Prime Cuts: I Told You So (With Randy Travis), Temporary Home, Something in the Water
Carrie Underwood rode on the crest of the American Idol just at the right time. Nowadays, with the ebbing popularity of the TV singing contest show, most of its winners struggle to place even a respectable hit on the chart. Most tragic was year's winner Caleb Johnson; his debut album came and went without any rustle at all. Some of them, Kree Harrison coming to mind, even have a challenging time securing a record deal despite the legions of cheering fans who voted for them. Of all the show's alumni, Carrie Underwood is the most successful. The winner of the show's fourth season, when the zeitgeist of the American Idol was at its peak, Underwood made the wise decision to go country. Embraced by a relatively more loyal cohort of fans, Underwood has had 14 #1 Billboard Hot Country Songs spanning over the last decade. Currently, she has also secured her first #1 Christian song with "Something in the Water."
"Greatest Hits: Decade #1" is a retrospective collection that spreads over 2 discs. Consisting of her biggest hits from all her four studio albums, the set also boasts two new songs ("Something in the Water" and "Little Toy Guns"), a live version of the hymn "How Great Thou Art" with Vince Gill, and three demo versions of her hits ("So Small," "Last Name" and "Mama's Song"). Grant that "American Idol" did give Underwood the initial push into stardom, but at the end of the day, it's still Underwood and her songs that secured her her longevity and her continued successes. So, what is it about Underwood that made her gain traction with country radio all these years? Let me elucidate just two reasons.
First, Underwood is not afraid to sing beyond the narrow dictatorial confines of country radio. While many of Underwood's peers are singing about transient issues such as drinking by the riverbank, crushing beer cans with their armpits, and wasting their lives away in Blue Chair Bay, Underwood sings about issues that matter. In a time of darkness, Underwood offers a message of hope with her current single "Something in the Water." A bold anthemic song without the slightest tip to political correctness, "Something in the Water" speaks of how Jesus Christ changes our lives. While the album second new song "Little Toy Guns," a busy pop-country number, deals with the umbrageous issue of domestic abuse. Underwood who was inspired by Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," Underwood addresses the fleeting existence of our life here on earth with the powerfully moving ballad "Temporary Home." Not forgetting Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel," her first foray into country radio, where she was not afraid of speaking about letting Jesus reign in her life.
Second, Underwood is not afraid to be versatile in her approach to music. While many artists refuse to move into unfamiliar sonic territories, Underwood is not afraid to stretch herself. On one hand, Underwood does give fans what she does best: big and bombastic ballads. Over the years, she has given us aplenty from the morose "See You Again" to her inspirational Diane Warren-styled ballad "Inside Your Heaven" to the beautiful cover of Randy Travis' ode of regrets "I Told You So." But Underwood has also kept abreast with the times. Listening to this greatest hits, one can't help but notice how the beats get louder with her latter output. She also indulges more into darker themes with the macabre murder ballad "Two Black Cadillacs" and the alcoholic abusive "Blown Away." "Blown Away" is so graphic in its narrative perspicuity that you can't help but feel the wind blowing across your face as she sings.
For those who have never owned an Underwood album, "Greatest Hits: Decade #1" is great introduction. And for those who are avid fans, it's still a great way to hear her growth, complexities, variety and the consistency all in one collection.
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