Written by Andrew Dorff, Mark Irwin, and Josh Kear
Brooks & Dunn made an entire career out of honky tonk puns and play on words. “Neon Light” is a throwback to those songs, with Blake Shelton previewing his new album with a song built around there being “a neon light at the end of the tunnel.”
To his credit, Shelton plays it subtle, with the song not having that arena-in-mind noisiness that has come to define today’s country music. But the song never quite gets out of first gear, either. Sure, the song didn’t need power chords and hair band chants. But it certainly would benefit from more aggressive fiddle and steel guitar.
A surprisingly philosophical take on the “drinking in the country with a girl” theme that is apparently the only thing that new male artists are allowed to sing about.
I’m seriously thinking that it’s a contractual obligation now, along with the radio tours and the publishing partnerships. Frankie Ballard’s “Helluva Life” is most interesting when he’s singing about what he’s thinking about while he’s doing the only things that guys his age are singing about. There’s a potentially compelling voice that’s trying to shine through, one that is wondering more about tomorrow than where the party is tonight.
The conversational vocal style and tasteful arrangement create a nice groove, a sound that I could really get into if Ballard applies it to more mature material.
Written by Rodney Clawson, Josh Kear, and Chris Tompkins
t/uploads/2012/07/Carrie-Underwood-Blown-Away-Single-150×150.png” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ />Four albums into her career, Carrie Underwood’s career growth has been fairly stunning.
It’s hard to imagine that the talent-show winner who sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” would morph into a fully fledged pop superstar with speaker-rattling pop-rock songs like “Good Girl” and “Blown Away.”
While the evolution has been fascinating to watch, the problem is that someone who was thought of as the next female country superstar has effectively left country music behind and moved on to bigger things, and it’s a loss for the genre.
“Blown Away,” Underwood’s new single, has some of the most interesting lyrics she’s had to work with in some time, courtesy of writers Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins. It borrows a little from the Miranda Lambert songbook, where an abusive father is made to account for his sins with death by tornado. While it’s a bit more passive than a Lambert song (she would have shot the SOB a few times before letting the twister carry him away), there is a satisfying sense of Old Testament-style vengeance to it.
Many of the main story elements are absent – the age of the narrator, exactly what the father did that was so awful – but there’s still plenty create some vivid imagery. Much like Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” never reveals the actual fate of the mother, “Blown Away” lets listeners fill in their own details.
As noted though, this is not being sung by Carrie Underwood, Country Singer. Instead, this is Carrie Underwood, International Pop Diva, and the song is glitzed up and glossed over to make it pop radio-ready. It’s been so thoroughly produced and sanitized that there isn’t a trace of a country song left in “Blown Away.” There have been “country” remixes of Kelly Clarkson singles that sound more traditional than this one.
The frustrating thing is that the gloss is so uncalled for. The altered vocals, the bombastic instrumentation, those things just take away from the vocals. It’s all well and good if the singer is Katy Perry or Ke$ha, as they need all the help they can get. But Carrie Underwood? Aside from a few impressive and effortless high notes that serve as a reminder of her capabilities, her vocal abilities are effectively buried.
Pop music today is very restrictive – possibly more so than country music – and a certain type of sound is needed to get significant airplay. So if the idea behind the song was to make Underwood sound like every other pop singer out there, then it’s a success. The downside, though, is that everything that made her special in the first place is getting lost in the process.