Carrie Underwood’s ‘Cry Pretty’ Filled With Regret, Bad Decisions + Heart Hurt
Sonically, Carrie Underwood's new Cry Pretty album isn't as bold as her nuanced themes. The 35-year-old's sixth studio album is — as promised — a more mature album that at its best works between the crevices of emotions.
Songs like "Backsliding," "That Song That We Used to Make Love To" and "Drinking Alone" are complicated concepts presented effortlessly. Where before Underwood has worked in broad strokes, she now paints with a finer brush, showing an ability to relay more complex ideas that might frighten another woman in her situation. To embrace "That Song That We Used to Make Love To" is to admit there's someone in your past you think about during intimate moments. That's nearly universal, but many are afraid to bring such vulnerability to the surface like the singer does during this soulful, pop-country arrangement.
“It just takes me to the place when you were mine / When you laid my body down and got drunk on me like wine," Underwood sings during the first verse of a signature song on Cry Pretty. The personal intimacy of that lyric is something she'd have shied away from on previous albums. It's raw and sexual and a marriage of remorse to desire. It's also part of a group of four straight songs that smile at bad decision making.
Not every song is so emotionally complex. In fact, four of the final five songs on Cry Pretty are blunt emotional hemorrhages that take on easier-to-talk-about ideas like gun control, alcoholism and social acceptance. Underwood is doing her best to keep "The Bullet" out of political conversations, but it's hardly going to become the NRA theme song. "Kingdom" closes the album with a peek inside her household. Much like "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted" on Storyteller, Underwood reflects on the surprising joys of motherhood.
Some of the most interesting lyrics come early on songs like "Ghosts On the Stereo" and "Low," a swelling heartbreaker that's as poetic as any she's released to date.
"Like a cigarette without a light / Like a whippoorwill without the night / A broken buzz that's lost it's high / Baby that's what I feel like," Underwood sings over an acoustic guitar. The ballad is also a microcosm of what she and David Garcia do sonically on Cry Pretty. Several tracks begin to clear new space before coming back to what she does best. Most, if not all, reach that cathartic vocal climax her fans admire and detractors are weary of. This may be her finest album to date, but she still has room to learn the art of subtlety.
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