Ten Most Disappointing Albums of 2007

Matt Clark | December 18th, 2007

The list of the most disappointing albums of the year includes a few good albums, some great artists, disappointing studio sets from veteran acts and two poor debut records. Here’s hoping that everybody does better next time.

Gary Allan - Living Hard 10. Living Hard, Gary Allan

Gary Allan is at his best when he paints outside the lines. Smoke Rings in the Dark was unapologetic Bakersfield honky-tonk and Tough All Over was gritty, raw and mournful country rock. Living Hard features some very good songs (“Yesterday’s Rain”) and some very bad songs (“Wrecking Ball”) and on the whole isn’t a bad album. Still, it all sound a little too slick for Allan. Here’s hoping that his next effort will mark a return to what he does best.

Angela Hacker - And the Winner Is... 9. Nashville Star Season 5: And the Winner Is…, Angela Hacker

I learned about all that I needed to know about Angela Hacker midway through the Nashville Star season when she threw an on-camera temper-tantrum after the judges chose “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” for her to sing on that week’s show. Hacker protested not having a song that better showed off her vocal abilities, because, “after all, this is a singing competition.” In the first few weeks of the competition, Hacker seemed like an undiscovered talent with a story to tell. Eventually, it became clear that she’s a one-trick pony content to bludgeon her way through every song with the same blanket interpretation. Her debut album showcases the worst of that tendency. That it was recorded during the show’s run and consists primarily of songs that Hacker performed on Nashville Star perhaps somewhat exonerates Hacker’s performance but makes the album even more disappointing.

Shanachie Records 8. Shanachie Records: Heartaches by the Number, David Ball; Cheap Thrills, Confederate Railroad; In a Perfect World , Gene Watson

Shanachie Record’s business plan for 2007 was to resurrect former recording stars to make albums of standard and undistinctive classic country covers. These three albums are more or less the same and the performances range from mediocre (Confederate Railroad) to good (Gene Watson). What’s more disappointing than the albums themselves is that these three artists retain nearly all their talent but aren’t being given the opportunity to record albums of original music.

Dwight Sings Buck 7. Dwight Sings Buck, Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam may be the best cover artist in the history of country music. When Dwight covers a song, it’s as if you’ve never heard it before. Under the Covers, Yoakam’s 1997 cover album, displayed his remarkable ability to improve seemingly perfected classics. Lead single “Close Up the Honky Tonks” suggested that Dwight’s tribute to Buck Owens was going to be another brilliant cover album. Instead, Dwight Sings Buck is a collection of high-fidelity reproductions of Owens classics and Yoakam sounds timidly reverent of his hero. It’s an enjoyable album, but it could’ve been a classic.

Brooks & Dunn - Cowboy Town 6. Cowboy Town, Brooks & Dunn

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn’s solo projects can’t come soon enough. This duo’s music hadn’t aged along with them, and it’s painful to listen to songs like “Johnny Cash Junkie” and the numerous and meaningless cowboy odes on this album. Ronnie Dunn’s voice deserves much better material, and on this album, only “God Must be Busy” is worthy. Kix Brooks rises from the dead to take the microphone on a few tracks and the material is good enough to suggest that his solo album should be interesting but not good enough to save Cowboy Town.

Rascal Flatts - Still Feels Good 5. Still Feels Good, Rascal Flatts

It’s awfully hard for Rascal Flatts to disappoint me anymore, but Still Feels Good earns a spot on this list because the album that Jim Malec aptly described as “vanilla” seemed to disappoint even some members of Rascal Flatts’ fan base. The only songs on the project that can even be distinguished amongst the fluffy dreck are distinctive because they’re entirely out of place and non-sensical (“Bob that Head,” “She Goes All the Way”). Even by Rascal Flatts standards, this record is bad.

