It’s hard to believe but Carrie Underwood has only been around for ten years. It was ten years ago that she won American Idol. Ten years ago since she won the hearts of millions.
She’s been killing it for ten years. “Storyteller” is Underwood’s fifth studio album and with it becomes the lofty expectation of being just as valuable to the discography as her previous four.
The beauty of every Carrie Underwood album is the emotional versatility she displays so effortlessly. If it’s a story about love, pain, loss, revenge – it doesn’t matter – she puts in the same pure emotion into every word on every track. This is why her music has so easily crossed over from country to mainstream – while still being true to her country roots.
On “Church Bells” Carrie is able to revive the same kind of feeling she dished out on her 2012 single “Two Black Cadillacs,” and here she tells a story of a woman who is abused by her wealthy husband. Carrie is able to pull off “murder” and make it sound cold and at the same time beautiful: “Jenny slipped something in his Tennessee whiskey/No law man was ever gonna find/And how he died is still a mystery/But he hit a woman for the very last time.”
“Renegade Runaway” is the kind of song that can boost the confidence of the most timid girl you know. The song depicts a girl, who is a heart-breaker and bad news all around – but it doesn’t stop her from being desired and chased wherever she goes. The drums roll at a fierce pace during the chorus and Carrie matches it’s intensity with a little bit of a growl in her voice.
Underwood plays the role of a girl in a relationship with someone who rather be with someone else in “Chaser.” The bridge to the song is weak, but the chorus is strong enough that you’ll ignore those ten seconds so the song gets to it’s strong finish. “Clock Don’t Stop” isn’t anything new musically or topically (a couple gets into an argument or something. . .) but the great thing about this song is something most people won’t recognize as pure vocal greatness.
In the first line of the chorus she says “The clock don’t sto – ah – ah, op ticking away,” and it’s right there in the obvious stutter in the word “stop” where she effortlessly performs a pitch change that’s at a level of difficulty most singers could not handle.
“Choctaw County Affair” has a nice bass kick to it, but it’s a typical country stadium song that goes nowhere. Another song that goes nowhere is “Heartbeat.” It just isn’t interesting structurally and gets lost in itself.
Better production would’ve helped, because it is actually beautifully written with lyrics like : “And tonight I wanna drive so far we’ll only find static on the radio/And we can’t see those city lights and I love the way you look in a firefly glow/Saying everything without making a sound, a cricket choir in the background, underneath a harvest moon/Standing on your shoes in my bare feet, dancing to the rhythm of your heartbeat.”
It will be great to see if “Relapse” becomes released as a single because there is so much depth to this song. From the back ground vocals, the drum rolls in the pre-chorus and the theatrical feel to Carrie’s voice makes this track one of the album’s stand outs.
Carrie compares an alcoholic’s issues with drinking to going back to a lover that is no good to her : “I don’t have to have you/I don’t need to need you/Just a high that I’m chasing/Don’t think I’m coming back/
It’s just a relapse.”
Another track that stands out (easily) is the emotionally driven “The Girl You Think I Am.” It’s a ballad focused on the father-daughter relationship. This is perfect for weddings, when it’s time for the bride to dance with her father and everyone looks on holding their chest and holding back tears of joy.
It’s that real.
Carrie has a talent of holding notes for the perfect amount of time and has always worn her heart on her sleeve. Her vulnerability sells her, just as much as her voice does: “You think I’m strong, you think I’m fearless/Even when I’m, I’m at my weakest/You always see the best in me when I can’t/I wanna be the girl you think I am.”
There is no doubt that Carrie Underwood’s voice is one of America’s greatest natural resources. The songs that aren’t that exciting on this record would probably sound amazing for other artists, but Carrie’s bar is raised because of who she is.
Also, there is not one true power-ballad on “Storyteller” which is disappointing and there are times when it seems as if she’s “holding back” when she can just let it rip. Regardless, there is nothing she can’t sing and there isn’t an emotion she can’t make you feel. Consistency, has been her key for the last ten years.
Rating 7 out 10