Single Review: Carrie Underwood, “Little Toy Guns”

Carrie Underwood Little Toy Guns

“Little Toy Guns”
Carrie Underwood

Written by Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey, and Carrie Underwood

With her latest single, Carrie Underwood once again reaffirms that she is among the best and most compelling artists of modern country music.

A depiction of verbal and emotional abuse on an epic scale, “Little Toy Guns” captures a truth not often talked about: that domestic violence can wound and scar without ever once raising a hand or breaking the skin, and can cause lasting collateral damage beyond even its intended target.

That makes it sound like a heavy-handed message song.  It’s anything but, thanks to a fiery vocal from Underwood that throbs with both righteous anger and aching empathy, and a fresh, pop-flavored production that has the percussion elements reinforcing the lyrical imagery without getting in the way of the storyteller.

Here’s the thing about Carrie Underwood.   She’s got the best pipes in the business.  She could belt out pretty love songs and call it a day.  But she continuously and consistently pushes herself as a vocalist and as a songwriter, choosing to tell stories about those who usually don’t have a voice.

Underwood doesn’t fit neatly into any of the neat, acceptable categories that are usually required for a woman to have “artistic credibility.”  She’s not an outlaw, she’s not a confessional coffee-house songwriter, and she’s not a twangy traditionalist.   She can easily slip in and out of any or all of those roles with ease, but she isn’t defined by – or limited by – any of them.

But she’s not an easily dismissible pop diva or country radio act, either.   I don’t know that there’s ever been a woman quite like Carrie Underwood in country music. She’s a superstar with crossover appeal who doesn’t have any interest in leaving country music, but she takes the best elements of pop music to make her country music more compelling.  She can command top-drawer material from A-list songwriters, but has insisted on honing her own craft, with her writer’s voice growing in clarity and strength with each new project she releases.   She’s a television talent show alumni who can get most of America to tune into  a live Broadway musical, but she keeps singing and writing about people and situations that no television show, reality or otherwise, will even acknowledge the existence of.   She’s a successful Christian woman whose own singing and writing about her faith couldn’t be any further away from the gospel of success.

“Little Toy Guns” is further proof of how she keeps getting better with time.She is, again, one of the best and most compelling artists of modern country music.   Now that she’s co-writing with Brandy Clark, maybe that won’t seem as bold a position to take when her next album comes around.

Grade: A

22 Comments

  1. I like the vocals and message but the production isn’t that great for this song I find it more meh than anything. Overall this song is a B+.

    I will say this I hope this will be the song that gets her a billboard radio number 1. I am for one am sick of the fact that on the country Airplay chart since it started in late 2012 only Blown Away got a number 1. It’s bull and honestly how much more does Carrie have to do to get a number 1.

    What other songs are you guys reviewing.

  2. Is one of those Gloriana’s new song trouble I’m digging this song and want one of your guys take on this song.

  3. This entire review is spot on. Underwood is moving mountains in the music industry, both inside and outside of the Country format. This song is genius, the songwriting is poetic (who uses “catastrophic” so perfectly in lyrics to a song as heavy as this?!), and her vocal is just…mind-blowing.

  4. The production makes it hard for me to like the single as much as I want to, but I really respect what she’s doing with this release, and I agree with Kevin’s points on Carrie. Stellar review.

  5. The point where she sings “No shot from the trigger when you pull it” and the music is at the minimum and her vocals on point gives me goosebumps like I have heard anything like it! That girl’s voice really gets through your bones! Wow! I do think the production is a little on the rock genre side. She’s really good at that part of her voice.

  6. Too bad nobodys buying the song and the video flopped on youtube and vevo. Apparently no one really cares what she is singing or writing about. I would like to see her write alone. Using 3 to 4 co writers does no make her a writer. She did graduate from college so she should be able to craft a song alone, especially after 10 years. Credit for her singing okay. But she does not deserve writing praise until she writes alone. That is the reason the grammys only recognize her sining . I do like the lyrics but because underwood is involved as a co writer it will never be recognized as a best song which is unfair to her co writers who suffer while she wins grammys for her singing only. Stick to singing carre so that tbe songs can win awards too, not just you as a vocalist. I am sure writers will soon refuse to write with her if she is the only one who is going to get the grammy for singing in the end.

  7. Totally agree with you on Carrie as an artist. She’s come a LONG way since her debut, when I swore I’d never like anything she’d ever do. Now she has some of my favorite singles so far this decade.

    On this song, I wish she would’ve expanded the scope a bit instead of just focusing on one specific example. The hook begs for something a little more universal. I do like the melody, and her delivery is great, too, so I guess I’d give it a B.

  8. I’ve never been a big Carrie fan but this song is good and the issue is certainly important. I’ll be interested to see what comes of her songwriting collaboration with Brandy Clark.

  9. So ellen, does that mean all artists out there who have been recognized as cowriters should never been given any credit or award because they didn’t write alone?
    Maybe you should have a read or watch whenever the cowriters talk about Carrie’s contribution to a particular song. She tends to contribute towards LYRICS more than music so far… hence the collaboration of cowriters. Clearly her degree was put to some kind of use. But I don’t exactly know how a degree means anything about writing melody of a song.

  10. Ellen..A flop on you-tube..honey do your homework..she released the video on her facebook page it has over 8 million views..now does taylor know your starting trouble???

  11. Underwood’s productions always bring her songs down for me. This one ends up being a B for me. With different production it probably could’ve been an A-.

    Also, you mentioned you would be doing a lot of reviews in the near future. Could I request reviews for The Mavericks’ new album and “Riot” by Rascal Flatts? I would love to hear what the CU writers think of them.

  12. Ellen,
    That’s some farfetched logic regarding Underwood not winning grammys for song of the year. First, I doubt voters are thinking that they wouldn’t give her and her co-writers the award until she proves that she can write a song on her own.

    Second, I really doubt that songwriters will stop writing with her because they don’t think they’d get a Grammy if she’s listed as a co-writer. A Grammy is nice to have, but hit songs and roalty checks are much more motivating.

    Third, I love singers who can also write songs and I’m especially impressed if somebody can write a song on their own, but the fact that Underwood hasn’t written a song on her own doesn’t invalidate her as an artist or even a songwriter. I’ll admit that I’ve evolved in this opinion over the years, but I now belive it’s true.

    Finally, the fact that Underwood has gone to college for four years neither comes close to guaranteeing that she should be able to write a song on her own nor does it in any way mean that she could write a melody, which is part of being able to write a song alone. Bernie Talpin (Elton John’s lyricist) is considered a very respected songwriter, but he is a lyricist, therefore, he needs a co-writer in order to write a complete song.

  13. Not bad! Despite the production, on-the-nose lyrics & annoying structure, this will probably join “Wasted” on the list of Carrie Underwood songs that don’t make me lunge for the dial!

    That’s two!

  14. Well, she did knock Independence Day out of the park on American Idol. And Alone by Heart! One thing is for sure – she has an absolutely phenomenal voice.

  15. Why is an artist who can hold a note for longer than 4 beats in chest choice considered to be ‘shrieking’? I thought that was a talent (at least it was when I did it in high school and college voice classes). I just don’t get it.

  16. Now, while this song is awfully slow in ascending the charts, it does not mean that it is one of her weakest songs. It reminds me of her Some Hearts days only that her vocals and the choice of words were greatly improved. She is not shrieking either, and that is a big plus. I could listen to it a whole day but the production is something that is left to be desired. It could’ve been a bit more traditional given the heavy message of this song.

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