Single Review: Carrie Underwood, "Two Black Cadillacs"

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November 18, 2012

Thankfully, this should be the last single this year from Carrie Underwood.

I say thankfully because a good “Best Singles of the Year” list needs some variety. Underwood’s been stacking the deck this year, putting out one outstanding single after another, and it’s really bad form to leave no room at the top for the rest of the competition.

“Two Black Cadillacs”  revives the Southern Gothic murder ballad subgenre that was once far more prominent in country music.   This is not to be confused with the wrongfully abused variety of murder ballad, which has only surfaced in the past twenty years.

No, “Two Black Cadillacs” has a lot more in common with “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” than “Independence Day.”  There’s nothing righteous about this tale of two women getting even with the man who wronged them both.  It’s pure revenge.

A pure revenge fantasy mind you, as unbelievable and fantastical as anything Porter Wagoner ever dreamed up.  Underwood’s the perfect narrator for the tale, her pithy descriptions punctuated by melancholy strings that would sound just as comfortable on American Horror Story as they do accompanying our favorite American Idol.

She lets her bias slip with a giddy “bye bye,” revealing she’s fully on board with the just desserts being served.  It works because the scenario is simply implausible, which allows the listener to indulge in the darkness that would horrify us if it was actually reality.

It’s a testament to Underwood’s versatility as a singer and her credibility as a public persona that she can pull off something so wicked and not get an ounce of dirt on her squeaky clean image.    But most of all, it’s a credit to her ambition as an artist.  For someone so frequently accused of getting to the top without having to

earn it, she continues to work harder than the rest of her peers just to stay there.

Written by Josh Kear, Hillary Lindsey, and Carrie Underwood

Grade: A

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  1. JakeNo Gravatar says:

    I was surprised they picked this for a single so early. I was thinking it would be number 5. Anyways great single choice! I can’t wait to see how the video turns out!

  2. MaryNo Gravatar says:

    Personally, just to pull one on country music, I’d love to see a video with Carrie as one widow and Taylor Swift or Miranda Lambert as the other, sharing ‘crimson smiles’. I think TS would be a better choice, considering she gets back at old boyfriends all the time in song and is in the ‘Red’ lipstick phase now. Just an idea.

  3. RoseNo Gravatar says:

    Taylor cares way too much about her teen fan base to ever take a chance on a song like this or be in a video like this

  4. KateNo Gravatar says:

    Who in the world would want Taylor in a Carrie video to screw it up anyway?

    Great single choice.

  5. DiamondNo Gravatar says:

    When I first heard it, my reaction was, “This is great, but will not be a single. A little too creepy.” But Kevin is right, we are all in on it. It’s so over the top we don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying it. While “Blown Away” was pretty intense, this one is just fun all the way. Dark, but fun. My money is on Carrie playing both the widow and the mistress in the video.

  6. MaryNo Gravatar says:

    Yeah, on second thought, Taylor wouldn’t want to take a back seat to Carrie in any way – it has to be all about her. Bad idea … I take it back. Maybe Miranda would be a better choice.

  7. DougNo Gravatar says:

    The best song on any of Carrie’s albums! This is a shining example of ‘progressive country’ music. Great cross-over hit potential.

  8. White CleatsNo Gravatar says:

    Unbelievable. Very few comments in and we already have two Taylor Swift mentions. Truly pathetic.

    I really, really like this song and I’m happy that it’s a single — though I, too, would have liked to have seen it released later in the album’s cycle, if for no other reason than to ease up on the back to back body count.

    However, there are some elements of the production that I find unfortunate. The background singers’ underlaying of the lines “two black Cadillacs” and “bye bye, bye bye” is … kind of awful. The track is already not country, other than thematically, and those musak-y vocals just serve to cheese it up in a decidedly adult contemporary/pop-y way.

    Also, the timing of the first “bye bye, bye bye” ruins the narrative flow. At that point in the song you aren’t quite where the narrator is taking you — the guy is dead and the women don’t care but you don’t realize yet that the wife and mistress have killed him. At the end of the verse Carrie the narrator makes that clear by telling us that the two women have a secret to hide, “Bye bye, bye bye, bye bye”, but the punchline has already been spoiled.

    Lastly, while I really do love the southern gothic style with the foreboding strings and relentless drum rhythm, would it have killed them to include some country instrumentation? An otherwise excellent song would have been that much better if it had remained truer to the genre in which it was released. That country music’s finest vocalist is skittering further and further away from well, country music, is just plain sad. Sad for her legacy and sad for the genre.

