…I think this song is getting too much credit because it’s actually about something serious that perhaps we aren’t being as critical of the lyrics as they might deserve. One thing that bothers me is the one-dimensional aspect of the lyrics: the father is bad and he is being punished. But there’s no complexity, no vulnerability, no ambiguity in the sense of whether he really deserves what he’s getting, no explanation of why the narrator is so cold towards somebody’s death. It’s very straightforward (described as “sweet revenge”). Sure, it leads people to wonder, and some could look at that as a positive. But it’s also an extremely basic song focusing on only one emotion (revenge) when there are so many interesting turns a song like this could have taken.

  3. My only major issue is with the vocal processing. The loud production doesn’t bring the record down significantly for me, as it is a very intense song, and I do think the orchestral touches help enhance the dark sense of foreboding the record creates. It’s definitely not a perfect record, but it’s a very tight lyric, such that the single may end up landing somewhere on my Best of 2012 list. Good point on how the lyric lets the listener fill in some of the details.

  4. I know the production of this song is not country, but saying that the Kelly Clarkson country remix sound more country than this song is stretching things a bit too far lol.

    I wonder sometimes how this song will sound had it been given a countrier production. Will it have more impact? I love the storyline, I love Carrie’s vocal in it, but I wished for a different production direction. But then what do I know about production lol.

  5. One question though – the borrowing-from-Miranda-songbook part. I consider myself a moderate Miranda fan, and I cannot recall a song on her growing list of great ones that was about an abusive father? I would say that the subject matter of abuse is closer to Martina’s Independence Day.

  6. I could understand saying Carrie Underwood’s left the genre behind if you’d only listened to the 1st 4 songs on her current album. But it seems silly when the same album also includes songs like Do You Think About Me, Leave Love Alone, Cupid’s Got A Shotgun, and even Wine After Whiskey. And, it’s not like those are token country songs on a pop album.

    I wouldn’t even argue if you were asking why Good Girl and Blown Away are being sent out as country singles, or if you said Carrie should send countrier songs to country radio if she wants to be thought of country. But that’s not what you said. I don’t think it’s logical to say she’s left the genre behind because of 2 singles when there’s a whole album to consider, or at least you should’ve made your statement conditional.

    That having been said I don’t really like how they messed with Carrie’s voice in Blown Away the song either. But, I disagree she sounds like anybody in the pop world on any part of the song except for the pre chorus, where she sounds like Britney Spears or Rihanna. Unfortunately that’s the part with the best, bone chilling lines of the song. But in the verses, you hear the vulnerability and it’s undeniable that you’re listening to a country singer and specifically Carrie Underwood when she cries “her daddy was a mean ol mister”.

    I’ve come around to thinking it’s fun to see Carrie experiment a little if the results are like Good Girl and Blown Away as opposed to Undo It and Cowboy Casanova. There are country touches in the new songs that make them more interesting and different for today.

    Based on the cadence and melody of the song, maybe the stylized production was the right decision. I don’t know what I think about that yet. Blown Away’s not really a country song to begin with except in the story it tells. So it was always going to be a country singer singing a power pop song, and right now I feel they maintained enough of that in the verses and parts of the chorus.

  7. Lynn,

    I can’t think of a Miranda song that deals with an abusive father, but “Gunpowder and Lead” dealt with an abusive spouse. So it’s somewhat similar, though “Independence Day” is the most immediate comparison, as Sam touched on in the review.

  8. I couldn’t get how, when and where the lyrics of the song Blown Away somehow borrowed something from Miranda Lambert’s song book. This is much closer to Martina’s Independence Day than any of Miranda Lambert’s song that I have heard.

  9. I see that some commenters have mentioned country songs about abusive fathers. Lisa Brokop’s “Pearl” from her 2005 album “Hey, Do you Know Me” deals with the subject.

    She’d go barefoot down to Beale street, she had no fancy shoes
    She’s tell them she was 21 and got paid to sing the blues
    She’d crawl back into her window every night at 2:00 am
    And pray her daddy didn’t come to steal her innocence again

    The song was written by Lisa and Kim McLean.

