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Carnival Ride

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Album Review

The pivotal American Idol moment for Carrie Underwood was when she teased her hair to the heavens and sang Heart's "Alone," belting out the power ballad with sincerity and a natural flair for drama. It was the surest sign that Carrie wasn't merely the country star the show gladly pigeonholed her as, that she was a pop star by any measure. Of course, the great irony was that Carrie had little interest in being a pop star; she wanted to be a country singer, but the sheer magnitude of American Idol meant that she was already a pop star who needed to cross over to country, a reverse of the usual crossover move. Underwood pulled off that tricky maneuver with a deceptive ease on her 2005 debut, Some Hearts, which turned into a smash success, turning sextuple platinum at a time when many albums struggle to go gold, even surpassing the sales of the original Idol, Kelly Clarkson. Such success raised the bar for her 2007 follow-up, Carnival Ride. Traditionally, second albums are a place where artists consolidate their strengths or expand their reach, either with an eye toward artistic growth or commercial success, and Carrie chooses the former option, creating a record that is more purely country than her debut. She dials down the pageantry drama that peppered her debut — there are no Diane Warren songs, for instance — and plays up her humble, all-American persona, singing songs about small towns and big dreams, even attempting to kick up some dirt and grit on the one-night-stand anthem "Last Name," which is Miranda Lambert filtered through Shania Twain. And one of the striking things about Carnival Ride is how completely Carrie Underwood has stepped into the void that Shania and Faith Hill left behind: the small-town girl made good but who hasn't left her roots behind. In other words, she hasn't made the big pop diva move that Shania did with Up! or Faith with Cry; she's planted herself firmly within country. Now, Carrie's country is hardly traditionalist — despite the lack of Diane Warren tunes, there are plenty of power ballads here, along with light drum loops that aren't commonly heard in Nashville — but her approach is completely contemporary country, in how it blurs the borders between country and arena rock, something that's perfect for a girl who made her first big splash singing Heart. Sound and feel do mean a lot, but country records really survive on the strength of their songs, and the remarkable thing about Carnival Ride is that it's stronger song for song than Some Hearts, some of this due to Carrie herself, who bears four songwriting credits here, often in conjunction with some permutation of Steve McEwan and Hillary Lindsey, who pen a bunch of other tunes here. The songs may veer just a bit too close to the big power ballads, but they all work as strong pieces of commercial country, built on surging melodies (all the better for Carrie to belt) and lyrics that play into Underwood's small-town girl persona but are also open-ended enough to be relatable. All this very well may be more calculating than it appears, but the appealing thing about Carnival Ride is that it plays so smoothly and assuredly that you just go along for the ride, especially because Carrie sells these songs completely, making the clichés and cornball phrases believable. It's a gift that Shania had, but she always seemed larger than life. In contrast, Carrie Underwood only sounds larger than life, and she still comes across like the girl next door despite her massive success, and this lingering sense of innocence — however constructed for stage it may be — gives an album as big and shiny as Carnival Ride the appearance of a genuine heart, something that no other big country-pop album has had since the glory days of Come on Over.

Customer Reviews

A Ride To Never Forget

Carrie Underwoods sophomore album delivers another brilliantly produced contemporary country sound that fans will love - just like her first album Some Hearts. She has an amazing voice and is almost flawless when performing live. This album sticks to the same vibes as Some Hearts - clever storytelling lyrics and great melodies. For fans of Carries' huge hit Before He Cheats, why not try Last Name from this album. A big ballad fan??? - try So Small, Just A Dream, I Know You Won't & You Won't Find This I Told You So is a cover of the Randy Travis hit. Up-tempo tunes come from Flat On The Floor, All-American Girl, Get Out Of This Town, Crazy Dreams, The More Boys I Meet (The More I Love My Dog!!!! ha ha) & Twisted A lovely relaxed ending is from Wheel Of The World - where you will find the words CARNIVAL RIDE!!!!! - random fact for you there! I am a huge fan of Carrie so it is great to see her now on the UK iTunes - without really promoting herself over here. I know country isn't really big over here but I think it should be cos I love it!!!!

Carrie Delivers Again!

It's nice to see that iTunes has finally added Carrie to the store - now you just need to add her debut album Some Hearts. Carnival Ride is Carrie's second offering of top-notch modern country songs that matches, if not exceeds, her debut album. Like Some Hearts, there are some ballad-esque tracks and some fun, up-tempo numbers for you to enjoy. Although I personally find some of the songs quite forgettable and boring, I don't think there's any spanners thrown in the works for anyone to complain about. My personal favourites: Flat On The Floor So Small Just A Dream Get Out Of This Town I Know You Won't Last Name All in all, those of you who were fans of Carrie's debut album Some Hearts are going to love this album, either less or more. Once again, Carrie delivers some cracking story-telling tunes with great vocals and emotions and manages to deliver country music in a new perspective to reach larger audiences. If you've never heard of Carrie before and you're a Pop/RnB fan, then I strongly recommended you give this album a shot or at least download some of my favourite tracks as Carrie is a fantastic talent that deserves more recognition in the UK.

Carrie's powerful voice is not So Small

Carrie is the best female voice there is in music today. She perfectly mixes Traditional Country like the Randy Travis song I Told You So (where she is helped by Country Music Hall Of Fame member Vince Gill on backing vocals), the Country-Rock of Ashley Monroe's "Flat On The Floor", echoes of Dolly Parton on "Crazy Dreams" and the Country-Pop sound of Wheel Of The World and So Small. In terms of vocals the best track is "I Know You Won't" where she shows off just how good her voice is. If you like good music, and even if you think you don't like Country, buy a couple of these songs and see what you're missing out on!


Born: 10 March 1983 in Muskogee, OK

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s, '10s

It's true that Carrie Underwood sprang to fame as an American Idol winner, but her career needs to be defined in the context of country superstars instead of reality-show contestants. Her millions of records sold, her dozens of awards, her many record-breaking feats on the charts, and her status as one of the most powerful people in the music business all testify to her staying power beyond American Idol. Underwood grew up in the small town of Checotah, Oklahoma, and began singing with her church...
Full bio
Carnival Ride, Carrie Underwood
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