Play On | Carrie Underwood

| Cadenza Reporter

Carrie Underwood undeniably has a cute, folksy charm. Listeners (and watchers) are instantly able to identify with her, especially when compared to other modern divas that seem psychotic and distant from reality (re. Britney Spears). She also has a fantastic voice that can be very powerful and stirring. Unfortunately, being cute and having a great voice is not enough to produce memorable and noteworthy music. This is unquestionably demonstrated throughout Carrie Underwood’s new album “Play On.” Most of the 12 tracks are so generic that they begin to blend together in a monotonous manner. They seemed designed to demonstrate Ms. Underwood’s ability to belt and lose all sense of originality. Even though some of the songs are noteworthy, the album truly fails to impress.

One of the most glaring deficiencies of “Play On” is the fact that most of the tracks are generic pop songs that do little to captivate the listener. Songs such as “Undo It,” “Songs Like This” and “Unapologize” offer nothing noteworthy. They sound listless and stale. There is little to distinguish them from any other modern pop song, and Ms. Underwood’s impressive voice cannot repair the damages. Even when Ms. Underwood tries creative flourishes to salvage a song, such as featuring the country band Sons of Sylvia on “What Can I Say,” the results are disappointing. Instead of being a heartfelt duet, “What Can I Say” becomes a vehicle for Ms. Underwood to pointlessly sing at the top of her lungs and obscure the contributions of Sons of Sylvia.

To add insult to injury, some of the most memorable songs on “Play On” are noteworthy because of their insincerity or absurdity. In  “Change,” Ms. Underwood mulls over poverty and homelessness, initially asserting, “Smallest thing can make all the difference/Love is a luck.” I was dumbfounded and confused by this conclusion, which seems non-sensical. Eventually, Ms. Underwood communicates her message that any small act of charity is noteworthy, but by that point, the song has already come across as insincere. This inability to express a meaningful thought or feeling is also present in “Mama’s Song.” Instead of writing a heartfelt song about the relationship between a mother and daughter, Ms. Underwood butchers the song and transforms it into a sappy love song in which she proclaims that she has found a man “who treats [her] like a man should.”

Fortunately, there are a few salvageable tracks on the album. Some are even memorable for their quality of musicianship. Ms. Underwood demonstrates her ability to both be charming and sing with passion on “Quitter.” Unlike most of the songs on the album, “Quitter” has a rollicking melody that is truly enjoyable. It also features one of Ms. Underwood’s most subtle and satisfying vocal performances. Ms. Underwood demonstrates her ability to be witty and perform a semi-edgy song with “Songs Like This.” Unfortunately, this charm that Ms. Underwood has is absent throughout most of the album.

Carrie Underwood’s newest release, “Play On,” is unfortunately a monotonous and listless album that does little to highlight Ms. Underwood’s vocal talents and inherent charm. Most of the album is generic and stale, offering listeners few pleasurable moments. A few of the songs do highlight Ms. Underwood’s talents, demonstrating how she can be quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between, and most of the album feels staid and boring.

Rating: 1.5/5
For fans of: Taylor Hicks, Kelly Clarkson, American Idol
Tracks to download: ‘Quitter’, ‘Songs Like This’

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