Gretchen Wilson - One of the Boys 4. One of the Boys, Gretchen Wilson

An artistic improvement on the disastrous All Jacked Up, One of the Boys is still very inferior to Here For the Party. Most importantly, it’s not what Wilson desperately needed: a comeback. Wilson navigates a collection of excessively pensive ballads and meaningless rowdy songs and there’s not a radio hit among the bunch. I know that it’s shocking, but it’s time to start asking how many more major label albums we’re going to get from Wilson.

Big & Rich - Between Raising Hell & Amazing Grace 3. Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, Big & Rich

The renegade duo finally got their big radio hit in 2007 with “Lost in this Moment,” but Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace made it clear what Big & Rich had to sacrifice. It’s hard to believe that some of the painfully trite songs on this album (e.g., “Eternity”) were written by the same songwriting duo that brought us “8th of November.” Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace is probably not among the worst albums of the year, but it’s miles below the duo’s first two studio efforts.

Bucky Covington - Bucky Covington 2. Bucky Covington, Bucky Covington

I didn’t have high expectations for Bucky Covington’s debut after hearing lead single “A Different World,” but the American Idol alumnus still managed to disappoint me. Bucky Covington illustrates the pitfalls of taking an artist from the karaoke bar to stardom in 12 months. Covington’s music sounds utterly rootless, as if Bucky is searching for his soul as his debut album vacillates between faux Southern rock and insultingly pandering pop country. Covington may have some talent and could find an identity in Southern rock. However, his debut album challenges Still Feels Good for the title of most startlingly artless project of the year.

Carrie Underwood - Carnival Ride 1. Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood

I maintain that Carrie Underwood is the most talented female vocalist to hit the radio in a long time, but Carnival Ride makes that argument much more difficult. The songs on Underwood’s sophomore set are above average but not as good as one would expect when every songwriter in Nashville is pining for a Carrie Underwood cut. The album’s downfall, however, lies in Underwood’s shocking interpretive deafness. Carrie’s technical ability is undeniable, but the best songs on Some Hearts revealed a singer who, unlike some of her contemporaries, was very aware of how to use her vocal power to accentuate a great lyric. Carnival Ride sounds like it was recorded from the karaoke machine at the American Idol after party, as Carrie shouts her way through a series of overproduced tracks. It’s what I expected from Underwood’s debut album; instead, she makes an atavistic progression to Carnival Ride. It’s more of a terrible disappointment than a horrible album, but Carnival Ride demonstrates that much of the artistic maturity exuded by this overnight success was illusory and that some pronouncements about Carrie’s endless talent were premature.

  1. Lanibug65
    December 18, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I am sitting here looking at this list and I only own one of the albums – Brooks and Dunn and I did not think it was the best of their albums but not that bad….however, there is not another album on the list that I would be tempted to buy. I am not now and have never been a fan of RF or Carrie — there is just something about both of them I do not like

  2. Kelly
    December 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    I like the challenge you face here. Albums can be disappointing in multiple ways, depending on what is expected before listening, and you show that variety of expectation here. I found that many albums that I felt were good and enjoyed to an extent were still on the disappointing side. Lucinda Williams & Ryan Adams produced solid discs with several gems and trademark quality, yet I found myslef wanting more in certain cases on both discs. Maybe that feeling of wanting more isn’t actual disappointment, but it definitely isn’t fulfilling either….

  3. Bill
    December 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Gene Watson could sing Mary Had A Little Lamb and it would be a hit in my books. He’s forgotten more about country music than most of these one hit wonders and pretty boys will ever know.

  4. Chris N.
    December 18, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    How about a top 10 hysterically over-the-top, unintentionally funny tear-jerking ballads? I’ll get you started: “I’ll Walk” by Bucky Covington and “It’s Not Supposed to Go Like That” by Rascal Flatts.

  5. Peter Kohan
    December 18, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Kelly – I think it’s almost habitual to label Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams albums disappointing… then you listen to them a few times and compare them with what goes for quality these days and you end up realizing “those records were damned good.” To me, these artists suffer from being so talented that a fan like me expects to hear the equivalent of the Sistine Chapel of music on every album. But hey, that’s just my own opinion. For some, neither Ryan nor Lucinda are their bag, and that’s cool too.