  9. JakeNo Gravatar says:

    I’d rather have a great lyric with a cross over production than a horrible lyric with a “country” production. Just my opinin Also I thought when I first heard this tha they should put Mitanda in the video. It would be killer cause she does songs like Kersosene and Gun Powder and Lead.

  10. wmcmNo Gravatar says:

    It’s nice to hear from you Kevin. I hope your local schools and neighbors are getting any help they need in recovering from Sandy.

    This song’s grown on me a lot since the first time I heard it. At first it bothered me that we didn’t get a hint as to how the wife and mistress had killed the guy. But now I think it works because it’s “cleaner” if we don’t know. I also think “two black Cadillacs waiting for the right time” is at least a hint as to how the deed was planned.

    @White Cleats: I agree with you about the background “two black cadillacs” being unnecessary and muzacky. I liked it better when Hillary Lindsey was singing those background “ooh”s during the CMA Songwriters Series performance. But I disagree with you about the first “bye bye, bye bye, bye bye.” The way I see it all that does is convey that the wife and mistress don’t care that the man is dead. The way the “bye bye, bye bye, bye bye” melody gets bigger and bigger fits with the unfolding revelation that the wife and mistress are responsible for the man’s death.

    To go back to agreeing with you I feel like they could’ve made this song sound amazing with a less polished sound and a little more country instrumentation. The CMA Songwriters Series acoustic performance proved its strength as a song especially when a singer like Carrie has some more room to work. This rock version of it is still very good and Carrie’s voice has a sense of righteousness that makes the chorus so delicious. It’s why she can pull off this song despite her image.

    I wouldn’t give it an A but I’d rate it pretty high, around a solid B+/A-. People like Eric Church, The Band Perry, Greg Bates, Little Big Town, and Carrie have been giving us reasons not to give up on country radio this year.

  11. White CleatsNo Gravatar says:

    @wmcm I agree about the lack of details being the right way to go — it is cleaner. It also allows the listener to let his/her imagination run with all the ways the two women, who never met up in person to do the deed, might have killed the cheatin’ bum without getting caught. I find that idea very provocative. And I particularly like the the line about leaving “the secret at the grave”. It provides the explanation for why we the audience — the witnesses — aren’t told how it was done, only that the subjects are the guilty parties. Very clever.

    You’re also right about the CMA Songwriters Series. It seems like Underwood in particular always benefits from these very stripped down performances. It’s in those that I’m reminded why I like her so much but not always her music. The songs and their lyrics are never as much an issue as their production. Well, most of the time. Two Black Cadillacs is a better song with only one guitar and no musak backing vocals. Hillary did do a good job, especially on the chorus where the harmonies were super tight.

    I see what you’re saying about the first set of “bye bye”‘s but when I very first heard the song I remember thinking “where’s she going with this?” only to go “oh, they did it” the moment I heard the backing vocals. It ruined the big reveal for me. I want the narrator to feed me the story, not some ancillary character that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

  12. bobNo Gravatar says:

    Good song. As I Listened to it for the first time, I immediately thought of Matraca Berg’s “Your Husband’s Cheating On Us”, even though the ladies in Matraca’s song stop short of murder.

    “Just never mind my fantasies
    of cyanide or taking out a hit

    On second thought it’s better don’t you think
    to make him wish that he was dead
    so promise me you’ll take that creep
    for everything he’s ever had instead”.

  13. JessNo Gravatar says:

    I love the insistent beat that’s reminiscent of the crawl of a funeral car.

    I am surprised you didn’t mention the great outro in your review.

  14. Louie MNo Gravatar says:

    I am so thrilled that they released “Two Black Cadillacs” as the third single. It’s an amazing record with lyrics that can send our imaginations to the edges and a production that is brooding yet radio-friendly.

    I have noticed that country artists who enjoy their breakout moments in the past years have done it with back-to-back solid single choices. I could think of Lady A becoming one of the biggest acts in the genre after they released “I Run To You” and “Need You Now”. Miranda Lambert’s career grew hotter with “White Liar” and “The House That Built Me”. Jason Aldean owned 2011 with “Don’t You Wanna Stay” and “Dirt Road Anthem.”

