Single Review: Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water”

carrie-underwood-something-in-the-water

“Something in the Water”

Carrie Underwood

Written by Chris DeStefano, Brett James, and Carrie Underwood

If anybody’s going to sing a song about the power of the water to cleanse your soul, it should be Carrie Underwood.   Her voice and her presence on record are enough to wash country listeners’ ears clean from all the dreck we’re being assaulted with these days.

Underwood previews her upcoming hits collection by revisiting a theme that she’s explored before, but with a wisdom and maturity that can only come from life experience.  “Something in the Water” shifts the transformative experience of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” into the first person, a sign, along with her co-writing credit, of how much more personal ownership she now takes over her work.  So as great as that first hit was, it’s the new release that throbs with urgency and intensity, moving the spiritual experience from something philosophical into something viscerally real.

Look, here’s the deal.  Underwood’s been a consistently great singer from day one, and her willingness to challenge herself as an artist and performer has made her music progressively more compelling with each new album.  “Something in the Water” is the perfect bookend to the first decade of her career, and I can hardly wait to hear what she does next.

Grade: A

50 Comments

  1. Ben … how can you not like this song? What exactly don’t you like about it? Why don’t you give it a few more listens to see if it grows on you?

  2. This is the best song I have heard in a long time! I have already seen several music sites that have said this is a Grammy contender for Song of the Year!

  3. This is a total smash. It is already #1 on the i-tunes country singles chart and in the top five of the all-genre chart in LESS THAN FOUR HOURAS since its release.

  4. Is there a better, more powerful female singer in the world today than Carrie Underwood? The vocals on this song are ridiculous!

  5. Grammy for Song Of The Year, really? I think it’s too early to say that…
    By the way, i loved every second of this song. And the final part is epic.

  6. There are a few times during the song where I really wish Carrie had held back vocally (there’s belting and there’s the BELTING she does on a particular “changed” and a “stronger”). For those of us who’ve tried to defend Carrie’s belting as something much more nuanced and intelligently applied than “screaming,” as some people like to call it, there are moments in this song that make that hard.

    I also don’t understand the way they mixed Carrie’s two vocal tracks when “Amazing Grace” and “Something In The Water” are interwoven – I really wish her vocals weren’t dialed up to 11 on “Amazing Grace” because she’s capable of delivering a much more vulnerable and compelling version of it, but I guess it’s meant to contrast with her head voice on the other vocal track.

    That all being said, I’m moved by the song and I find myself getting caught up in it. The music and melody capture the ecstasy and uplift that the embrace of religious faith can bring, and for most of the song, Carrie’s vocal is measured, beautiful and as emotionally powerful as it is technically powerful. Bringing in “Amazing Grace” at the end is a smart choice that explains what Carrie’s going for with “Something In The Water.”

    The lyrics aren’t especially eloquent but they’re fine. I think it’s important that they depict somebody who heard the message and didn’t embrace it immediately, rather she embraced it when she felt like she had no other choice. It’s also important that there’s nothing in the song that rains down judgment on those who won’t embrace the message at all – the song is pure gratitude. I would have a harder time accepting it from somebody who hasn’t in real life proven herself to be about extending God’s love to all, as opposed to distorting religious teaching to judge and diminish.

    Is it the best Carrie Underwood song or single ever? Not in my book, nor is it the best country-gospel single I’ve heard. I also know it’s not right to get behind a song just because it’s an alternative to the pile of bro country trash that’s dominated country radio or because it’s a personal song about Carrie’s journey in faith. But there’s enough about “Something In The Water” that I connect with on its own merits and I think it’s cool how Carrie’s released a song built on baptism in a time when bro country’s chased God off country radio. I also think it’s a fitting lead single and statement for Carrie’s 1st greatest hits album.

  7. Ben Foster I feel the same way. If I go to Christian radio, I want to hear this but if I go to my normal country radio stations, I do not want Baptism shoved down my throat. Too bad because I normally love her music. Uh Mary, if he doesn’t like the religious undertones or whatever he doesn’t like, it probably is not going to help to listen to it more. I tried that and liked it less as I kept listening.

  8. I love it. Especially because I thought I was going to have to wait till after her pregnancy to hear new music. Great review.

  9. …it wasn’t a big shark, unfortunately. a grammy for a complete sonic train wreck? “several music sites” must have gone deaf – how tragic. compared to this “anything goes” appears like a true piece of art. almost.

