I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard Carrie Underwood sing. It was back when I was watching American Idol (that was a long time ago) and I heard her audition for the show. Soon as she was done singing I knew I had just heard a future star and I knew she was going to win the show that year without a doubt. Her powerful and dynamic voice, plus her charming looks make record executives see money falling from the skies. Her first record, Some Hearts, she put out was quite good and decidedly country. It was on the second album, Carnival Ride, when she really took off and became a huge star. Unfortunately when artists become big stars they lose their original sound as it starts to drift to whatever is popular in the mainstream at the moment. This is what has happened to Underwood as her music has become decidedly more pop sounding and less country sounding. Not only that, but the songwriting and themes have gotten progressively worse. I can’t listening to her songs like “Cowboy Casanova,” “Undo It,” “See You Again” and “Blown Away.” To me these songs are not a true representation of Underwood’s incredible talent, which is her fantastic voice. And then she made the horrible decision of teaming up with Miranda Lambert on “Somethin’ Bad,” although I understand the reason they did it. Women are struggling to make it onto radio right now, even though Underwood has it easier than Kacey Musgraves or Brandy Clark. So when she announced she’s releasing a greatest hits album, along with a new single titled “Something in the Water,” I was hopeful she returned to her original sound and it sounded somewhat country.
Does she return to her original sound with this new single? Actually she does. The song is about someone feeling reborn and changed after being baptized in a river. It’s an appropriate return to a Christian theme for Underwood considering she’s releasing her greatest hits album and her first big hit was “Jesus Take The Wheel,” a decidedly Christian-themed song. It’s also appropriate with Underwood due to have her first child soon, so obviously with her deeply held religious beliefs she’s quite thankful at the moment. The songwriting is actually quite good in this song, so kudos to Underwood, Chris DeStefano and Brett James who wrote this song (thank you Windmills Country for this information). The song is definitely pop country, but at least there’s a banjo present in the song mixed in with the contemporary sounding pop/rock sound you hear in modern country songs. So at least this isn’t a straight pop song. The energy and pace of this song is fast and exciting, which will surely catch many listeners’ attention.
With Underwood being one of the very few female country artists with enough star power to be a hit on radio and have crossover appeal, I understand why she doesn’t release straight country music. It isn’t marketable enough for her label or brand, aka not enough money. So all I ask from Underwood with her music now is to at least sound pop country, have good songwriting and most importantly let her voice shine front and center. I think “Something in the Water” hits all of these points, so this is the best you can expect from Underwood considering the situation she is in. Someday she’ll make a straight country album and it’ll be great, but that’s many years down the road when Underwood is older and her star power fades. Her vocals were absolutely stellar on this single and wasn’t overshadowed by the production, which was a little overproduced, but didn’t overshadow the vocals. I think it has a great chance of being a top ten song that gets a lot of radio play.
I’m glad Underwood went back to a theme that represents her and she’s allowing her vocals do the heavy lifting in the song. If you don’t like pop country, you won’t like this song. If you can appreciate well written pop country and Underwood’s amazing vocals, you’ll enjoy this song.