Marking ten years since she conquered the American Idol stage, country-pop artist Carrie Underwood has released her fifth studio album. “Storyteller” was released on Oct. 23 and is Underwood’s first album in three years—and her first as a new mother.
Just a decade ago, the sweet country girl from Checotah, OK took the “American Idol” stage and captured the hearts of viewers around the world. Underwood dominated the show with her small town, girl-next-door persona and her highly impressive powerhouse voice.
Kicking off her career, “American Idol” paved the way for Underwood to finally make a name for herself in the music industry. Without a doubt, she succeeded in that aspect as she quickly became one of the biggest female names in country music.
Underwood’s songs have always served to tell a story, which—hence the album name—regenerates on “Storyteller.” The ‘stories’ told on the majority of the songs on the album are seemingly fiction. Stereotypes aside, the album is undoubtedly what you would call ‘gender music,’ as the songs are generally aimed toward female listeners.
The album kicks off with “Renegade Runaway,” an upbeat track warning a young man to stay away from a girl who will take everything from him— contrasting from her past songs that often warn a girl to stay away from an unfaithful man.
“Yeah, that pretty face/ Love you, leave you, play you like a heartbreak bandit/ She’s an outlaw, a quick draw/ She’ll take it all,” Underwood sings.
Similar to previous hits such as, “Before He Cheats” and “Two Black Cadillac’s,” the song “Dirty Laundry” is a perfect example of the revenge theme, as it is about a cheating man who is caught by a woman literally looking through his dirty laundry.
“That lipstick on your collar, well, it ain’t my shade of pink/ And I can tell by the smell of that perfume, it’s like forty dollars too cheap,” she sings.
The name of the next song, “Church Bells” likely leads one to believe it is another one of Underwood’s typical Jesus-inspired tracks, however it proves to be quite the contrary. The song is actually about a young woman who marries an abusive, rich man and ends up murdering him—definitely not your average Gospel-inspired track.
The album’s lead single, “Smoke Break,” shines a light on the working class, in a song about a hard-working man and woman who are clearly tired and just need a break. This song is already a radio-hit as it successfully appeals to the desires of radio listeners, while still maintaining its country roots.
Although “Storyteller” is considered a country album, the majority of songs are much more pop and rock. Underwood pushes toward the pop side of country-pop on “Clock Don’t Stop” and combines country, rock and pop on tracks, “Chaser” and “Relapse.”
Although many of the album’s songs are fictitious, a handful of them reveal Underwood’s personal side, as she takes a break from the darker revenge anthems that fill the album. “Heart Beat” is a lovely ode to her husband that features Sam Hunt singing background vocals.
“Like I’ll Never Love You Again” is a heartfelt country-ballad that has a very sweet, genuine feel to it.
“The Girl You Think I Am” is a touching tribute to both her parents but more specifically, her father. The song begins with her memories as an eight-year-old girl singing in church and ends with grown-up Underwood praising her parents for always believing in her.
“You think I’m strong, you think I’m fearless/ Even when 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,” she sings.
This sentimental tear-jerker is the perfect father-daughter dance song that will undoubtedly be played at weddings to come.
“Storyteller” concludes with debatably the album’s best song “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted.” The song is clearly very personal to Underwood as she speaks about her feelings toward the two men in her life—her husband and infant son.
“Thought I was happy on my own/ ‘Til you came and proved me wrong/ You’re stealing every bit of my heart with your daddy’s eyes / What a sweet surprise,” she sings.
“Storyteller” will certainly bring about opposing responses from listeners, as people will either love it or hate it. As always, Underwood’s vocals undeniably shine, but the album’s major highlight is the songwriting. The production, however, is the album’s biggest disappointment as “Storyteller” is simply much more pop-rock than country.