  10. There’s just something really special about this song. In the American music industry, when looking at those at the top, nobody really is willing to go out on a limb and release something with meaning even though many have the potential to do it. Meaningful songs only come from the top artists every now and then. Carrie Underwood has really defied the expectations here because many people expected her to release a song that would have been classified as “bro-country”.

    In an era where Onedirection is gonna sit at #1 no matter what, it’s commendable just to release a meaningful song. Of course, it IS easier for Underwood since gospel and country music themes often mesh but whatever the case, this is such a fantastic track. One can criticize all one wants about it being “christian” or “country” or containing “too much screaming” or whatever but it boils down to whether one can emotionally connect to a song and whether one can find meaning in it – legitimate meaning as in one that is life-altering. I believe that this is probably the first song from any artist from any genre that has the capability to do that on a large-scale, in many years.

    It may not hit #1 on the Hot 100. It may not sell 5 million copies but it does aim to touch peoples’ lives. It will also solidify the exact impact that Carrie Underwood has had on the music industry in her 9 years.

    The track is bloody strong – her BEST vocal performance to date. Her phrasing is impeccable here. The lyrics are logical and non-complicated. They also tell a clear story. The production is also great because it never overpowers her voice. The ‘Amazing Grace’ component elevates the track immensely and will surely impact on the listener if the listener was not in some way ‘moved’ prior to the choir kicking in. To be fairly honest, even though it is quite soon to tell, I will be surprised if this track isn’t nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys because I think that it is Underwood’s first track to truly deserve winning it.

  11. Something in the Water is an amazing song! Love the message and the uplifting feeling you get. Carrie’s vocals are beyond compare! I hope to be hearing it alot on country radio.

  12. The performance is excellent, however I think it’s pretty clear that the song was written by folks who have never had a religious struggle in their lives. The lyrics are so cookie-cutter, and the production is just as predictably overblown as I was imagining it would be. This a power ballad that relies on volume alone, there’s no soul at all.

  13. The 1997 review was fine except for the rhyme complaint. As long as “typical” rhymes are used well by the artists, I don’t desist their inclusion. Many of the finest hymns have the same rhymes and they are timeless.

  14. Apart from the (in my opinion) somewhat bombastic production that is typical of music production these days, and the decision to turn up her vocal volume a bit much on the interpolation of “Amazing Grace”, I would have to say that Carrie has come up with a winner here. How it does on country radio, given how much of a toxic mess it is with all the gratuitous “bro country” garbage, is anyone’s guess.

    I don’t mind the religious component in any songs like this one, as long as it isn’t shoved down one’s throat (which I don’t think happens here). And as a sidebar, if Carrie should ever consider doing a full-on version of “Amazing Grace” as a stand-alone track, she probably should try it a capella as Judy Collins did in 1970 (and got a sizeable hit from it, too).

  15. Ha, that 1997 review is mine. Cool to see it show up elsewhere.

    I stand behind my criticism of the lyric; it’s not just about lazy rhyme, but in general there is nothing insightful in the lyric, or is the common subject matter presented in a unique way.

    I love the song for Carrie’s impassioned vocal, and also for what the song represents. It’s common for songs to become greater than the sum of their parts due to context, and that is the case here.

  16. I love this song, but it would have been better if Carrie did not over sing the last part, especially “Amazing Grace.” While I can feel her passion and faith as she belts that part, a fragile, nuanced, and soft phrasing would have taken us all the way to heavens. I do not think this is the best single released by Carrie, but is definitely still better than 95% of the songs on the radio right now.

  17. I don’t get the comments that Carrie needed to sing “Amazing Grace” softly; most songs build to a peak for emotional impact, for one. Plus singing softly over a gospel choir would seem odd.

    I do think it would be cool if the album version ended with an a capella outro where Carrie softly sings “Amazing Grace,” almost as a lullaby to her child.

  18. I agree with some of the reviews of this song that it is an early favorite for the Grammy’s as song of the Year candidate!

    Also feel Carrie proved without a doubt that she has the most powerful female voice around today. This is an uplifting song and the way she portrayed the song with her power was perfect!

  19. Carrie nalied the vocals! It is ridiculous to suggest a lower tone on a gospel song! I don’t think the couple here that made those comments have ever been to a gospel service, haha!

  20. I really wonder how this song will do commercially. Since it’s a new release from a major star it is off to a hot start, understandably, but I am curious where it will be in three months.

    For one, the subject matter is not at all what is popular on country radio. It’s kind of the opposite. And it’s by a female. Is Underwood’s star power enough to make this a smash?