    Chris N. – I’ll go back to Jason Michael Carroll for your list – “Alyssa Lies” – makes “He Stopped Loving Her Today” seem subtle in terms of narrative development. :)

  6. Kelly
    December 18, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Peter – I couldn’t agree more. I said this on my own blog a couple of weeks ago. how many artists would kill for a “disappointing” album to be as well crafted as the second, third or fourth best works from artist such as Williams, Adams, etc…Setting such high standards creates higher expectations, and I can’t blame them for not wanting to ever make “car wheels on a gravel road” or “heartbreaker” all over again, just to humor the more narrow, cynical scope of many fans.

    -My vote for unintentionally funny is any Trace Adkins song that doesnt have the word “badonkadonk” in the title. I doubt many people would assume that anything is a “thinking thang” when it somes to the wannabe apprentice.

  7. Baron Lane
    December 18, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I’m disappointed by everything anybody on your list )except Mssrs. Allen and Yoakam) ever releases. And I thought Gene Watson and David Ball was pretty dang good…but it’s your site. GO SPURS!

  8. Rick
    December 18, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Considering the average quality of the dreck coming out of mainstream Nashville these days, I think this list should have been the 20 or 30 worst or most disappointing country releases of 2007. We are relying on The 9513 to guide us through this mine field of garbage country and 10 albums just won’t cut it. My big label purchases this year were Sunny Sweeney’s “Heartbrakers Hall of Fame” (love it), Jason Michael Carroll’s debut (I like about half the songs), and Luke Bryan’s debut (mostly dreck). Thank goodness for the CMT blog steering me to JR and the Roadkill Choir! (lol)

  9. Kevin
    December 18, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    While we’re all making up lists, I nominate this for Best Line on a Country Music Blog in 2007:

    “Even by Rascal Flatts standards, this record is bad.”

  10. Sue Lawhorn
    December 18, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    You better take another listen to Gene Watson’s “In a Perfect World”. It doesn’t get any better than that. What a shame it doesn’t get air play so more people could enjoy the purest country music voice on earth.

  11. Chris N.
    December 18, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    For the over-the-top ballad list, I’ll add Luke Bryan’s “The Car in Front of Me,” which is also a good example of abusing recoloration (thanks for the word, Ben!). If you haven’t guessed before the end of the first chorus that somebody’s gonna die by the end of the song, you’ve never heard a modern country ballad.

  12. Dan
    December 18, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    I just really, really agree with this list.

  13. Paul W Dennis
    December 18, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    You are brave – I’ll give you that. Of course opinions will vary and the reviewer at TIME magazine gave the new Trisha Yearwood album only a C+

    I purchased six of the twelve albums named in your top ten. I agree with you that the Gary Allan and Carrie Underwood, and Gretchen Wilson albums are somewhat disappointing, although none of the three are is terrible. I had no expectations of the Bucky Covington album, which was a very mixed bag with some very good and some mediocre selections. David Ball is a somewhat limited singer so his CD was about what I expected

    As for the Dwight Yoakam and Gene Watson albums I could not disagree more. Dwight’s tribute to Buck undoubtedly has Buck (and Don and Doyle)looking down approvingly. As for the Gene Watson CD, I regard it as the best CD that I purchased (of about 150 country CDs) this year, bar none.

    I didn’t purchase the other CDs on your list although I have heard large portions of all of them except Angela Hacker who, from what little I have heard, is aptly named. By and large if I liked an act, then I probably would have purchased them their disc except sometimes greatest hits collections.

    How can you be disappointed in the new Rascal Flatts offering – they have yet to produce a good CD so how can one have ANY expectations of them ??

