“Smoke Break” feels like a departure from Carrie Underwood’s latest material, at least in the production aspect. Past singles such as “Blown Away”, “Something In The Water”, and “Little Toy Guns” all had very Pop leaning sounds, where “Smoke Break” is a more vintage Country-Rock style. Now, normally, Pop leaning songs in the Country genre often fall flat, mainly because they have little to no Country resemblance within them, and are just simply annoying. Carrie Underwood is a rare example of an artist who can take songs like the above mentioned, and add elements that make the songs rooted in Country, adding a much needed balance. Carrie does this best by adding storytelling elements, one of the most important aspects of Country music history. And, as you can guess from the title of her new album, that aspect isn’t going away, in fact, Carrie promises to even make this album more “twangy” and even traditional. Time will tell about the album, but for right now, “Smoke Break” “carries” (ha get it?) the torch of adding highly relatable stories into one song. This one in particular revolves around a single mother who is working hard to provide for four kids. She doesn’t smoke or drink but she’d like to. Now, after reading other reviews, I can see that this line is debatable. I read it as a simple expression, a metaphor for stating that she’s tired and needs a break rather than actually smoking and drinking to repress her troubles. It reminds me a bit of the message in George Strait’s, “I Hate Everything”. The other person involved is a man who is the first one in his family to go to college. He is feeling the pressures of trying to make it up the financial ladder, and much like the woman, he needs a break. This song isn’t quite as serious as her last two, but it still embodies a strong message that should appeal to radio (and she did without turning the song into a clichefest…..In 2015 this is something I’m forced to commend sadly). If there is any criticism I’m forced to make on the song, it’s that the production forces the melody to get a tad lost at times.
Although Bro-Country isn’t the No.1 trend in Country music right now, ghosts of its past still linger around on the airwaves. Before you think you’ve stumbled upon another review, let me make this clear, this song is the opposite of that trend. Bro-Country depicts life as one big, drunk party where everyone is in la la land. “Smoke Break” depicts life as it truly is – a stressful SOB that everyone needs an escape from every once in awhile. Actually, with its Country-Rock style, this song defies the current trend of incorporating R&B and Pop sounds into Country as well.
“Smoke Break” isn’t a song of the year type of song, but it still could be one of the most important. The song feels more like a hit than her last two, and as the first single from new music from Underwood, perhaps we could see the tides shift in Country music back to more meaningful, heartfelt songs. Even if it doesn’t, “Smoke Break” is still an excellent song and shows an A-lister taking charge, something that we desperately need right now.
Listen: “Smoke Break”
Author: Zackary Kephart