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.