Carrie Underwood on the other hand is one of the few artists willing to debunk that theory, with others including Eric Church and ... wow, that might be it. Say what you will about her music whether you like it or not, but Underwood makes her fans miss her and wonder where she's been. Of course, that's not to say it's totally positive. You can also have media hounds wanting to see pictures of her face after her fall to see what she looks like now instead of how she actually is, but that's in the past.
I bring up that last part to show how it could have potentially helped frame "Cry Pretty," because instead of a story song this time around, Underwood delivered a shockingly personal, vulnerable tune.
For the most part (at least at the beginning), this song is mostly restrained, making me wonder about the claims that Underwood went full on Pop or some other asanine statement like that. I mean, a happy Pop-Country balance has always been her cup of tea, but I digress. There's some electric guitar strumming, some faint pedal steel that kicks in a little ways in as well as a drum-like effect that sounds like someone hitting a can. In honesty, it doesn't fit well with the song, and if the first two elements had been what remained, it would have sounded a little better.
Once the chorus kicks in, it enters a comfortable ballad territory for Underwood, the electric guitars kick it up a notch, with the pedal steel remaining to help carry the more vulnerable nature of the track. With the exception of a well-done guitar solo, this fits comfortably not only in the current Country landscape, but also well within Underwood's discography.
Because this is a more vulnerable track as well, Underwood mostly handles herself very well vocally. She has a tendency on other songs to start belting, and while that talent is admirable, she shows that she's best when she's quieter and exposed like this.
Lyrically, we also explore a more defenseless side of Underwood, one where she admits that she's a human who has emotions like the rest of us. You can lie and smile to fake when you're down, but when you're alone crying, that's when the dam breaks, and more importantly, that's alright for everyone to do.
I do wish the lyrics had a little more meat to them. The message is received, but with only two verses (one of which is considerably short), the song doesn't quite take off the way it should, with the hook ultimately being a tad unmemorable. Even after the first verse, we turn the attention away from Underwood and onto advice for anyone going through these emotions, and again, I just wish it pushed itself a little to explore those emotions on a deeper level.
Despite that though, in terms of every other area, this is a top-notch single from Underwood, displaying great production and a vocal performance that's excellent. This shouldn't be touted as a "comeback" considering Underwood simply hasn't released music in three years (which isn't THAT long), but hey, if it's ultimately giving more attention to a good song, I'll take it.
Listen: "Cry Pretty"
Author: Zackary Kephart