  14. Natalie
    December 19, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Mostly I agree with you. Used to love Brooks and Dunn, what happened to them? The only songs they’ve released in recent years that I enjoyed was “I Believe” and “God Must Be Busy”. Some of the other the stuff they’ve been cranking out makes me cringe, it’s beneath them. Since her first album I’ve not been able to get into Gretchen Wilson at all. Well, Rascal Flatts…I’m not going there. Where I disagree is Gary Allan. His heart can’t be broke forever so we can’t keep expecting albums like “Tough All Over” from him. As an artist this album is in the natural progression, the right progression for him considering where he is in his life. The overall theme of the album is hope with a small side of nostalgia, instead of despair and anger. Some of the cuts like “Yesterday’s Rain” still touch on that pain, but also show he is moving past it. Sure, my first trip through that CD I was a bit disappointed (totally fell in love with “Like it’s a Bad Thing” on the first listen). Once realizing it’s not fair of me to expect “Smoke Rings Part 2″ or “Tough All Over Part 2″, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

  15. Lucas
    December 19, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Ah the critics, you jerks! Just kidding!

    I don’t own any of these because I RARELY buy new CDs, saving for college and all. And NO, I don’t illegally download music.

    I think it’s pretty hard to put a album as successful as Carnival Ride on a list though.

  16. Matt C.
    December 19, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Who says that Carnival Ride is successful? If it stopped selling right now, it was be a major disappointment after Some Hearts, and it probably won’t live up to that album’s numbers. I also don’t forsee a major cross-genre hit like “Before He Cheats” and expect that the album’s country singles, while perhaps most or all of them will hit number one, won’t be as memorable or as successful as the hits from Some Hearts.

    I did consider commercial success in putting together the list (e.g., One of the Boys), but it was a very minor consideration. Carnival Ride makes the list because it was not only an artistic disappointment but caused me to radically reevaluate Carrie’s talent and potential.

  17. Peter Kohan
    December 19, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    I think various measures make an album disappointing. Bad sequencing. A lack of consistency. Production quality. But these days I don’t think you can talk about commercial sales to any great degree in that type of evaluation, because all artists seem to be on a downward trend because of larger industry factors… unless you’re on that label’s sales team and it’s an internal company expectation.

  18. USNavy Mike
    December 20, 2007 at 3:49 am

    Mike C. – Hmmmm…Carnival Ride is released on 23 OCT of this year, and hits number one on Billboard’s Country charts on 01 NOV, falling one notch down (and holding steadily) to one of rock’s legendary groups, The Eagles. Seven weeks high up on the charts and counting. I’d say Carrie Underwood is very successful with this album….to date. I beg to differ that Carnival Ride has been an artistic disappointment (let alone the number one ranking on this site). I like the album, not love it; but it sure doesn’t merit being the biggest disappointment of 2007. It would be unfair to consider any album released so late in the year such a dubious title. I think this (still very new) album still has “legs” into the new year. oh, and the American Idol karaoke jab was very mean-spirited, and far from objectivity, Mike C. Go ahead and fault her producers all you want, but her voice is what it is…no matter what album you purchase. Happy Holidays, and give Carrie a chance.

  19. USNavy Mike
    December 20, 2007 at 3:50 am

    errata – I was referring to Matt C.

  20. Chris N.
    December 20, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Speaking of sequencing, I have a theory that the Big & Rich album would have been much better received had it not been so disastrously sequenced (all the ballads first, then all the uptempo songs). Even in the iPod “shuffle” age, sequencing apparently counts.

  21. Jim Malec
    December 20, 2007 at 9:45 am

    I have a theory that the Big & Rich album would have been much better received had it not been so disastrously written (all the ballads cliche, then all the uptempo crap. Even in the iPod “shuffle” age, writing still counts.

  22. Lucas
    December 20, 2007 at 10:13 am

    The 527,000 purchases in the first week said it was successful. Debuting at number one on the Country, Canadian, and Digital Albums chart said it was successful. “So Small” skyrocketing to number one also said it was successful.

