Written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, and Carrie Underwood
Anyone else on board for a Carrie Underwood album completely co-written by Lori McKenna?
“Cry Pretty” has the song craft that Underwood has become known for, honed through collaborations with Nashville’s top songwriters like this track’s Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose. But where previous Underwood songs have always had a sheen of professional perfectionism, all of the beautiful imperfections that are signature to McKenna’s writing style are present here.
The melody doesn’t flow perfectly, and the backing track seems a bit unsure how to support a stylist like Underwood delivering lyrics that almost but don’t quite fit with the rhythm of the music. That awkwardness works well given the theme of the song, which is all about when emotions get the better of you and you can’t keep up the perfectly honed image that you’ve presented to the world for so long.
Underwood co-produced the track with David Garcia, and that’s the collaboration that lets the record down just a little bit. There’s a grim determination to turn this into an eighties power ballad that the song doesn’t truly demand, as if there was a concern that we’d think maybe Underwood lost some of her vocal power during her brief hiatus. The lyric and her delivery of it throughout most of the song is more powerful than when they think we’re getting the big payoff toward the end, which is more of an anti-climax.
As demonstrated when she performed this on the ACM Awards, that won’t be an issue during her live set. But I do wish they’d dialed the bombast down a few notches. Underwood is the best vocalist on country radio by a wide mile. She doesn’t need the band to do anything but stay out of the way, especially if she’s going to be baring so much of her soul this time around.