When Randy Travis invited Carrie Underwood into the Grand Ole Opry last spring, the sprightly young maiden had fully arrived as the new torchbearer for the house of twang. Her reign as the genre’s princess arose from her use of God (“Jesus, Take the Wheel”), glory notes (“All-American Girl”) and gratuitous violence (“Before He Cheats”) to advance her image as a blond, beautiful and apple pie-lovin’ songstress, though one with a hint of a sinnin’ streak.
That girl-next-door goodness is a gold mine, one that, thanks to Underwood, is now the niche in Nashville. Carbon copy cuties such as Julianne Hough, Kristy Lee Cook and Whitney Duncan all strut around Music Row with their eyes on stardom. Success awaits some, others will never live out Underwood’s hand-me-down dreams.
The Okie beauty queen has been questioned for her own cookie-cutter deeds. American Idol’s notorious judge and jury, Simon Cowell, once admitted of Underwood, ”I know nothing more about her now than I did when I met her.” That poker-face personality, in real life and on record, is an open invitation to wild interpretation. Harsh critics claim she’s a first-class fembot serving a fat-free set of songs. Hearty fans applaud her seemingly wholesome values and built-to-blow vocal power.
The long-simmering question—Who is Carrie Underwood?—is at the crux of any argument about the value of her music. In absolute top form, Underwood is a fine interpretive singer, albeit one without the gravitas that elevates merely good country singers to greatness. Only a defining artistic stand from the format’s female leader will conjure up that magic.
In a tentative step towards revelation, Underwood has covered Travis’ 1988 No.1 single, “I Told You So.” Usually the rafters of heaven shake with her every alleluia, but now, she subtly graces “I Told You So” with a mature, thoughtful performance. Scaling back her diva-fied wailing, she blesses the poor-me power ballad with an understated elegance. A mildly traditional tune, with steel flourishes wrapped around a moody melody, “I Told You So” strays from the pop-country pap that’s thrilled throngs of suburbanites. Hall of Famer Vince Gill, steps in for a sweetly satisfying harmony vocal that’s gorgeous in its sadness. An Opry-worthy performance from all involved.
Written by Randy Travis
Listen: “I Told You So”
C’mon Blake this one deserve at least an A its an amazing song an carrie signs it just incredible, and it totally respects randy travis version and takes it to another level(because of her vocal range and emotion)
I fully agree with the B, and maybe a B+, simply because it gives me hope that she can move past the bubblegum country toward something more substantial.
Never been crazy about this cover. I’m glad it’s the new single, because maybe it means her camp is toying with the idea of having her release more stuff that kindasorta sounds a little more like country music. But she sings this like a pop starlet, inflections and all. Plus it’s just not my favorite Travis song. Some nice thoughts in the review, though.
Good review Blake! I personally would’ve given it at least a B+, but I like your review. I, too, am also hoping that releasing this as a single means she’ll go more towards the traditional sounds of country on her third album. I think she’s never sounded better than she has on songs like this. Her voice blends so well with Vince’s…it’s amazing! This is my favorite song from Carnival Ride and I’m so happy its the new single.
I’m hoping she’ll do this song at the Grammy’s and not “Last Name.”
I thought what you wrote was well, well written but besides the last paragraph where was the review. Even the last paragraph was not even that descriptive about the song or its abilite or lack there of. I found this to be more an article about Ms. Underwood and “Who She Is”, instead of a review. Don’t get me wrong I love all your articles Blake and the other authors here, but I was expecting more from Country Universe. You guys usually stand out from the rest when it comes to reviews. I thought there would be more to it since so many have been asking for this review for a couple of weeks now.
I want to know the goods on the song not the singer that is a topic in itself. I mean absolutely no offense, I was expecting more though. I find I can’t even feed of what you wrote about the song to even comment on the review. Again just my opinion.
I think she sings it nicely, but I’m not crazy about her version, and would prefer not to hear the song (I’m not crazy about the original, either, to be honest, but it is better). It is a decent song, but something about it (from both versions), doesn’t allow me to totally get into it.