    With “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs”, I think Carrie and her team are delivering a solid one-two punch that could thrust Carrie’s career into a greater stratosphere! I couldn’t be more excited for the chart run of this song.

  15. KentNo Gravatar says:

    Carrie is three for three in my eyes so far. With this, she has now released my three favourite songs from Blown Away. So pleased that she chose to release this!

    Anyway, I agree. It is dark and haunting, melodically pleasing, lyrically interesting, vocally stunning…

    The lyrics are oddly vague and detailed at the same time. They leave out enough details to keep the listener guessing and let their imagination run wild, yet they focus on interesting little details to paint a picture of what is going on and how the story unfolds. It’s very interesting.

    I could not be more pleased with this single choice!

  16. klarkNo Gravatar says:

    Just like the title track, this one’s ambitious but also lacking in lyrical narrative. The song could’ve been great if there was an added line on how these girls killed him.

    Kudos to the production because it did not drown out her voice.

    For me, it is a solid B+ and it will crawl into my year end’s list. (Only that Blown Away is superior.)

    PS: I still think “Do You Think About Me?” should be the third single. I mean, we are now having three dramatic singles in a row, this can get tiring, haha.. Anyway, another reason not to give up on country music this year. :D

  17. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …the chick’s not black enough to really pull this off. the dresses are not short enough to knock you dead. the lyrics remind me of the good ol’ video days, when the tape sometimes stopped prematurley and you didn’t have the answer as to who dunnit. what else? oh yeah, is anything of the new stuff really better sung than “jesus take the wheel” or more dramatic than “before he cheats”?

    there you go.

  18. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Carrie and her team sure have made some fantastic single choices thus far from the Blown Away album. If we can just get “Do You Think About Me” and “Wine After Whiskey” next, I will be a happy man.

    I am a little divided on whether the lyric could have benefited by including a little more detail as to how the women did away with the man, or if it’s best to let the listener fill in those details.

    Either way a very cool record. I’m also impressed that they’re sending this to radio immediately after “Blown Away,” and thus releasing the album’s two darkest tracks back-to-back. I’m sure it will do well.

  19. CatfishjonesNo Gravatar says:

    In terms of the two women in a video scenario..you might think of someone who would be the most unlikely person to conspire with Carrie .

  20. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Okay, I’ll indulge in some of this prospective music video concept discussion.

    I’d love to see a video with Carrie as one widow and Taylor Swift or Miranda Lambert as the other, sharing ‘crimson smiles’. I think TS would be a better choice, considering she gets back at old boyfriends

    You can’t see Miranda Lambert putting a no-good cheater in the ground? ;)

    Yeah, on second thought, Taylor wouldn’t want to take a back seat to Carrie in any way – it has to be all about her.

    This:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLUvO8QUmXc

  21. MaryNo Gravatar says:

    If you cannot see the ego dynamic between TS working with Kellie Pickler and TS working with Carrie Underwood then my pointing it out will do no good.

    And yes, I could see Miranda and Carrie in this video together.

    Regardless, the single choice is fantastic, and I agree with you – I hope that Do You Think About Me and Wine After Whiskey are the next single choices off this album.

  22. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    If you cannot see the ego dynamic between TS working with Kellie Pickler and TS working with Carrie Underwood then my pointing it out will do no good.

    If I can’t see it, then pointing it out would be the perfect thing to do. So you’re saying that even though Swift did collaborate with – and thus “take a back seat to” – Pickler, she would never do so with Underwood, despite the fact that she and Underwood are good friends? I’m interested to hear what brings about such a determination, as well as how we would know Swift’s character well enough to conclude such.

  23. JasonNo Gravatar says:

    Ben – I like those singles choices you mention; I would like to see “Cupid” released at some point, too. Maybe a fun way to end the album. I doubt she will get 6 singles, though. I think her second was the only one to go past 4 singles, right? I’m still mad “Flat On The Floor” was never released from that one.

  24. LynnNo Gravatar says:

    Fantastic single choices so far for this album era. Good Girl is not my favorite song off the album, but I do get why they chose it to start the era. Carrie’s team has a lot of album tracks to choose from, lots of songs with single potential. As long as they don’t pick Nobody Ever Told You, Who Are You, or One Way Ticket as singles, I’m content. Lol

  25. bigzNo Gravatar says:

    good review . good song.