    Most importantly, being released in October and already going double platinum is more than successful, it’s insane. If you didn’t know, this album has sold more in the first week than Carrie’s previous album, which is at six times platinum right now.

    Are you honestly trying to say it’s not successful?

    You can’t bash an album if you don’t know where it’s stood. On personal opinion, you can. On sales, no way!

    I was just kidding around about the jerks thing too, I wasn’t being serious. I fully understand everybody is going to have different opinions on music – but implying it won’t be successful, well, the numbers are based on fact… and they say differently.

  23. Kelly
    December 20, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Lucas – Does the type of success you refer to indicate that it is of a high quality simply due to the numbers? As an artist, you obviously want your voice to be heard by as many as possible, but where is the line to be drawn? Do you draw the line to where you are still able to be proud of something that truly represnts you and your vision, or do yo draw it at “Me & My Gang will rock my mom and her friends mini-vans all the way to the bank!!”?? It has been said on here a million times, what is success worth if it is only measured by awards and sales? Is Dale Watson successful? Isn’t Porter Wagoners last album to be considered successful?

  24. Matt C
    December 20, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Numbers may be fact, but “success” isn’t, as it’s a subjective interpretation derived from factual measures. You seem to be referring solely to commercial success and I don’t want to dwell on that because it played very little role in formulation of the list and played no role in my assessment of Carnival Ride; that album would be at number one on the list whether it had sold 50K or 5 million to this point. Whether or not you consider 2 million sold to be succesful at this point in Carrie’s career is a matter of personal interpretation and expectations. I expect that Carnival Ride will stop a few million short of Some Hearts because I don’t foresee it getting a push late into next year from a big cross-genre hit. Of course, I could be wrong and whether or not pulling up a few times platinum short of Some Hearts constitutes a commerical disappointment is for you to decide on your own.

  25. Hollerin' Ben
    December 20, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    “I have a theory that the Big & Rich album would have been much better received had it not been so disastrously written (all the ballads cliche, then all the uptempo crap. Even in the iPod “shuffle” age, writing still counts.”

    hahahahahah, burn.

  26. Missy
    December 20, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I have to disagree with you. The new Gary Allan and Big and Rich albums, were my favorite new albums of year. Every artist progresses from where they are in life just as much as every one else does. Theirs are just lived out publicly threw the music that they make. Personally I am happy to see that Mr. Allan is in a better place in life, and Big and Rich will always be the ever changing artists that they are. They are creative and will always be trying new things. They can’t rewrite “save a horse ride a cowboy” and “the 8th of November” every time they put something new out. I always look forward to their creative new albums, because I never know what to expect other than great music. As far as Miss Gretchen Wilson goes… I wasn’t that impressed with her new album either!!! Just my opinions!!!

  27. USNavy Mike
    December 20, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Kelly – “…what is success worth if it is only measured by awards and sales?”

    ummmm…ONLY measured by awards and sales?! Do you think that maybe some vocal ability may have contributed to those awards and sales? Otherwise everyone would be doing this! Yes, that argument can go on and on in music blogs as to whether or not having a commercially successful album should be such a sin. Types of success…blah, blah, blah. Jeez, success is what it is; whether their artistic talent finds its appeal among the Grand Old Opry audience, or by simply rocking to their music with your mom in her mini-van. I’d say being at the top of your game is pretty successful. Isn’t that right, Carrie Underwood?

  28. Lucas
    December 20, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Talent is measured by ability, success is measured by sales. People with talent become successful in country, people without it simply don’t.

    Is Rascal Flatts my favorite band? Nope, not a big fan. But are they talented? Undoubtedly. Are they successful? Most artists could only DREAM of being that successful!

    You can have the best vocals in the world, if it doesn’t sell… it wasn’t a successful album. I consider talent and success to be two drastically different things.

    Do I consider Carrie Underwood to be talented, yes.