“Carbon copy cuties such as Julianne Hough, Kristy Lee Cook and Whitney Duncan all strut around Music Row with their eyes on stardom. ”
I thought this comment to be uncalled for…Julianne Hough & Kristy Lee Cook might strut around music row trying to find success like Carrie’s but Whitney Duncan was there long before Carrie and is so much a truer artist. She wrote all her songs. Julianne and Kristy are like Carrie in the way that they gained their popularity through a television show.
I love this song and thinks Carrie sings it very well (like she does any song). I’m not a big Carrie fan though and probably never will be. She has the personality of a tree stump and I just can’t get excited when I hear her sing though it is pretty close to perfect. I like uniqueness and that’s something she just doesn’t have…along with Julianne Hough & kristy lee cook. Now…Duncan I’m a fan of.
I feel about the way CF does about it. I think Carrie does better with it, but I’m not crazy about the song in general. It’s just not one of my preferred Travis songs.
Most of our single reviews average about 100 to 150 words. Blake’s paragraph that directly deals with the song is 106 words. Aside from that, it doesn’t even matter how much space was given to the review of a song; it’s the quality that counts and those 106 words are good quality. Blake’s positive review certainly didn’t shaft Carrie here:
“In a tentative step towards revelation, Underwood has covered Travis’ 1988 No.1 single, “I Told You So.” Usually the rafters of heaven shake with her every
alleluia, but now, she subtly graces “I Told You So” with a mature, thoughtful performance. Scaling back her diva-fied wailing, she blesses the poor-me
power ballad with an understated elegance. A mildly traditional tune, with steel flourishes wrapped around a moody melody, “I Told You So” strays from
the pop-country pap that’s thrilled throngs of suburbanites. Hall of Famer Vince Gill, steps in for a sweetly satisfying harmony vocal that’s gorgeous
in its sadness. An Opry-worthy performance from all involved.”
There’s only so much to be said about a song.
I’m glad that the whole “She’s trying to prove she’s country with this song thing” didn’t get in the way of the review. It’s a legitimate point, but not the point of the single review, so nice job writing this!
I do like this song, but it’s not amazing. A “B” sounds like the ideal grade to me as well.
I like Duncan, too, but you gotta admit that her material so far hasn’t done much to distinguish her from all the other super-attractive blonde girls running around. I think she could be really good, though – she’s got an interesting voice and clearly has the work ethic.
Good review! I think it deserved a B+ or an A- though, but I loved the thought and effort you put into the review. I agree with everything you said, just not the grade… lol But then again, that is often the case with my old professors in college too. :)
I think Carrie has a beautiful voice, and a wonderful personality. The people who knock her personality for being stiff just don’t get that she is funny and sarcastic all the time, but they just don’t understand Okies. That is how they are… very dry humor but sharp as a whip.
I prefer Carrie’s intelligent, shy, thoughtful personality any day of the week to Kellie Pickler’s annoying ditzy act, or Taylor Swift’s arrogance and fake surprise everytime she wins an award, etc. Carrie is at least classy and genuine, not over the top.
Anyway, nice review of a wonderful song! I love Vince Gill’s backup vocals on this song too. He and Carrie should record together again on a different song.
@Debra: I would never argue that Carrie didn’t show Randy respect by covering “I Told You So.” I’m among those that feel “I Told You So” was recorded simply because of her love for Randy’s music, and even he has noted his pride in this remake.
@John/Dan/Aaron: There seem to be high hopes that Carrie will show a more traditional side as she moves forward. A more organic production could possibly mute her operatic tendencies; she’s a fine vocalist, but also one prone to oversinging. Song selection, to me, is more important on the next album. She’s now a more mature, experience woman, and we’ll see how that translates to the new music.
@Mike: Whitney Duncan arrived in Nashville before Carrie, you’re correct. Of the three artists mentioned, Duncan does seem to have the most potential. Still, I think it’s valid to throw her in the mix. She shares a producer (and a few hit songwriters) with Underwood, for starters. The music I’ve heard from her so far is very much in the pop-country mold, and she’s being marketed in the same mold as all the rest. I’m willing to reconsider once I hear the whole album
@vp: In the case of this single, I feel that context is just as important (if not more so) than content. How “I Told You So” fits in with the rest of Carrie’s career so far is key. I echo Leeann in that only so much can be said about a song, and I do commend Carrie for toning down the power of her vocals to suit “I Told You So.” I also noted the traditional flourishes and graceful touches that make the song more attractive than most of radio’s wam-bam-thank you-ma’am filler.
