Carrie Underwood – “I Told You So”
Leading up to the release of Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood’s sophomore album was lauded as having a “more country” sound than her debut. Her cover of Randy Travis’ “I Told You” surely played a part in those proclamations, and when the steel guitar weaves throughout the song it might superficially sound that way. Here, however, the arrangement does little to complement the vocal, and if it’s possible, the steel sounds a little melodramatic (or at least superfluous) for this particular lyric and performance.
Aside from the country credibility argument, which can’t be ascertained one way or the other and doesn’t affect the recording’s quality, why would Underwood record this song? The most likely explanation is to pay tribute to Travis, and though it’s not amongst his best cuts, it does fit Underwood’s style. Unfortunately, with the vocal flourishes exhibited on Carnival Ride, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Underwood had the opportunity to reinterpret “I Told You So” and create something that stood apart from the original, but instead took a cut that’s already a bit over the top and went the wrong way.
Her direction on the first verse is a little much, but impressive nonetheless, and had she continued along that path, delivering the chorus with as much toned-down pathos, she would have done a good bit toward establishing some interpretive credibility. However, this is a song that could use more heartache, and when she delivers the chorus she’s just a woman singing a song. Although technically proficient, it’s not very moving.
Underwood has shown flashes of greatness at times with her live performances of “San Antonio Rose,” “Stand By Your Man,” and a tribute to Eddy Arnold at the ACMs last year with a version of “Make the World Go Away,” though none of those performances were risky ventures that strayed too far from the originals. So her first cover as an album cut (and subsequent single release) comes as a disappointment since it doesn’t capture the understated quality of her live performances or show any inclination toward making an artistic statement.
It’s probably safe to say that “I Told You So” wasn’t marked as a single release when Carnival Ride came out, which only augments the disappointment in Underwood’s missed opportunity to sequester concerns about her interpretive ability.
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