Over here in the UK, reality TV talent show winners don’t have a fantastic pedigree, with The X-Factor, Pop Idol and now The Voice getting lots of press but producing very few real talents. Certainly no solo artist who could hold a candle to American Idol winner Carrie Underwood and her latest album Blown Away shows why.
One thing I’ve noticed from watching shows like American Idol is how talented some of the people who get rejected in the auditions are, especially when you compare them to some of the people who get into the finals of UK shows, so clearly you have to be good to succeed. And Carrie Underwood is very good indeed, blessed with a powerful tornado of a voice.
Having a good voice is no guarantee of being a good singer and recording artist though, you need the songs to sing too and the character to make them your own. In the first three tracks of Blown Away, Underwood demonstrates all those things with room to spare, from the opening blast of Good Girl to the emotional hurricane of Blown Away (enough wind-related puns yet?) and the classy country murder ballad of Two Black Cadillacs.
It will be interesting to see how Blown Away does in the UK, because it’s been quite heavily promoted, but the country side of her music has not been hinted at, which could come as a bit of a shock to any ‘cowboy-hat averse’ pop fans. Shania Twain, Taylor Swift and Dixie Chicks have all achieved some success over here in the past, but only ever quite briefly, and a lot of this album is a lot more country than UK audiences tend to be comfortable with.
But it would be a shame if it got discounted for that, because while there is a bit of filler on there, there’s also some fantastic songs, like ballad Forever Changed, wistful Thank God For Hometowns and riotous hoedown Cupid’s Got A Shotgun, which packs as much fun into its three-and-a-quarter minutes as any other song you’re likely to hear this year.
Blown Away has got the usual big names in the writing credits (alongside Underwood’s name on most tracks, it has to be said), like Ryan Tedder and Mutt Lange, but it’s very much her own album. Big, bold and brassy, it’s not afraid to be country, but also rock out and deliver power ballads too, and all the songs are driven along by her engaging vocals. Along with the likes of Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood is demonstration that American TV talent shows do sometimes churn out real talent.
Neneh Cherry was a familiar face and voice in the early-to-mid 90s, but has disappeared off the scene altogether in the 16 years since her last album. The Cherry Thing isn't likely to put her back on top, but it's great to have her back.