I appreciate Underwood from a technical standpoint. As I said earlier, she owns an attractive voice that holds all sorts of promise and potential. Since selecting “I Told You So” seems to be a more personal song choice for Underwood, I think it’s more telling, personally and professionally, than most of her output. I’d never be so coarse as to curse Carrie’s success, but after four years in a public forum, I’m still wondering to myself, “Who are you?”
The reason that I’m rooting for a more organic approach to her third album is not just my appreciation for traditional sounds, but also my hope that a quieter musical setting will allow us to hear Carrie Underwood more. Not the talented singer, not the famous star, but Carrie Underwood, the young woman. She’s been a bit overwhelmed by production choices and overwrought songs so far.
By noting Nashville’s bumper crop of twenty-something ladies, I’m also showing how influential Underwood has been in less than four years. She helped pop make a mini-revival on Music Row. Still, to stay above the curve, I feel it’s vitally important for her to build a distinctive presence on record. This takes energy and, most especially, time. I’m confident she can. She’s already well ahead of countless singers in their mid-twenties. So far, she’s sung a number of well-made songs, some with plenty of substance. Her selection of “I Told You So,” regardless of performance, proves a fidelity to country music that critics and zealots alike can appreciate, while also unveiling a little more about Carrie’s individual tastes.
Honestly, I’m not personally affected by this version of the song (I only like Randy’s version just an inch more). That has more to do with the song than the performance, though. The vocal is very pretty, but comes off just a bit distant. But, different strokes for different folks, and it’s still a good song, as noted in the review.
Nice review Blake. I found the beginning to be honest, insightful and relevant to your review of the song, which unfortunately isn’t my favorite Travis song.
Also, count me in the group that hopes for this approach on the next album: “There seem to be high hopes that Carrie will show a more traditional side as she moves forward. A more organic production could possibly mute her operatic tendencies; she’s a fine vocalist, but also one prone to oversinging. Song selection, to me, is more important on the next album.” Fingers crossed she’ll start a new trend – less poppy production and a focus on songwriting and selection…
She dosent really seem to make this song her own to me?? Its more like she is mimiking Randy Travis. Or maybe it just isnt her style. Either way the song dosent really fit right with me, the girl has a good voice but uses it similar to the way Martina McBride uses her. I find them very very similar.
But with this single, i just cant put my finger on whats wrong with it….
“A more organic production could possibly mute her operatic tendencies”
This is unfair to opera singers – at least they know how to use something called ‘dynamics.’ :p
(That’s obviously a joke, but I do think Carrie’s studio performances need better guidance. Mark Bright reportedly encouraged the pop-diva theatrics we hear all over Carnival Ride.)
Great review and follow up.
Carrie is a difficult one to judge. Do we judge her on a sort of blandness. A natural result of her not yet fully connecting to the material because she is shallow or because she is shy and inherently private? Dunno. I hope it’s the latter because, man, does she have a voice. Not her belting ability but the hints, ever so slight, that this woman has the ability to take you way up or take you way down. It’s her potential that excites and yet frustrates. The genre will be the better if she develops. If not, well, we can at least look forward to another 5-10 years of high quality country pop.
Blake I thought your follow up bettter explained your initial review and was clearer to me. I too am in the let’s hope for the next album group. The word is that she will be trying new things on this one new writer’s and possibly new producer’s. I guess we will just have to wait and hope, cause she has it more so than anyone else out there right now, she just needs the right guidence, she seems to be very trusting, maybe that is where the limitations and restrictions of her abilities are coming from. I for one though am rooting for her all the way, she is most definitely the fresh air that country music needed to see from women in quit some time.
I am actually surprised at how many comments say your grade was too low. I would say it’s too high. This performance is a C at best.