    Additionally, it will be competing, at least early on, with “Somethin’ Bad.” I don’t know if that will be a factor or not. More importantly, this is only a single for a greatest hits album, which might put it lower on her label’s priorities list than if it was from a studio album. And with her pregnancy, I’m guessing she won’t be launching a major tour in the next year, which might further push the single down on the priorities list.

    I do think this will become a major hit on Christian radio however, so if it fails to resonate with country radio, it will still reach other listeners.

    But I will be very interested to see how this song does at radio.

  21. There’s no doubt that Carrie’s got a hell of a voice, but she just doesn’t sing good songs.

    Well executed kitsch is still kitsch. Give me Musgraves, Clark, or even some of Swift’s stuff from “Speak Now” over this trite stuff any day.

  22. I guess I can kind of see why other people like this, but it does absolutely nothing for me. It’s too loud and too syrupy and Carrie still mistakes volume for emotion. If it came up on my iPod I’d probably skip it more often than not.

  23. …on second thought, the title of this scream-fest might also make a great headline for a drinking song or a vodka commercial for that matter. god knows, eric church sounds pretty suited to do something with it. alternatively, florida georgia line might have an idea what to put next into those water holes, where they cruise up and down the more dirty tracks. carrie underwood – the missing link between bro- and christian country. the lord keeps on moving in mysterious ways.

  24. Wow … some pretty cutting remarks. Scream fest? Kitsch? Syrupy? I guess there’s no accounting for taste. I believe there are just some people who are so invested in NOT liking Carrie Underwood and/or her music that they will trot out the old complaints and somehow apply it to whatever she releases. If she sings softly and more nuanced then she should have done something differently. If she uses them, then she’s ‘screaming’. Make up your freaking minds. Frankly I don’t think there is anything she could do to please some people. And what really bothers me is the obvious anti-female bias in some of the comments. As Ritchie said: “For one, the subject matter is not at all what is popular on country radio. It’s kind of the opposite. And it’s by a female. Is Underwood’s star power enough to make this a smash?” The fact that he had to say ‘it’s by a female’ speaks volumes. And as for the subject matter, it’s a welcome departure from the lyrics as described in ‘Girl In A Country Song’. I’ll taking Carrie ‘screaming’ about her faith over ‘bro country’ any day of the week.

  25. @Tom, Tom, Thomas.
    We get that you don’t like it so enough with the multiple posts…just go away and take your bro country BS with you.

  26. @TexasVet

    The CU team are able to monitor comments to determine if they’re coming from the same IP address or e-mail account, and spam and spam-adjacent comments are addressed / deleted as they occur. That’s not the case here.

    No one needs to be told to go away because their opinions don’t adhere to what is perceived to be a party line or “correct” point of view. That’s not the standard of discourse we’ve set for the comments sections here at CU.

  27. I like this quote I read today:
    “The reason this song is out is not because somebody in country music decided that this message is good, the reason it’s out is because Carrie Underwood has the clout to be able to do whatever it is that she wants to do.. and this is what she wanted to do.”

  28. Belated reply to Mary, Debbie, and Janie:

    The song mostly doesn’t work on a sonic level for me. There’s a bit too much production and a bit too much belting for my personal liking.

    Religious themes are not an automatic turnoff for me, and there are some spiritually themed songs that I do enjoy (like “Wings of a Dove” or “Keep On the Sunny Side”). This particular song just doesn’t happen to quite connect with me on that level, partly because the hook leave me cold.

    But I do respect Carrie for attempting to offer something meaningful to country radio, and it is entirely possible that the song may grow on me with further listening.

  29. Well…Here are my very simplistic, undeveloped thoughts on this song.

    The first time I listened to it, I didn’t like it for the same reasons that Ben doesn’t care for it. However, I listened to it again and I liked it a lot more the second time around. While I didn’t like the production the first time around and I’ve never been a fan of when she uses her head voice (or is it her throat voice?), my second listen changed my mind on both the production and voice. I think it has interesting sonic layers. As far as the Amazing Grace part goes, I don’t really see how it would work if she didn’t sing it with the strength that she did. I don’t think a restrained version would work for the tone/vibe of the song. Moreover, while I absolutely agree that a reason for supporting a song just because it’s not one of the bro-country themes is ridiculous, I do appreciate that this song sounds unique amongst a bunch of other songs that bleed together for me.

  30. Jeez, TexasVet. When did Brandi Clark and Kacey Musgraves become “bro country BS”?

    Although, I guess it isn’t terribly surprising that people who accuse anyone who doesn’t think Underwood is getting as much out of her immense talent as she should of liking “bro-country” don’t recognize those names.