    “They shared a crimson smile and just walk away ..and left the secret at the grave…”

    — i dont know why, but i find this line so cheesy on paper but weirdly creepy and haunting on the track.

    i also thought the song is not (again!) country enough… but after watching the AMA’s , there’s no doubt about it — This IS a country song. good country representation miz underwood.

  26. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …speaking of miss underwood at the ama’s – breathtakingly stylish and elegant in that purple dress on the red carpet. she and miss swift left all the the other female artists looking like -let’s be polite – fighting with the textile challenge – and mostly losing the battle.

    fair enough, not quite there again, where the genre once was, when a (in)famous red gown was quite an eye-opener to the fact that country music not only sounds great, but also looks fantastic. – but getting there.

    still, can’t help myself thinkin’ how this song would sound delivered by one of the great r&b voices.

  27. CountryKnightNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t care how good the story or lyrics are, if the song doesn’t sound country, then the song isn’t country.

    Grade A for the writing
    Grade D for the non-country sound

  28. PriscilaNo Gravatar says:

    I’m sorry, but some of you are way too hooked on the original sound of Country, and it’s just bitter and childish at this point.

    The genre has evolved. Adding contemporary sounds and much better vocal performances to a lyric that is undeniably Country-suited doesn’t make this not Country. Adding dubstep beats or Urban raps (or anything along those extents) make songs “not Country” (even though they’re labeled as Country).

    “Two Black Cadillacs” is Country. The sound is of progressive, adult contemporary Country. It’s not Pop, it’s not alternative, and it’s not mainstream Top 40. It’s a strong, well-written story that only a Country song could be of such a basis, and it holds one of Carrie’s finest vocals on record. If people were to take out Carrie’s vocals on many of her songs, I have a feeling they’d think twice about their clarifications of what is and isn’t Country. She has a very strong, contemporary voice that is versatile enough to record Country music and grant the music the ability to cross over. This song is yet another example of exactly that.

    “This isn’t Country!!!!” my behind. Get an iPod jack for your car and turn off public radio if evolving music bothers all of you naysayers so much.

    A+, Carrie Underwood. The entire “Blown Away” era has been perfection thus far.

  29. mefloydkirkNo Gravatar says:

    The best song on any of Carrie’s albums!great single choice! I can’t wait to see the video.

  30. VanceNo Gravatar says:

    This single is the best of the three that have been released from Blown Away in my opinion, and is (IMO) her best single from any of her four albums.

    @Ben Foster, they aren’t good friends. That is a myth and nothing has suggested that your claim is true.

  31. MarkusNo Gravatar says:

    I think this song is decent but not spectaclar

    I’d say B-

  32. CountryKnightNo Gravatar says:

    Just because the genre evolved to sound like 70′s pop or rock and roll doesn’t mean that process was a good thing and should be allowed to continue.

  33. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    To comment more specifically on the arrangement, I’m not bothered by the fact that it doesn’t sound country, but I do feel like the arrangement tries a little too hard to imbue drama into the song that the lyrics and performance already supply enough of. It just feels heavier than necessary.

    But in general, I still think this is a very cool record, and one that will certainly land on my Best of 2012 list.

  34. Noah EatonNo Gravatar says:

    I’m inclined to disagree with your assertion that she has released outstanding single after single this album cycle.

    “Good Girl”, despite having a unique rhythmic section and arrangement, had a RAPID burn-out rate to me and also from the start just struck me as a more concise retread of “Cowboy Casanova” lyrically. And the title track didn’t impress me necessarily either, especially in how processed Underwood’s vocals were in that track.

    That said, this is by Underwood’s best single to date, and one of a rare breed I will be cheering on toward the summit of the country singles chart.

  35. JessNo Gravatar says:

    Priscilla brings up an interesting point; at what point do people just need to accept country is not what it was decades ago? And, really, who wants any genre to stay the same year after year? Obviously there needs to be some quality of a genre in a song for it to be related to that genre, but to expect anything current to sound like George Jones is a bit much.

  36. Louie MNo Gravatar says:

    What do you guys think about the newly-released video for this song? I think it’s very well-made and that it adds a horror twist to the already compelling storyline. I don’t mind the video not following the lyrics word for word (like the “women in two black veils” and “two black cadillacs meeting for the first time”).

    All in all, I love this new video and I’d give it an “A”. I think the references to the Christine novel of Stephen King are awesome. And Carrie seems to become less awkward in the acting department! (Remember Carrie’s crying part in “Just a Dream” video? It felt weird in my opinion. :))

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