“Just Gettin’ Started”
Written by Rhett Akins, Chris DeStefano, and Ashley Gorley
Competently performed. Creatively stagnant. Completely unnecessary.
“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.
“Something in the Water”
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.
No word for a while yet on whether the album will sell a million copies, but as far as the single goes, it lives up to the promise of the two singers more than it does to its title.
It does so by trying not to be as ambitious as the caliber of the collaborators would make you expect it to be. This was a trap both ladies fell into when collaborating with other A-listers, making Lambert’s duet with Keith Urban and Underwood’s with Brad Paisley not as successful as they could’ve been.
This is just a plain ol’ good girls on their baddest behavior ditty. Well, not their baddest behavior. Underwood doesn’t key up anyone’s car and Lambert doesn’t kill anybody. But it’s all in good fun, and both ladies can perform the thing solo just fine when the other isn’t around.
And kudos to the production, I feel I should mention. There were a few moments I thought it was gonna go all eighties glam rock, but the record pulls back before it goes over the edge, and we get just the ladies and a rhythm track, which actually supports the lyric better. Somethin’ bad’s gonna happen, but….not yet. Good stuff.
Written by Chris DeStefano, Brett James, and Priscilla Renea
But it’s better than “re-fall” and “re-fly”, the uses of which nearly derail in the bridge what has been a satisfactory journey so far. The concept might be old school, but the Rascal Flatts boys are still very much in the present, turning in a nice variation on their trademark harmonies that allow Gary LeVox to let loose a little bit. He’s not as nasal as he’s been in the past, and when he goes for the power vocals toward the end, he sounds a lot more raw than I can ever remember hearing him.
There’s something slightly melancholy about Rascal Flatts these days. A major commercial act that was never known for its artistry has begun to fade. Their relevance is on shaky ground, almost sadly dependent on the whims of radio and consumer interests. I don’t know why their sound slowly went out of style, any more than I can tell you why they were moving four million units an album at their peak.
But against today’s landscape, there’s something comforting about the way that they’re still doing things. They may not be at the top of the game, but at least they’re still playing.
Written by Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley, and Eric Paslay