  10. I respectively disagree with this review. Carrie Underwood would be the first to say that she is in her own separate “bubble” of country as is every single country music artist. Each stands in their individual corner, i.e. traditional BEER and TRACTOR country (good Lord can we please stop?), pop country, instrumentalists, etc., etc. Like someone previously stated, you would need to measure the entire album before making a bold statement that Carrie has put on her Goodbye Shoes to country music. She has not done that, nor will she ever, as she has repeatedly said. She is testing, she is reaching out for so much more with this album. She was criticized early on for NOT doing more, and now she’s criticized as she is striving for more. The references made in the review to over-production are especially insensitive to the lyric of the song. The tempo and instrumentation and vocal “echo” is all a part of the AUDIO visualization going on as the storm intensifies. This song begs it. I find it one of the most intriguing songs on the album. I’ve listened to the entire album. It is extremely versatile and quite definitely has something for everyone.

  11. …, well, in a serious pop song you probably wouldn’t find “oklahoma” in the lyrics. fair enough, that doesn’t make this anything even remotely resembling to a country tune, but it lends it a minimal amount of back roads pedigree. scoring in two genres tops scoring in only one by a country mile.

    so what is it? the story clearly roots it in the more rural world, whereas the arrangement is overblown bubble gum pop at its best. that makes it a hybrid and if you add the present stage of carry underwood’s career, then you could even call it a “morph tune” – another step into the wider world of pop for the singer.

    and it is, actually, quite a decent step as overblown as it might sound at the end of it. had it been written a little more carefully and arranged with subtle traditional flavour it could have been a remarkable country song and not only one amongst many radio friendly pop offerings.

  12. I fall somewhere in the middle of all this as someone who listens to pop more than country but has a respect and love for the genre when it’s done right. “There’s not enough wind in Oklahoma/To rip the nails out of the past” is in the running for best lyric of the year, but the production does seem a bit overblown (pun intended). Having said that, I tend to overlook it on this song and enjoy the delivery. Processed or not, this song would have completely overwhelmed most current pop singers if they had taken it on.

    As for aiming for the pop charts, I would have seen “Good Girl” crossing over bigger than this one, and that song just barely registered at Adult Top 40 and Adult Contemporary formats. If anything, a song like this (as well as Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over”) work to Country radio’s benefit short-term by drawing in more pop-leaning listeners. And then they hear “Truck You” and change the channel.

  13. This song is remarkable. It’s one of the best I’ve ever heard period. Nothing on the radio has ever come close to sounding like it and the lyrics are genius. I’m not a huge Carrie Underwood Fan but I bought this song because I can’t get enough of it.

  14. Excerpt from fan club in regards to this review:

    At the end of the day, can anyone really picture any of today’s current pop singers releasing a song about a drunk, abusive dad, and his daughter leaving him to his fate in a twister? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    Sonically, the song might not sound like traditional country, but lyrically, it’s as country as it gets.

    The notion that Carrie doesn’t care about country music anymore is the most frustrating part for me. If they’d actually bothered to listen to the entire album, they’d know that’s not true. If they bothered to listen when Carrie talks about how much respect she has for the genre and all the people in it, they’d know that’s not true. If they bothered to notice how much Carrie goes out of her way to promote the genre in other areas where it might not be as popular (pop award shows, other countries like England, etc), they’d know that’s not true.

    But heaven forbid they actually open up their minds and realize that country music can be experimental and use influences from other genres. No, it must be kept into a tiny little box, where every song is about drinking, tractors and trucks

  15. It doesn’t sound like country or pop. It’s an experimental song. It’s its own genre. You can’t pigeonhole it into anything.

    The production doesn’t take anything away from it. It makes the focus of the song the song rather than the genre the song is in. We all know artists who throw in random instruments specifically to get played on a certain radio station. Carrie didn’t do that here because the genre doesn’t matter. It’s the song and the power it carries.

    This review is beyond picky. Maybe there are legitimate criticisms for this song, but you can feel the critic grasping straws and straining to find something wrong.

    I can write a review where I say what’s good about BA and what’s not so hot about it. BA isn’t my favorite song on the album, so there are criticisms I have for it, and I can tell you them in an honest way. That’s not what this critic’s doing. This critic is searching for reasons to lower the song’s grade. And like I said, I’m not saying that the song is perfect, but c’mon, you guys see what I mean, right? He’s reaching.

