“Little Toy Guns”
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.