  29. Brady Vercher
    December 20, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Lucas, talent and ability seem to be fairly synonymous, so I don’t see how one can be a quantifiable measurement of the other. Furthermore, I’m sure there are quite a few people who have been successful in country music based upon hard work rather than talent alone. It may be easier with talent, but talent isn’t an indicator of success.

    Success can be measured on many different levels and sales is only one of those levels. Any album released that doesn’t strive for sales can’t be considered unsuccessful simply because it doesn’t sell well, so just because an album does sell well, it doesn’t automatically make it successful. Success depends on the context in which you evaluate it.

    Like Matt said in his commentary, “the songs on Underwood’s sophomore set are above average but not as good as one would expect when every songwriter in Nashville is pining for a Carrie Underwood cut.” So in regards to song quality, the album is unsuccessful and disappointing.

    Carrie’s technical ability is undeniable, but the best songs on Some Hearts revealed a singer who, unlike some of her contemporaries, was very aware of how to use her vocal power to accentuate a great lyric. Carnival Ride sounds like it was recorded from the karaoke machine at the American Idol after party, as Carrie shouts her way through a series of overproduced tracks.” He acknowledged her vocal ability, but in regards to showcasing her interpretive ability and topping Some Hearts, the album is unsuccessful and disappointing.

    Now as far as sales go, compared to other albums without the same numbers, it can probably be considered successful, but when comparing it to her previous album, we can’t make any such determination of success yet. If it doesn’t reach the same number of sales that Some Hearts did, does that make it unsuccessful?

  30. USNavy Mike
    December 20, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    “…but Carnival Ride demonstrates that much of the artistic maturity exuded by this overnight success was illusory and that some pronouncements about Carrie’s endless talent were premature.”

    Matt C. – I’d say you’ve all but written off Carrie Underwood’s career with that statement and ranking. Her artistic maturity was illusory? So are you saying that Some Hearts was some kind of fluke? If you were expecting Some Hearts Pt.2 in Carnival Ride, then perhaps this album would be a disappointment.

    As for the context in how success is defined, sure we can twist statistics around and make what is an obvious success into a failure (commercial vs. art for art’s sake). Based on your opinion, Underwood’s artistic interpretation is her achilles heel in Carnival Ride. A very subjective call and apparently contrary to what her audience thinks and hears….and buys!

    “It may be easier with talent, but talent isn’t an indicator of success.”

    Brady – Talent CAN be measured as an indicator of success; what it doesn’t do is guarantee you that success.

    Underwood’s seven-week old album is certainly not THE biggest disappointment in Country music to come out of 2007.

    My biggest disappointment of 2007 is having to endure lyrics that prescribe to checking one’s girlfriend for ticks!

  31. Matt C.
    December 21, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Mike, if you read my full review of Carnival Ride and other things that I’ve written about Carrie on this site, I think you’ll conclude that I have a high opinion of her talent and am not pulling a hit job on Carrie Underwood.

    I am certainly not writing off her entire career and in quoting my statement you left out one important word: “Carnival Ride demonstrates that much of the artistic maturity exuded by this overnight success was illusory.” At this point Carrie Underwood has produced, in my opinion, one good album and one bad album. The fact that the bad album succeeded the good one is why I am forced to reevaluate my assessment of Underwood’s talent and also why I feel that Carnival Ride was so disappointing. I am open to you or someone else challenging my assessment of the quality of Underwood’s new album but you need to do so by citing its artistic qualities, not quoting sales statistics. Artistic and commercial achievement are not necessarily related qualities.

  32. Natalie
    December 21, 2007 at 10:40 am

    “My biggest disappointment of 2007 is having to endure lyrics that prescribe to checking one’s girlfriend for ticks!”

    I LMAO the first time I heard that song. Worst redneck pick up line EVER. That song really had nothing to do with a relationship, that was pure lust. Aside from the clever, very original lyrics, I really dig the guitar in that song. For me, one of the top five songs of 2007.