Personally, this is one of my favorites in the Randy Travis catalog, so I’m glad that the newest generation of country fans who wouldn’t normally seek out RT are getting to hear it. But I agree most with Cory that she doesn’t make the song her own. I just don’t get anything resonating when Carrie Underwood sings to me. The emotion isn’t there – she does sound very much like a ‘fembot’ on auto-scream.
dude, “subtly graces”? Like 15 second into the sample my ears were ringing, the fact that she goes slightly breathy after the piercing power note doesn’t make it subtle.
I haven’t heard the whole song, but taking one of Randy Travis’ pop-country tunes (he had his share) and blasting it out as a full on pop-ballad, doesn’t, in my opinion, prove a fidelity to country music – any more than Whitney Houston showed by recording “I will always love you”.
If this is the big nod to traditionalists, it’s an epic fail in my book.
I’m in the camp who thinks this is the sort of music she needs to make for her 3rd album. I see Carrie as having the potential to be great, but needs the right guidance and I don’t think her producer is giving that to her. He either doesn’t know how good she is or doesn’t know what to do with a voice as good as hers.
I remember reading an interview with Carrie about the recording of Carnival Ride where she said she would do a vocal and then her producer would often come in and tell her ‘You can sing higher’. To me an idiot can hear she sounds better singing softer and interpreting a lyric like on I Told You So, than trying to sing over the 50 million instruments that play on the backing track.
I agree with those who aren’t keen on the interpretation of this song. I generally feel that Carrie really oversings this one, it’s too loud already even by the first chorus, and I never really get the sense of any *real* emotion or understanding what she’s singing.
This is a shame, because I really like the song in its original, and I really like Carrie when she does sing in a more understated manner. I think this song could have been great if it was a lot more subtle, and perhaps built to more of a crescendo rather than just being a power ballad all the way through. A shame really,
@vp: I agree. I don’t feel it’s necessary for her to sacrifice the pop elements of her music, but it wouldn’t hurt for her to explore a little more on the third album. Talent deserves a steady, guiding hand.
@J.R. Journey: I almost rated “I Told You So” lower. I appreciate it from a technical standpoint, but I’ve favored past Underwood singles much more. As I’d mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of the song (Randy Travis is the bee’s knees, though.). Carrie’s take on “I Told You So” is good, but not outstanding.
@Dan: If you would like to be the obligatory Country Universe opera expert, please teach us, by all means.
@Hollerin’ Ben: Dude, listen to the whole song before making a judgment. I’ll agree that the chorus could stand a little toning down (especially the titular phrase), but, regardless of what anyone thinks of her interpretation, she’s not singing full force in the verses.
@Laura: Americans love the power belters, Celine, Whitney, Mariah, and now Carrie. We clamor to hear someone sing the way that we can’t. Right now, Carrie is one of the few in the major label system that can hit the high notes, and she’s being nudged to do so.
I saw Randy Travis sing this song live about eight years ago. It left a “so what?” impact on me. I remember it specifically because it was one of the songs I was looking forward to. It just didn’t get much of a reaction. Underwood does a fine job with it, and a “B” seems fair to me. As for her next album, I believe one of her strengths has been her willingness to listen to the advice of the professionals around her, but it’s also revealed a bit of a weakness as well. Carrie has to stand up and say “no” to the overproduction. In my opinion, “Carnival Ride” is a great album if you judge it based on her acoustic performances of the tracks on the Target release. That’s where I first heard “Just a Dream,” and it was simply chilling.
This song just isn’t particularly interesting to me. I either seem to love a Carrie Underwood single, or not particularly like it, and this fits the latter description. Even so, when it comes on the radio, I listen to it for some reason, and it was stuck in my head last night.
“@Hollerin’ Ben: Dude, listen to the whole song before making a judgment. I’ll agree that the chorus could stand a little toning down (especially the titular phrase), but, regardless of what anyone thinks of her interpretation, she’s not singing full force in the verses.”
Sheesh, hope Ben isn’t the critic assigned to do the ITYS review at the 9513!
Blake I really enjoy you rebutles.