    It’s okay that some people don’t like the things you like. I prefer well-written songs to incredible pipes, so Carrie Underwood doesn’t really do it for me (except for “Wasted.” “Wasted” is awesome). That doesn’t mean I like “bro-country” or that I don’t like female artists. There are a lot of great female artists out there not named Miranda or Carrie.

    Expand your horizons, guys.

  31. Tom: I actually think Eric Church would kill a song titled “Something in the Water.”

    (Provided that it’s “Chief” and “Carolina” Eric Church we’re talking about, of course).

    Mary: I think the song’s kitschy because it has nothing interesting or new to say about its subject matter. I don’t even care that much about the irritatingly overdone production. If I don’t find a song at all interesting lyrically (and this one is as rote as it gets), I’m simply not going to like it.

    And the reason “she doesn’t record songs that are interesting lyrically” is an old complaint at this point is because she doesn’t record songs that are interesting lyrically. Even when the subject matter is interesting, the writers seem to go out of their way to put the most generic spin on that they possibly can.

    It’s infuriating, because I really, really want to like Carrie Underwood. She’s a great talent. Unfortunately, she hasn’t released a song that I enjoy listening to since “Wasted.”

  32. …hold your horses, texasvet. there just seems to be a fair number of people around here going by the name “thomas” or various forms of it. this is why i always put three litttle dots at the beginning of my posts and always write them in small letters, in order to keep possible confusion at a minimal level.

    you see, there’s never only one angle to look at things – or country songs for that matter. kevin chose to approach this song from its obvious spiritual angle. on a lighter note, one could easily argue here’s somebody under influence making quite some noise. some of the lyrics would actually confirm that to a degree:

    “…now i’m changed, now i’m stronger, there must have been something in the water” – compare that what travis tritt’s describes in “ten foot tall and bullet proof” after tasting water with something in it.

    “…now i’m singing along to amazing grace, can nobody wipe that smile off my face, got joy in my heart, angels by me side…”, carrie underwood carrys on. would it be so uncommon that people under influence start singing from the top of their lungs, laugh and “see” – quite happily – things that aren’t exactly there too?

    since any alcoholic beverage is largely water with a more or less high content of alcohol – there’ s definitely quite often “something in the water”. fair enough, some deeply religous circles wouldn’t agree that it got there because the lord wanted it that way. in these situations usually the devil comes in quite handy. and perhaps, it’s also the devil, who’s responsible for bro country. then again, i haven’t found any evidence yet that the good lord might not like people having a good time in bikinis with a drink in their hands. ah naw.

  33. Please be sure to stay civil on this thread. There’s no need for slings and arrows to be thrown at each other.

    People may post as often as they’d like as long as they don’t pretend to be more than one person, aren’t trolls and are sure to follow Country Universe’s serious comment policy.

    Also, it’s unfair to say that fans of Underwood aren’t also capable of being fans of Musgraves or Clark. The implication is meant to be insulting and simply is not true. Proof of that fact begins with, but isn’t limited to, our own Kevin and Tara who are our resident Underwood supporters who also love Clark’s and Musgraves’ music.

  34. @Tom, Tom, Thomas.

    Sorry about that, I assumed you were all the same person.
    From now on I’ll count to ten before posting…LOL!

  35. LeeAnn: I wasn’t saying that people can’t like both, just that if someone responds to any criticism of Carrie with “You must only like bro-country! GTFO!!!” They probably don’t have that much exposure to female artists who don’t get played on the radio.

    TexasVet: It’s all good. The internet is the internet, haha. We all say stuff a bit too quickly.

  36. Love what this review has to say:
    http://forthecountryrecord.com/2014/10/07/carrie-underwood-something-in-the-water-single-review/
    “And that’s a relevant point of discussion, because as far as it goes with bro-country, a notable but not often actually noted mark of the trend is the redaction from Christian and religious themes. As much as it objectifies women and stays within the trivial themes of partying and drinking and faux small town pride, there is also a distinct lack of faith involved.”

  37. Good point, Jason. I didn’t think of that, but in all honesty I am hoping one of the other five songs she is releasing will be a little….deeper than PrizeFighter.

  38. I like the divided reactions of The Singles Jukebox crew:
    http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=13627
    In particular I like this quote: “I want a song about, perhaps, the weightiest decision a person can make to sound heavy. This is not delicate, this is not pretty, this is not a fun, good time. It’s powerful.”

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