Songwriters: Chris Tompkins, Josh Kear
Though Carrie Underwood has released a fair amount of tepid material over the past few years, her new album Blown Away hints strongly at a restless creative spirit beginning to bubble up underneath that powerhouse voice. This is particularly evident on the album’s title track, which has been slated as its second single.
With this ambitious new release, Underwood ventures into the thematic territory of domestic abuse with a harrowing tale of a girl claiming revenge on her violent alcoholic father. When a twister touches down on the family’s Oklahoma residence, the protagonist takes cover in the cellar while her father lies passed out on the couch, allowing the storm-ravaged house to collapse on top of him. The lyric invests a sense of symbolism in the events it describes, building on effective metaphors between the destruction of the house, and the protagonist moving on in the wake of her tortured past. It adds up to one of the most complex and engaging lyrics Underwood has tackled yet, which will undoubtedly make it a sharp standout on country radio.
Though “Blown Away” doesn’t quite reach the spine-tingling heights of Martina McBride’s flawless “Independence Day,” it represents significant growth as an interpretive singer on Underwood’s part, as she gives an empathetic delivery that imparts a sense of humanity to the desperate protagonist who takes extreme measures to preserve herself. Though it’s all too easy for a big-voiced singer of Underwood’s caliber to veer off toward ill-advised power notes, “Blown Away” finds her striking a balance between power and nuance, ably stepping up to the role of a storyteller as well as a singer.
Why producer Mark Bright felt to need to slap on unnecessary, distracting reverb effects on Underwood’s otherwise solid vocal is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t necessary sink the record, but it acts as a barrier between the song and the listener, and it takes focus off of Underwood’s committed, dynamic performance. Other than that, the arrangement, which tastefully incorporates a few orchestral touches, is generally effective at conveying a sense of intensity and urgency to fit the dark lyric.
“Blown Away” may be a bit rough around the edges, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of Underwood’s most interesting and challenging single releases to date.