Carrie Underwood — “Blown Away”

Blake Boldt | July 17th, 2012

carrie-underwood-blown-awaySongwriters: Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear

Its brooding intro sounds more like background accompaniment to a Desperate Housewives commercial than traditional country. Its storyline is bleak and unrelenting, with very little indication of a happy ending. And its singer demonstrates the vocal chops that have made her an international superstar.

Above all, “Blown Away,” the title track and second single of Carrie Underwood’s latest album, accentuates both the best and worst tendencies of its performer and the format she calls home.

Considering the genre’s disturbing recent trend of hokey redneck songs, “Blown Away” serves as a reminder of the best narrative storytelling that Nashville can offer. It relays the desperation and panic of a child suffering at the hands of an abusive and alcoholic father. Her resilience, as evidenced by the chilling and nonchalant response to his eventual plight, is as powerful as the incoming storm. Written by the same duo who penned “Before He Cheats,” “Blown Away” is another account of a put-upon young woman seeking swift retaliation. “Some people called it taking shelter,” Underwood sings in a cool, detached tone. “She called it sweet revenge.”

“Blown Away” has one of the bolder themes to be heard on country radio in 2012, and Underwood further challenges the boundaries of the format by singing against a string-laden production with no fiddles or steel guitar in earshot. At least in these mysterious verses, it’s the right trimming for a story that raises more questions than it answers.

Perhaps surprising given her carefully manicured image—-wholesome, down-home and prom queen pretty—-Underwood is at her best when she’s exploring more complex situations. Her dramatic and forceful reading, burnished by a series of evocative details, spells out the impending doom: “There’s not enough rain in Oklahoma/To wash the sins out of that house/There’s not enough wind in Oklahoma/To rip the nails out of the past.”

It’s refreshing to hear Underwood willing to take a few risks. What’s troubling, though, is how loud and overly slick the whole thing is. Underwood can sing with power that most of her peers couldn’t approach, and her vocal range on “Blown Away” is as impressive as always. Still, her vibrant soprano must contend with the overwrought production in both the chorus and the triumphant coda. The gritty subject matter clashes often with the glossy arrangement. With a voice as strong as Underwood’s, less is more.

“Blown Away” won’t assuage the fears of those who are concerned about the state of country, and the pieces don’t fit together as seamlessly as they should, but it’s a compelling listen and qualified success for the former Idol winner.

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  1. [...] (Blake Boldt captured some of the ongoing unease nicely this week with his basically positive Underwood review that notes the record won’t “assuage the fears of those who are concerned about the state of [...]
  1. Ben Foster
    July 17, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Great review, Blake. I agree that this could have benefited from a less-is-more approach, but also agree that it is a qualified success on the strength of the songwriting as well as Underwood’s inspired interpretation. It’s always great to hear Carrie really flex her muscles as an interpretive singer instead of just going for power.

  2. Jon
    July 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    “…Underwood further challenges the boundaries of the format by singing against a string-laden production with no fiddles or steel guitar in earshot.”

    Seems a little late in the game to be calling a string-laden production with no fiddles or steel guitars a challenge to the boundaries of the format.

    “The gritty subject matter clashes often with the glossy arrangement.”

    Can you or anyone give me a compelling, convincing argument for why “gritty” – that is, serious, dark, emotionally complex, blah blah blah – material is inherently incompatible with sophisticated, complex and expertly realized – a/k/a “glossy” or “polished” – arrangements? Because there certainly isn’t an argument presented here for why it’s incompatible in this particular case, so I can only assume that the underlying belief is that no particular argument need be made since the general case is open-and-shut. And it ain’t.

  3. luckyoldsun
    July 18, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    “Can you or anyone give me a compelling, convincing argument for why …”

    It appears that “the Boldt” has declined to register for your course. I wonder why.

    Can you or anyone give a convincing, compelling argument for the “correctness” of their taste in music?
    I ain’t holding my breath.

  4. Keith
    July 20, 2012 at 2:21 am

    “Independence Day” 2.0. The only problem is that it’s a major downgrade. Like “Independence Day,” the lyrical content makes me want to love it, but unlike “Independence Day,” the production of “Blown Away” is a serious turn off. It’s sad, because like Martina, Carrie has some serious vocal talents. The only difference is that Martina could deliver a song without needing to shout above an overly-loud, obnoxious production.

  5. Jon
    July 20, 2012 at 10:44 am

    “…could deliver a song without needing to shout above an overly-loud, obnoxious production.”

    Do you think records like this are recorded live?

  6. klark
    July 21, 2012 at 5:41 am

    My only complaint with this song is the production. It made her delivery sound distant even she’s fully engaged with it. Otherwise, “Blown Away” is a good song.

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