Unless you’ve been living under a rock, a much-hyped Carrie Underwood announcement has been building in anticipation for a week. Well that event finally came yesterday evening (8/20) and we got two big announcements from Underwood. The first announcement is that she will be releasing a brand new album on October 23 titled Storyteller. The second announcement was the immediate release of the new, lead single from the album, “Smoke Break.” For those who aren’t on Twitter or happened to miss it, I highlighted the most interesting answer from Carrie’s Q&A on Facebook yesterday (which is worth a read) and it was in regards to the influence on her new album. Here it is:
I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty promising. Storytelling, traditional and twangy are the three words I like to hear in regards to a country album. This will be her first new album of completely new songs since the 2012 release Blown Away. Last year of course she released a greatest hits album with two new songs, “Something In The Water” and “Little Toy Guns.” Both singles were good, especially the former as it won a Grammy for Best Country Solo performance this past year. So this new single “Smoke Break” certainly had lofty heights to live up to, as the previous singles set the bar high.
Does it meet the standard Underwood has set? Yes. There’s definitely a twanginess to the song, so Underwood lives up to this promise at least with this song. Leading up to this announcement there were a lot of murmurs of her adding more of a rock influence to her music and that can definitely be heard here too. I’ve always said if country artists want to borrow from another genre, it should be rock, as it’s the closest to country in sonic compatibility. A combination of guitars and drums make up the instrumentation for the most part, although there is also a much welcome organ, in addition to electric guitars, that makes an appearance in the bridge of the song. I think the instrumentation does a great job of balancing between having traditional roots and having a fun enough sound for country radio.
The song itself is an ode to the working class person. The protagonists of the song are a woman and a man who both work their asses off. The woman has to work three jobs and feed four kids. She finds it hard to be a good wife, good mother and good Christian (I like to think this last part has a little snarky sarcasm). The man is trying to work his way up the ladder in the world, as he’s the first from his family to go to college. Both are clearly tired. Neither drink or smoke, but wouldn’t mind a drink or smoke break. Now some might imply this as literal, but I think the songwriters here (Underwood, Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey) are implying it’s just an expression. I’m sure many of you have heard someone utter the phrase after a long day at work, “I could use a stiff drink” or “I could use a smoke.” I don’t really do either, yet I’ve probably uttered both phrases many times. It’s just something you spit out after a frustrating day or week.
While this isn’t a serious song like the last two singles, I think it’s a nice change of pace for Underwood. She was due to release a more relaxed and fun song. I think it’s a song many people can connect with and relate to, especially the working class person. On top of that Underwood keeps the sound very much rooted in country rock, something right in her wheelhouse. When she went with a more pop sound for a while, I was disappointed as it not only sounded worse, but it didn’t sound like it fit her well either. I’m glad she’s going with something that suits her again and let’s her big voice shine. “Smoke Break” is just the type of song that I’ve been wanting to hear on country radio. I definitely recommend this song and I’m looking forward to what Underwood has to offer on her new album Storyteller.