  33. Lucas
    December 21, 2007 at 11:52 am

    I liked Ticks too. Totally in Brad’s character – make a funny and catchy song.

  34. Natalie
    December 21, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    One of the things I love about that man, he can make you cry and laugh on the same album. Really talented guy.

    Weird thing I posted that comment above, about Ticks, but I goofed somehow and my name isn’t there…or my browser is having issues. :)

  35. hairandtoenails
    December 21, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    I think the “check you for ticks” line works well in the context of the song. Its so silly, and it really grabs you the first time you hear it. In real life, of course, such a line would be pathetic. But Paisley makes it fun.

  36. Evie
    December 22, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    I love Carrie Underwood’s album, Carnival Ride, and like it more every time I listen to it. I love her new song, All-American Girl. I truly hope her album outsells Some Hearts, because your comments are so arrogant that I would love for you to have to eat crow. Her voice is great, her songs energetic, some of them even heart wrenching. There are some songs I like better than others, but to me, she outshines the other artists.

  37. Alison B
    December 27, 2007 at 7:42 am

    Chris, leave Luke Bryan off this list. Seriously. He is a brilliant songwriter, flawless southern singer, and holds every live audience captive like he is Garth in a ball cap. As for TCIFOM, yes, it is over the top. In a good way. Country has plenty of songs of tragic and untimely deaths, but Bryan gives it a twist by singing about his life of love up until that point. And if there is a better ballad lyric than “Monday wasnt meant for wearin Sunday clothes” I would love to hear it.

  38. Dudley
    December 27, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    I can understand being disappointed in Carnival Ride after hearing what Carrie can do in an acoustic setting (see especially her cover of “Bless the Broken Road” for Clear Channel Stripped) and in her live performances of songs like “San Antonio Rose” (at the 2007 Grammys) and “Stand By Your Man” (at the Opry in March 2006). I would include her recent Movies Rock performance of “The Sound of Music” in that mix, too — it qualifies as the first time Carrie made me rethink what a (very familiar) song could mean. Personally, I prefer Carrie’s voice when she dials back the power.

    That said, I have a different and less harsh assessment of Carnival Ride. Starting with where I agree with you somewhat, a little of Carrie’s belting goes a long way for me, and I do think there are a few too many songs that showcase Carrie’s belting. But I think this album also features a fair amount of good storytelling and restrained singing from Carrie. The problem is that the more nuanced singing tends to happen in the same songs that feature the belting. For example, I love what Carrie does with the verses of “Just a Dream” — I think she does a great job interpreting the lyrics and sounds gorgeous. I think her singing on the choruses works well, too. But there are those two prolonged notes towards the end of that song that I could really, really do without.

    Then there’s “I Know You Won’t” — here, I think the belting is part of a natural emotional progression in the song (from sadness to desperation), but I can see where people might think otherwise. Carrie’s singing and interpretation of the verses is especially good. Heck, take “So Small” — I think Carrie sounds beautiful on the verses, and that she does a great job of bringing a bit of vulnerability and the need to believe to the lyrics. But I can see where the extended “small” and belty third rendition of the chorus might feel like too much.

    From an A&R standpoint, I would say that maybe Carnival Ride has a few too many songs geared towards showcasing everything Carrie can do with her voice (soft/subtle -and- belting). The belting appears to overshadow the more nuanced singing on several songs for several people, so I hope that in the future, Carrie will trust herself to sing some songs acoustically and/or without that “money” belting portion. She certainly has the voice to sell such songs, and has proved it over and over again. And I think Carnival Ride provides plenty of moments where Carrie’s abilities to put over a lyric are in fine display…”You Won’t Find This” (the combination of ache and the bravado front in her voice really gets me on this one) and “Wheel of the World” are two standout examples for me. I also think Carrie fares very well on fluffier, charming fare like “Crazy Dreams” and “All-American Girl.”

