Single Review: Carrie Underwood, “Dirty Laundry”

“Dirty Laundry”
Carrie Underwood

Written by Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley, and Hillary Lindsey

The warmest country singer of her generation turns in the coldest record of the year.

“Dirty Laundry” is bold and ambitious, relying almost entirely on just Underwood’s voice and percussion. By making the record almost completely devoid of the instruments that give a country record its warmth and intimacy, the message of the lyric is reinforced in the same way that those minor chords reinforced the dark desperation of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”: Underwood’s been cheated on, and she doesn’t have an ounce of sympathy or forgiveness to spare.

It’s a remarkable feat in record production, something we don’t see much of in country music. (Hence the reference to a record that is 42 years old.) But it wouldn’t work if Underwood wasn’t up to the task as a vocalist. It seems almost redundant these days to point out that she is, because she is taken for granted in a way that only the best singers can be taken for granted. Her vocal power is so strong that her ability to communicate with nuance is usually overlooked.

Underwood’s performance is tight, controlled, and nearly emotionless, and contempt is the only feeling allowed to surface. She may be hurting – may be heartbroken, even – but she isn’t giving the louse an ounce of anything that might bring him some form of satisfaction to offset his humiliation in being rejected and shame in being caught. No need to carve her name into his leather seats this time. She’s already ripped him to shreds.

Grade: A

6 Comments

  1. Good job by CU.
    The first few words, “Lipstick on your collar”, immediately brought to mind a 1959 hit for Connie Francis.

  2. Underwood is closing in on something very special. She currently has 14 #1 hits on Billboard’s Top Country Songs chart. The top five females in this category has been locked tight for quite awhile. Dolly Parton is in first with 25 #1s, Reba McEntire is second with 24, Tammy Wynette is third with 20, Crystal Gayle is fourth with 18, and Loretta Lynn is fifth with 16.

    This song could very well be Underwood’s 15th chart topper and bring her even closer to tying Loretta and joining this list of incredible ladies. The songs is definitely worthy of being #1, that’s for sure. (Note: Wynonna Judd might should also be in this list, as she sang lead on 14 #1s with the Judds and added four more as a solo artist.)

  3. This was an immediate favorite the first time I heard it. I don’t know why it wasn’t the lead single from the album. “Choctaw County Affair” also deserves the single treatment.

  4. Perhaps this song works because of Carrie’s icy delivery. Man, I feel no sympathy for both of the characters in Dirty Laundry but that’s a good thing. It is as if I am watching a good cheating movie with psycho characters.

    I might not give it an A, thanks to the production but her vocals are something I dig to this song. The melody is also quite lacking, I don’t know. Maybe I found Church Bells really good that it pales in comparison.

    Now, when will What I Never Knew I Always Wanted be released?

  5. I heard Carrie’s new album on iHeart radio the night when it released earlier this year. I admit I was stunned by how good it was and started emailing friends immediately about it. I have not changed by mind at all. On the contrary, the single releases from it are quite exciting each time they issue. This is one of the best singles on the album, yet I agree to with Jason that Choctaw County Affair should be released as a single next. With Dirty Laundry though, Carrie perfectly convey the alternating cold/hot rage she feels towards her despicable significant other. It reminded me a bit of Matraca Berg’s “Your Husband’s Cheating on Us”. (There’s so much going on in that single!) Back to this subject, Heartbeat, though, took me hook, line and sinker, as my favorite from the Storyteller album. Her vocals and emotion with that song reached perfection.

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