I just realized I never commented on the song. So I am not really understanding the whole story lyrically it seems to be all over the place. As for listening to it I actually thought it is one of her best vocals to date. I believe it best displays her depth and range vocally. As for the ones who say the chorus is to high, to me it actually seems scaled down compared to some of her other songs, myself I think she did a real great vocal recording of this, just not keen on the lyrics.
“@Hollerin’ Ben: Dude, listen to the whole song before making a judgment. I’ll agree that the chorus could stand a little toning down (especially the titular phrase), but, regardless of what anyone thinks of her interpretation, she’s not singing full force in the verses.”
@Blake: dude, give me the whole song to listen to then! What, am I gonna go out and buy the record before I leave a comment on the site? I can only judge from what you guys post here at country universe, you posted a clip, that clip featured Carrie belting artlessly. what do you want from me?
Dude, go to YouTube and search for Carrie Underwood’s “I Told You So.” Listen free and then hit me back.
***Am I allowed to encourage free listening without purchase? Hope so. :)***
Now wait, let’s clear this up. The black Amazon box features a 30-second clip, yeah, but we include it in these reviews because of the yellow “Buy MP3” button on it, which will redirect you to Amazon so you can buy the song, if you so wish.
BUT if you just want to listen to the whole song, the “Listen” link just above that box will direct you to another stream (in this case, Blake has chosen a YouTube clip) at which you can indeed hear the whole thing without having to do any searching of your own.
Blake I had meant to try and give you some sort of answer to “Who is Carrie Underwood”? A little post I had put up somehow made it to some begger places and here is my story about meeting Carrie and it may give some insite as to who she is. Please if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t, this story is very dear to me and Hayley’s family.
“BUT if you just want to listen to the whole song, the “Listen” link just above that box will direct you to another stream (in this case, Blake has chosen a YouTube clip) at which you can indeed hear the whole thing without having to do any searching of your own.”
Here’s a clip for you:
@vp: Thank you for the link and the clip. Too often the lines are blurred between criticizing a singer’s art and blasting the singer her/himself. Carrie’s given every appearance of being a kind, compassionate young woman who respects her place in entertainment and puts it to good use. One of the main (if not, the main) pillars of her appeal is the ability to be an idol (!) for young women in her age bracket and beyond. Regardless of my opinions about her music (which range from incredibly impressed to slightly unsatisfied, depending on song choice), it’s important to delineate between her music and her character.
I believe some of the bitterness about the recording industry is unfairly reflected on Carrie as a person. Though she’s not among the very top of my favorites from an artistic standpoint, she has worked very hard to fulfill her current role as the genre’s “It” girl, and I’ll be disappointed if, for example, she fails to receive an Entertainer of the Year nod from one of the awards shows this year.
That being said, as Carrie matures, she will have a new scope of emotions that will only inform her art if she allows that to happen. Her life will change in many exciting (and sometimes difficult) ways. In my opinion, the limits of her life experience have translated to her music at times. Now, with a few more years of living under her belt and a greater confidence in her ability to make artistic choices, I feel she can grow musically and alleviate any arguments about her lack of attachment to the material. She’s easy to root for.
I’m glad to hear that Hayley is now doing better. Childhood illness is one of the worst evils in this world, and it’s nice to know that Carrie (and Country Weekly) had some small part in promoting the cause. I can’t be anything but impressed by how Carrie has acquitted herself professionally in these last four years.
“I believe some of the bitterness about the recording industry is unfairly reflected on Carrie as a person. Though she’s not among the very top of my favorites from an artistic standpoint, she has worked very hard to fulfill her current role as the genre’s “It” girl, and I’ll be disappointed if, for example, she fails to receive an Entertainer of the Year nod from one of the awards shows this year.”
Im glad that some people are starting to see what Carrie Fans have seen for a long time. No matter if you are a fan or not there is no denying that Carrie is one of the hardest working Country singers out there and she deserves everything that she has gotten
I personally LOVE the song. Everything about it. The vocals, the emotions.. EVERYTHING.
This is one of my favorite songs off Carnival Ride, which I think is one of the most brilliant albums in country music recently.
Good luck Carrie! :D
JR Journey— do you ever have anything nice to say about Carrie? I think not. No matter how beautifully she sings, you just have to trash her. It gets really annoying. You could at least have an open mind.. bit it feels like you hate her to your core. I will never understand why.