    Sorry, you’re trying too hard, Country Universe.

    Grade: D-

  16. Regardless of the country album tracks on the new album, the two singles she’s released to radio have been as pop as pop music can be. Future singles may have a more traditional sound, but right now, it seems she’s taking the route that Shania Twain and Faith Hill took when they were trying to become pop superstars.

    The frustrating part is that I’ve been consistently underwhelmed by Underwood’s song choices, but I’ve always loved her voice. Now that she’s finally got a song with some real meat on it, the vocals end up being the weak link (referring more to the production than her ability, obviously).

  17. If this is the kind of music Carrie wants to make, good for her. Just stop lying to me and trying to call it country. I’m tired of Music Row insulting our intelligence.

  18. There’s something very theatrical about this song, which makes me curious to see the video.

    The production is so different from what she’s done before. I don’t know if I’d necessarily call it pop in the current top forty sense, but it sounds like something that you might hear on Broadway or something.

    What the lyric alludes to is definitely uncharted territory for modern country music. I remember Amy Grant recording a song about this type of abuse, but I can’t think of another country artist who has done so.

    I think she goes about it in a way that is less aggressive than Miranda and less sappy than latter-day Martina. I wouldn’t call it one of her best singles, but it’s definitely among her most interesting.

    There are some really great country moments on the new album, but it definitely is a more pop-leaning set than her previous ones.

  19. Kevin so you think BA the album is more pop-leaning than Carrie’s previous albums. I actually think BA is the most country sounding album she has put out. The song BA, See You Again, Good In Goodbye, and Who Are You are the more pop sounding songs to me on the album but the rest are country to me. Two Black Cadillacs is more country sounding to me than pop and I agree BA is more theatrical sounding. Anyways, there definitely isn’t anything on radio right now that sounds like BA. I really like the song and am interested to see how it does. I do hope that Carrie’s label releases Wine After Whiskey at some point as a single. I am completely obsessed with that song and Carrie’s vocals on this song are so good in my opinion.

  20. Kevin,

    I disagree about Blown Away being her most pop-leaning album. I would give that category to Play On.

  21. In a way, the new album has some of her most aggressively pop and some of her most aggressively country performances to date.

    I don’t use pop as a pejorative. I don’t have a particular preference for Carrie. I think she sings a wide variety of styles well.

  22. To Kevin and Ben, out of curiosity, which one among her 4 albums do you prefer the most, and which one the least? Thanks!

  23. Right now, I tend to think Blown Away is probably my favorite thus far, though it’s been a good while since I last revisited the first two. All of Underwood’s albums have their share of weak moments, but I feel Blown Away is her most ambitious project to date, as well as the one that reaches the greatest heights with its best tracks, e.g. “Wine After Whiskey,” “Good In Goodbye,” “Do You Think About Me” (though “One Way Ticket” was borderline embarrassing).

  24. I like this one well enough. I think the production really works aside from that extra bit of vocal reverb, and honestly don’t care that it doesn’t sound country – at this point, all I want is for the genre to be smart and sincere again.

    And this comes fairly close. It doesn’t have the poetry of “Independence Day,” so it comes off like an imaginative knock-off. But it’s still a cool premise. (“Old Testament-style vengeance” is a perfect way to put it.) As I’ve commented before, I just think the song would’ve been more gripping in first-person, because it does feel somewhat detached, even with Carrie turning in what I think is easily one of her strongest interpretive performances.

  25. ^ Agreed. To me, as much as it doesn’t jive with my taste, the production is an integral part of the record. Respectfully, to characterize this as “sanitized” is to overlook its creativity as a pop record. This isn’t country, but it’s at least more well thought-out and purposeful than the current crop of singles.

    This isn’t a personal favorite for me, though. I need melody, and there’s little melody to grasp here.

  26. For me, Carrie Underwood isn’t an album artist, so the only way to really answer the question is to look at which albums have the most songs that make my iPod playlists.

    By that standard, my favorite is Play On and least favorite is Some Hearts.

    I really haven’t listened enough to Blown Away to fully assess it. I really like “Do You Think About Me”, though.

