Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

Carrie Underwood – Love Wins

Love puts a little under four points on the scoreboard, at least…


Anthony Easton: Someone better than me should write a song about Nashville’s obsession with this kumbaya theme — a kind of neo-liberal refusal of anything but the most general, least actionable ways of changing the world. Every time I hear this shit, I return to Vivek Shraya’s brilliant rejoinder: “cause love doesn’t keep my sisters safe/so love alone won’t set us free.” (For the record, this is better than Kenny Chesney’s, but worse than Tim McGraw’s or Luke Bryan’s.)

Alfred Soto: Ever since Blown Away she’s settled for belting anthems as if from the Statue of Liberty torch. Carrie Underwood could hire the best songwriters in Nashville if she wanted a story about gay couples. The hilarious overstatement of “Love Wins” suggests she stopped seeing people years ago — she sees awards, pats on the back for courage. 

Thomas Inskeep: Carrie Underwood’s bold-type inspirational anthems are generally better-written than other huge-lunged singers’. That continues to be the case with “Love Wins,” a “Humble and Kind”-style song destined to be CMA-nominated for Song of the Year, and additionally destined to be performed on this November’s CMA Awards with a huge gospel choir backing her. But much like Dolly Parton’s “He’s Alive,” there’s nothing keeping this song on the ground, and Underwood’s vocal sends it soaring into the clouds. I generally prefer her more uptempo revenge songs (no one does them better at this point), but this “Love,” in fact, wins.

Nortey Dowuona: Heavy, ghostly guitars follow masked synths and twisting organs. Acoustic and slide guitars waft around Carrie Underwood’s authoritative croon as heavy drums ground the clouds with hailstones. Carrie plucks the hailstones while spreading the cloud over the ozone layer, as small shoots of dandelions and grass start growing all over every graveyard and city.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “Love Wins” is proud to be a rallying cry; it delivers a message, but it’s more concerned with being the messenger. “Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to keep believing there will come a day when the tears and the sadness, the pain and the hate, the struggle, this madness will all fade away.” These words are an allusion to Revelation 21, meant to flip the sacred text of anti-LGBTQ Christians on its head. The references to “brothers and sisters” and the general CCM vibes also inform this. Will certain bigots be appalled? Sure. But the real issue is how Carrie Underwood, David Garcia, and Brett James–all proud Christians–approach the subject matter. “Love Wins” has its foundations in a useless eschatology that encourages a self-congratulatory complacency, ostensibly positing that we should just hold on until we get to heaven. If not that, they’re claiming that spouting platitudes and really believing in them will be–and is–enough. You see, the world only “seems broken,” and to fix it is as simple as reciting a prayer: “Love will, love can, love still, love wins!” It’s so easy!

Katherine St Asaph: In 2014 “#LoveWins” was a Twitter hashtag about the Supreme Court (pause reading blurb to despair) legalizing same-sex marriage (albeit in legally mushy language by noted clown Anthony Kennedy). But before that, it was a slogan of the Eugene Peterson wing of liberal evangelicals, about whom the conservative Focus on the Family wing gripes that they focus too much on love and not discernment and sin. Specifically, Love Wins was the title of a 2011 book by pastor Rob Bell of megachurch Mars Hill, who caused a furor for, among other relative liberalisms, teasing the possibility that hell doesn’t exist. It is easier for a camel to go through this tiny-ass Overton window than for this context not to collapse, but there’s no way the songwriters, one of whom is a CCM writer, didn’t know it. (If for nothing else, because it’s trademarked and because at least one North Carolina ministry used the name, though it’s closed now after accusations of mismanaging money. For now, capitalism wins.) It’s canny: in two words you’ve hooked both your Bible-belt and secular audiences, both of whom Underwood needs, both reassured by glurge. And in four minutes of balladry, you’ve also reassured American Idol audiences who know every beat — down to the literal beat, that Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You” drum hit you probably just heard in your mind, which appears at the exact second you think it does.

Micha Cavaseno: As much as it’s easy to play to the choir in liberal fantasy pop, where the least amount of effort can come off as valiant, there’s something to be said about how much current-day society loves to react super-strongly against even the slightest, blandest hint of dissidence. Boomer-era rock icons who would so obviously be against the current administration are met with hisses and jeers from oblivious fans, for dully thick platitudes that feel like returns to the ’60s. Carrie Underwood, an innocuous, middle-of-the-road pop country singer, attempts a similar level of inanity with this record, a generic anthem of little substance and value beyond “Hey… Let’s Be Nice!”, but you know that somewhere, people are going to bare fangs at it. So bleak a time it is that such a vacuous, tepid song requires passionate defense and cagey media sensibilities lest SOMEONE BE OFFENDED and Carrie Underwood of all people have to justify this generalized offering of courtesy. It’s profound, despite being nothing close to that by its own merits.

Josh Love: No doubt I’m just growing more jaundiced every day thanks to Twitter, but at this point I would genuinely rather listen to a song about building a wall or enforcing mandatory minimums or blacklisting Colin Kaepernick than this mealy-mouthed, put-aside-our-differences bullshit that doesn’t correspond to how anyone is actually living their lives in 2018. To say nothing of the fact that the dewy-eyed singalongs “Love Wins” is sure to inspire in concert will consist almost entirely of comfortable-ass white people. Underwood sings hopefully of a time when “the struggle, this madness, will all fade away,” yet I doubt there are too many people who are going to hear and enjoy this song who are actually suffering through that madness.

Taylor Alatorre: It goes down easier if you think of it as a Christian song with political overtones rather than vice versa. That doesn’t negate the weird choice to stick the gospel choir in the second verse, but it at least puts that verse’s lyrics in a less hopeless context: if the task of setting up a world without tears, sadness, pain, and hate rests on mankind alone, we’re gonna be disappointed.

Katie Gill: In this political climate where certain people are actively working to strip the rights and dignity of other people, a song that says “We just need to be sisters and brothers! Kumbaya! Let’s all hope for a better tomorrow!” is a bit thoughtless. Hell, the phrase “love wins” already has a certain meaning in the American political climate: a meaning that was brought along by legislation and fighting for one’s rights, not walking together as sisters and brothers. It’s a powerful song and arranged wonderfully, but the sentiment is trite and woefully naive. Let’s go back to songs about murdering our husbands.

Reader average: [5] (8 votes)

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3 Responses to “Carrie Underwood – Love Wins”

  1. On an album full of standouts… this ain’t it.

  2. Actually, the album’s full of songs like this overstated!

  3. Disagree, Alfred!