She does a great job on this song, and she shows alot of emotion and interpretive skills. I think you are confusing her with the shy, reserved, frightened Carrie on American Idol 4 years ago, who was rudely called Fembot by some nasty haters on the idol forums. But Carrie is no longer that person. If you ever saw her live in concert, you would understand how amazing she is, and how much she has improved in her stage presence and interpretive skills.
I think this is a very pretty, under-stated, lovely performance by Carrie of a great traditional song. It makes me laugh to hear people claim this song is over-sung or over-produced, when this is one of the most under-produced songs on the radio I have heard in awhile. In fact, you can really tell that Carrie is holding back on her big voice here, and using alot of restraint. She is not over-singing, and I think people who are saying that, just don’t like Carrie anyway… so they will always find fault.
I think Carrie is a brilliant singer but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has no idea who Carrie Underwood is through her music. She needs her own style. When I listen to Trisha Yearwood, Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert, they all have their own style that I can discern from hearing their music. When I listen to Carrie’s albums, it seems like she is using her songs just to showcase her vocal power without meaning them in her heart.
She has great catchy singles, which is probably how she became a superstar. She can sing. She just needs to find out who she is and express it. Oh, and she is so perfectly primped all the time. I’ve always thought it added to her blank identity. Not a hair nor whitened tooth out of place. It’s TOO perfect.
ITYS is my least favorite on carnival ride.
I love carrie, but not Country music, and this song is just too over the top with the peadl steel etc, and besides….carrie does oversing the chorus.
carrie has an amazing voice. i’ve been a huge fan ever since she sang “alone” on american Idol.
i agree completely with chelsea who said…
“I think Carrie has a beautiful voice, and a wonderful personality. The people who knock her personality for being stiff just don’t get that she is funny and sarcastic all the time, but they just don’t understand Okies. That is how they are… very dry humor but sharp as a whip.
I prefer Carrie’s intelligent, shy, thoughtful personality any day of the week to Kellie Pickler’s annoying ditzy act, or Taylor Swift’s arrogance and fake surprise everytime she wins an award, etc. Carrie is at least classy and genuine, not over the top.)
I think Carrie’s voice is gorgeous…
But I think she is just barely wading the waters of Traditionalism here, with this example, and I’d like to see her dive right in with some real traditional sounding material and see what she can do.
Blake, I think it’s no co-incidence that the major league “belters’ you placed her among, Celine, Whitney and Mariah are all Pop singers. Carrie fits right in with them no doubt. I’d also add Country-Pop Diva Martina McBride to that list. But I agree with those who have indicated that belting histrionics and vocal gymnastics are more characteristic of an elevated, classy “high-pop” kind of style as opposed to down-to-earth Country.
But I’d really like to see Carrie fit in with more traditional Country singers…Singers like Trisha Yearwood and Sara Evans would be good role models for her to follow, as they have successfully combined a belting style with more traditional country style singing ..I think if Carrie really wants to stay Country, and explore more traditional sounds, these ladies have pretty much laid down a good template.
I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think it would take much for various factors to nudge Carrie to a complete crossover to Pop. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m still not convinced that her Country roots run very deep. (although I was pleased to hear her say that she was proud to be Country at the Grammy’s a few years ago)…The transition would not be a stretch. But for the sake of Country Music, I hope Carrie delves deeper into hardcore Country, and uses her considerable powers for good and not evil ;) (preemptive discalaimer: only (half) joking about the “evil” in my characterization of Pop music.)
carrie isnt going POP ever, actually i read in a fan story that the fan told her that she was the reason she listen to countrybecause before her she listened pop and arrie said :you crossover from the dark side or someting like that
I really think she is gong more country in the nest album i sure hope so, she doesnt have to work for the pop appeal she has it so pretty much whatever she does is #1
I have listend to this song, over and over. The one thing that made me do that was the backup singer. I kept wondering who it was… My ears kept telling me it was Vince Gill. I was driving myself crazy trying to guess. I finally did a search and was so happy to learn that my guess was correct! Vince Gill did a great job with Carrie. The voices blend so nicely together!