  27. I don’t think Carrie’s “trying to be a pop superstar” at all. She’s just releasing songs she considers are the best. Blown Away and Good Girl weren’t released because of their crossover appeal. They were released because they were two of the most well-liked songs on the album.

    Carrie’s worked really hard trying to prove that she’s a country girl through-and-through who just happens to like other music.

    Good Girl isn’t even all that pop. If anything, it’s more of a rock track. Blown Away isn’t country. Blown Away isn’t pop. Blown Away doesn’t really belong to a genre.

    I think artists nowadays are too concerned with what other people want to hear. I don’t have a ton of respect for an artist who just tries to please his/her demographic. That’s not what being an artist is about. It’s about expressing yourself. By releasing music that Carrie likes, she’s being an artist. She’s not concerning herself with, “Omg what will other people think?” She’s concerning herself with, “How can I make this sound cool?”

    If Carrie cared about being a pop superstar, she would market herself in pop and remix her music. She’s just finally made herself comfortable in her career and decided to experiment. That should be celebrated, that we’re not hearing her release formulaic songs and live off her past glories.

  28. Agreed to Nicole.

    This song isn’t just about the genre it is supposed to be in. It’s not like that anymore nowadays. What’s good about this single though is that the production of its very ambitious lyric sheet paid off. This song needs the punch so that it is delivered perfectly. While there are some parts that I don’t see the “Carrie”, the effort went out really well compared to say CC or UI. And we’ll see if the audience would agree.

  29. Nicole makes a good point. I think Carrie has equally frustrated her fans on both side – she’s never seemed interested in going the pure country route, but her team has done little to nothing to promote her as a crossover artist.

    I love Play On, but in retrospect, it feels a little indulgent at the expense of quality – with “Mama’s Song” being the best example. Blown Away is what Play On should have been: a marriage of personal taste and material that shows growth as an artist.

  30. I don’t know if “frustrated” is the word. I think that’s one of the reasons she has so many loyal fans — because she doesn’t box herself creatively. You could argue she does because she has a handful of boy-bashing songs and chooses to release those, but from a melodic standpoint, no two songs sound the same.

    Honestly, Carrie’s catalog is rather diverse, more diverse than most artists’. She doesn’t do pure country (whatever that can be qualified as) very often, but she doesn’t do pure any genre. I suppose you can call it indulgent, but you can also call it doing what an artist should do. Art isn’t supposed to be about, “Which critics will I please?” y’know? It’s supposed to be, “I’ll release what I want, and if people like it, that’s cool, too.” And I think that’s why Carrie has such a loyal fanbase. Her fans like that attitude about her.

    I actually feel like Blown Away was a more indulgent album than Play On. With Play On, Carrie had a lot to worry about. I think she did care about what the critics have to say, how the album would be received, etc. If you listen through all the songs, some of the songs have completely unnecessary country instruments that don’t really work with the song. I think that was a bit of her way of saying, “See? I’m still country.” And she was working under a deadline with Play On.

    With Blown Away, on the other hand, she took her time with it, waited for inspiration to cross her path (the title track). She recorded an album with only the songs she deemed the best and/or fit the record. She didn’t worry about what critics would think of such an outwardly pop song like See You Again or a reggae-country song like One Way Ticket. She picked songs she liked the best, and she didn’t worry about the critics, radio formats, etc. And that’s what this album is.

    Many of her fans are heralding this as Carrie’s best album yet. Is it? Maybe (personally, I can’t tell since the album’s still so new). But I think her fans like it so much because Carrie kind of put blinders on and recorded the album she wanted to record without the outside pressure.

  31. ^ Nicole, I meant frustrated in a good sense, and I was only referring to the extreme ends of her fanbase. I respect that she does her own thing. That’s often overlooked by critics, but Blown Away has made it more apparent.

  32. I’m hearing alot of give and take about this song being in the country or pop genre. I can’t think of anyone that can tell me what a country song sounds like or should sound like. Country music is storytelling, period. How someone decides to tell that story is their choice. If country radio decides it’s a story, it plays it, if not, it doesn’t. People have to get used to the fact that today’s country is not even close to sounding like it did 20, 30, 40 years ago. So, if you like BA, good. If you don’t, great, but don’t start saying Carrie is leaving the genre because of some production changes. IMO, the production had to be that way to tell the story. Listen to the rest of the cd if you want so-called traditional country. Carrie leaving the country genre, you’ve got to be kidding.

