Friday, April 20th, 2018

Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty



Stephen Eisermann: I’ve always identified closely with Carrie Underwood because of the way she’s maintained her public persona. Always choosing privacy and shadows over public openness has served her well, as she has largely remained controversy-free throughout her career, but some things are inevitable. This fall, Carrie reportedly took a gnarly fall that left her with some serious facial injuries that has left the country fashion icon with next to no confidence. She detailed how it was difficult for her to walk in front of mirrors back in December and asked her fans and the world to be gentle when she returned to the spotlight. Recent photos of her show some differences in her face, but the biggest change in Carrie’s person is seen with this song. Co-written with the Love Junkies (McKenna, Lindsey, and Rose), this song finds Carrie finally singing her story, not those of her scorned, battered, heartbroken counterparts. The first verse, with its sparse arrangement, feels like you’re sitting on the floor, legs crossed, facing your friend who is finally opening up to you after a serious event. “I’m just a girl, not usually the kind to show my heart to the world,” Carrie begins, immediately calling to attention what much of the public has said about her: reserved, cold even. Then she doubles down on the description by adding, “I keep my composure, for worse or for better.” Again, Carrie is agreeing with the public’s view on her and during my first listen, I felt my imaginary walls slowly falling as well. The song then swells into glam-rock with Carrie wailing about how it’s impossible to mask true emotion and during my first listen my heart sunk. Just as Carrie had allowed her true feelings and self to be recorded and let out, I gave myself permission to cry — and boy did I cry. I cried for every relative I still lied to about my queerness. I cried over every lost friend who said they were cool with it, but weren’t. I cried over my insecurity about where I’m at in my career and life. It all came out. Just like Carrie says, it wasn’t pretty; but with everything that’s happening and that has happened, it felt so needed. Vulnerability isn’t pretty no matter how often we call it “beautiful,” but it is necessary. Even the perfect, just-add-water pop star Carrie Underwood has finally realized that, and I look forward to what lies next for a star who just recorded the sound of her broken heart and shattered self-image. The wailing, the guitar licks, the lyrics, all of it hurts and is messy and is tragic and, above all, is real. And, flaws and all, it’s perfect.

Thomas Inskeep: Everybody knows that Carrie Underwood sings big, but she really kinda outdoes herself here. This is a stellar slice of Nashville feminism penned by Underwood herself with three of the town’s greatest songwriters, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna (talk about a murderer’s row), also co-produced by Underwood, and it balances tenderness with just the right touch of bombast. This is a declaration of intent from the biggest woman in contemporary country music; she’s not fucking around. Neither is this song. 

Edward Okulicz: Look at that line-up of writers: Carrie Underwood, Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, Lori McKenna. Listen to that overwhelming wave of a chorus and the guitar solo and Carrie belting that bridge out of the park like she’s not sure if it’s an all-time rock ballad or a spiritual. If I didn’t like Carrie Underwood’s voice and didn’t find her personality likeable, I’d call it calculated. And it probably is; everyone involved has a point to make and teary-eyed singalongs to soundtrack. Manipulation of the heart-strings is manipulation even if there’s a back story, which of course there is. But god do I love it in a corny way, and the fact that Underwood gives every big emotional moment everything she’s got, as if she needs to convince God himself as well as her audience. Her commitment turns treacle into mana.

Nortey Dowuona: The flickering guitar strums, racing past slide guitar and air-soft drums, sit around Carrie’s rough, strong voice like furniture. She soars as the guitar solo kicks in, only to be topped by Carrie swinging for the fences and knocking the ball over every stand and into the scoreboard.

Alfred Soto: I like how “Cry Pretty” turns into Guns ‘N Roses’ “Don’t Cry” by the time the guitar solo appears and Carrie Underwood outsings it as if she were Axl. Thick, assured, and impressively hysterical, “Cry Pretty” feels like the power ballad to which Underwood’s career has been building. On which chart it finds a home will be a fascinating question to answer.

Katherine St Asaph: Not sure why the full biographical-criticism authenticity spiel is being trotted out uncontested for this generic power ballad that’d be shrugged off if sang by Kelsea Ballerini or Cassadee Pope or really anyone but maybe Maren Morris. This is Carrie Underwood’s element and she’s rehearsed it to the millisecond, with cues for exactly where to ease or tighten the vocal processing. Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose have subtler work — most recently their award-winning “Girl Crush” — but here they’re less Pistol Annies than Randy, Paula and Simon, assigning a scene of nonspecific crying. Pity the hapless American Idol finalists given this song for its power-balladitude, not realizing it makes the most sense as the song you sing once voted off.

Will Adams: The gang’s all here: sweeping gesture as the spotlight comes on, I-really-mean-it guitar solo, lyrical conceit that raises eyebrows upon further inspection, and vague universality. I thought the point of American Idol was becoming so successful that you don’t need coronation ballads anymore.

Reader average: [6.23] (13 votes)

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2 Responses to “Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty”


  2. omg stephen your blurb was so beautiful

    im not crying ur crying (but really am i crying)