    I often find myself disagreeing with Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide, but I think he nailed what Carrie and producer Mark Bright were going for when he said that this album has a contemporary country meets arena rock sound (he also said he thinks this makes perfect sense for someone whose most buzzed about AI performance was of Heart’s “Alone”). Moreover, I think the style and song selection of this album were heavily influenced by Carrie’s desire to liven up her tour setlist. Some Hearts was a very power ballad-heavy album, and I think Carrie wanted to have song choices that would bring more energy and diversity to her concerts. Her treatment of “Flat on the Floor” (for example) reflects that desire, in my view. I don’t think it’s a totally successful treatment (I think Carrie’s phrasing needed to be a bit more fluid and I think the production could have made Carrie’s performance sound more raw). In my opinion, Carrie’s live performance of this song on Good Morning America put the studio version to shame.

    Anyway, I guess the upshot is that Carnival Ride makes a bit more sense to me when I think about it in the context of Carrie’s goals for a live show. That said, I would have liked the album better if the production more closely approached the rawness and energy of a live show. I absolutely believe that Carrie has matured as an interpretive singer…I think evidence of that is there on the verses of several CR songs and also in Carrie’s live performances, but I think the album leaves some room for that increased maturity to be manifest. I’m hoping that once Carrie feels like her concert setlist is better-balanced (and after the experience of touring these songs next year), Carrie will feel freer to not always think as big with her music.

  39. derek
    January 4, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    carrie underwood is a great vocalist and she is really getting alot of people into country music who really didnt give a dam about it before. shes a big reason anybody even watches the cmas or acms.

    if you dont like her album go make your own if it is so easy

  40. Carl
    January 5, 2008 at 1:10 am

    Oh and the Carrie-hating madness never stops..

  41. Brady Vercher
    January 5, 2008 at 1:26 pm
  42. Roger
    January 5, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Hey Matt,

    I agree with your OPINIONS here, but obviously quite a few of your readers take what you say as the gospel truth and are disheartened that Carrie Underwoods album, in your OPINION, was the most disappointing of the year. : )

  43. Bill
    January 6, 2008 at 10:17 am

    The list is titled “Most Disappointing…” One listen to Carnival Ride and my heart sunk. I had high hopes and she didn’t deliver. It doesn’t matter how many albums are sold, the ALBUM itself is disappointing. Artists these days are all about the singles, not the album experience. That said, I hope the song Just a Dream doesn’t get overlooked.

    January 17, 2008 at 5:28 am

    I agree 100% with your thoughts on Carrie and Rascal Flatts.

    The hype over Carrie is crazy and if she didn’t go on American Idol we wouldn’t even know her name.

    Her new single is nothing but a screamfest just like many of her songs. So overrated and I don’t see this album even selling half of what her first album did.

    Heck Taylor’s year old album is selling more, its #1 this week. I see 3-3 1/2 million tops for this album.

    The boy band is a disgrace to country music and its a sin to even call Rascal Flatts country music artists.

  45. Rob Caterra
    February 26, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Just stumbled on here but was surprised to find your mention of the Gene Watson album as disappointing. While I understand that you don’t like that he covered a few standards, I believe it is still a very superior album to most country releases that one can hear on today’s Top 40 Country. I believe Gene is in his 60’s but he still has the most magnificent pure country voice I’ve ever heard. Personally, I found listening to his cover of Today I Started Loving You Again (with Lee Ann Womack) a refreshingly different cover and his version of “Together Again” with Rhonda Vincent is probably my favorite song on the album. Cover or not, when an artist can make it their own – why not do it. Most of his songs are not traditional covers. If they were released before you’d be hard pressed to find anyone but a critic able to point out who had the original. The songs are good choices and the man stands and delivers.

  46. Brady Vercher
    April 21, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    I was reading through this again and came across Kevin’s comment about Best Line From A Country Blog In 2007. I’d have to disagree with his choice and nominate a line from Country Universe in regards to the same band: “How can we be encouraged to stand up by a man who sings like he pees sitting down?” It makes me laugh every time I remember it.

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