  33. I’m usually one to be critical of Underwood for her production choices but on this song the production actually works for the story telling instead of against it. The coming storm, the building crescendo, the utter destruction leaving death – and a clean slate – in its wake… such theatricality needs billowing orchestration. I even like the reverb on the arpeggios. It reminds me of being a kid and singing into a fan — cool disembodied voice, hair whipping around my face, feeling like a rock star.

    There was, however, one vocal effect that damn near ruined the whole song for me and that was the layered, auto-tuned mess of a pre-chorus. Underwood has got to stop recording music in that key. She is a typical lyric soprano in that she has a weak bottom end. She does not have the right dynamics to be singing that low (especially without vibrato) and still be heard over the instrumentation. I watched her both on American Idol and on the Billboard Awards and that stanza was thin, weak and slightly flat. It reminds me of how undercooked Before He Cheats can be.

    As for the song writing, I love it. I don’t need nor want to be told exactly what he did to the girl in the story. Whatever it was it was bad enough for her to leave a person to die in a tornado without so much as a second thought. That kind of abuse is better left unarticulated. For a song, anyway.

    I would have given this song an A+ but for the aforementioned cringe worthy vocal effects. So, A- for me.

    Anyway, thanks for the review, Sam. I don’t really agree with you but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless.

  34. It strikes me that Carrie, who is now approaching 30, is extremely comfortable in her shoes, and is probably going to release a lot of things in the years ahead that will challenge the boundaries of whatever country music is. If she is as productive as some of her own idols when they were in their 30s, we have a lot to look forward to. “Blown Away” is a departure from safe. That’s what I like about it.

  35. B- for a song as impeccable as this? Really?

    It’s almost like critics are willing to search for irrelevant excuses to knock something down. Point blank, this song is FLAWLESS. The lyrics, the production, the vocals, the instrumental, the feel, etc. It’ll go down as one of the highlight singles of Carrie’s career, so it’s pretty stupid to see such a poor mark for the best song released to Country radio in 2012.

  36. …well, priscila, that’s the trouble with those gems. some see brillant flawlessness and others just a big price tag. different opinions make a market.

  37. This is a decent review and I can see the reasoning for some of the criticism here. But Blown Away is ambitious, and certainly different from anything on the radio now.

    Carrie has never pretended to be anything other than a modern country artist, and even when she challenges herself, she often seems to be held to a higher standard.

    Despite its somewhat weak storytelling, Carrie handles this song incredibly well, and she sings it with ease and confidence that she has rarely showcased on an album up until now.

    Carrie seems to be becoming more and more comfortable with herself as an artist, and the new record really shows she’s more artistically complex than most give her credit for. She obviously has influences from many genres, and I respect that she wants to showcase that. Music has become too much about labels; why can’t we just let music be music? It’s striking to me that artists like Shania and Taylor are endlessly praised for thier brand of pop, yet Underwood still rarely gets credit for trying something new. Critics have been harping for years she’s too safe and cookie cutter; now she finally has the confidence to do something more ambitious, and people are still complaining?

    Country has been quite stale for awhile now; it’s nice to see a great talent take a chance like this. I have my own criticisms, even as a huge fan, but I feel Carrie is taking steps to improve, take risks and discover herself. Even if doesn’t always work, she deserves credit for the risk.

  38. This album was all about change and diversity. She has written a country rock song i.e. Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, etc; Modern Country-Blown Away, Two Black Caddilacs; “Forever Changed”, “There’s Good in Good bye” and more traditional Country, “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun”, “Wine after Whiskey” So you see she has not left country music. Here is a better Blown Away acoustic performance.
    Her performance for the Billboard Music Awards was the performance that showed she absolutely sang this song with true real emotional!

  39. I think this song is brilliant. I heard it on radio for the first time yesterday and I was amazed at how EPIC it feels and how refreshing it is to have something sound so different than all the Beer drinking, partying, Tractor, tailgate songs I hear over and over again. Thanks to Carrie Underwood for making the Country Music radio stations tolerable at least for one song.

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