Carnival Ride

Carnival Ride

4.6 96
by Carrie Underwood

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The pivotal American Idol moment for Carrie Underwood was when she teased her hair to the heavens and sang Heart's "Alone," belting out the power ballad with sincerity and a natural flair for drama. It was the surest sign that Carrie wasn't merely the country star the show gladly pigeonholed her as, that she was a pop star by any measure.See more details below


The pivotal American Idol moment for Carrie Underwood was when she teased her hair to the heavens and sang Heart's "Alone," belting out the power ballad with sincerity and a natural flair for drama. It was the surest sign that Carrie wasn't merely the country star the show gladly pigeonholed her as, that she was a pop star by any measure. Of course, the great irony was that Carrie had little interest in being a pop star; she wanted to be a country singer, but the sheer magnitude of American Idol meant that she was already a pop star who needed to cross over to country, a reverse of the usual crossover move. Underwood pulled off that tricky maneuver with a deceptive ease on her 2005 debut, Some Hearts, which turned into a smash success, turning sextuple platinum at a time when many albums struggle to go gold, even surpassing the sales of the original Idol, Kelly Clarkson. Such success raised the bar for her 2007 follow-up, Carnival Ride. Traditionally, second albums are a place where artists consolidate their strengths or expand their reach, either with an eye toward artistic growth or commercial success, and Carrie chooses the former option, creating a record that is more purely country than her debut. She dials down the pageantry drama that peppered her debut -- there are no Diane Warren songs, for instance -- and plays up her humble, all-American persona, singing songs about small towns and big dreams, even attempting to kick up some dirt and grit on the one-night-stand anthem "Last Name," which is Miranda Lambert filtered through Shania Twain. And one of the striking things about Carnival Ride is how completely Carrie Underwood has stepped into the void that Shania and Faith Hill left behind: the small-town girl made good but who hasn't left her roots behind. In other words, she hasn't made the big pop diva move that Shania did with Up! or Faith with Cry; she's planted herself firmly within country. Now, Carrie's country is hardly traditionalist -- despite the lack of Diane Warren tunes, there are plenty of power ballads here, along with light drum loops that aren't commonly heard in Nashville -- but her approach is completely contemporary country, in how it blurs the borders between country and arena rock, something that's perfect for a girl who made her first big splash singing Heart. Sound and feel do mean a lot, but country records really survive on the strength of their songs, and the remarkable thing about Carnival Ride is that it's stronger song for song than Some Hearts, some of this due to Carrie herself, who bears four songwriting credits here, often in conjunction with some permutation of Steve McEwan and Hillary Lindsey, who pen a bunch of other tunes here. The songs may veer just a bit too close to the big power ballads, but they all work as strong pieces of commercial country, built on surging melodies (all the better for Carrie to belt) and lyrics that play into Underwood's small-town girl persona but are also open-ended enough to be relatable. All this very well may be more calculating than it appears, but the appealing thing about Carnival Ride is that it plays so smoothly and assuredly that you just go along for the ride, especially because Carrie sells these songs completely, making the clichés and cornball phrases believable. It's a gift that Shania had, but she always seemed larger than life. In contrast, Carrie Underwood only sounds larger than life, and she still comes across like the girl next door despite her massive success, and this lingering sense of innocence -- however constructed for stage it may be -- gives an album as big and shiny as Carnival Ride the appearance of a genuine heart, something that no other big country-pop album has had since the glory days of Come on Over.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Kelefa Sanneh
It’s a straight-up Carrie Underwood album, and a very good one, with a handful of romps and laments that exist mainly to set the stage for the big-voiced, ’80s-influenced, Southern-accented power ballads she sings so well.
Rolling Stone - Rob Sheffield
Carnival Ride is more country and therefore more confident. She goes for the girl-next-door cred long since given up by Faith Hill in uptempo gems like "The More Boys I Meet" ("The more I love my dog").
Entertainment Weekly - Leah Greenblatt
Carnival Ride covers its bases impeccably, from the roof-raising opener ''Flat on the Floor'' to the gorgeous, torchy ballad ''I Know You Won't'' and the already-massive anthem ''So Small.'' [B+]
Washington Post - Bill Friskies-Warren
As on her previous album, Underwood's voluptuous soprano is the main event.... There's no denying the power and beauty of Underwood's instrument, a strapping and supple voice akin to those of Yearwood and Martina McBride.
Newsday - Glenn Gamboa
[Grade: B] "Carnival Ride" goes down extraordinarily easy - lots of lush, inspirational ballads that make the most of her gorgeous voice and a handful of rock-tinged up-tempo numbers about getting out of town or following your dreams.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Carrie Underwood   Primary Artist,Background Vocals
Jack Jezzro   Bass
Eric Darken   Percussion
John Catchings   Viola
Matt Chamberlain   Drums
Paul Franklin   Dobro,Steel Guitar
Vince Gill   Background Vocals
Carl Gorodetzky   Violin
Jim Grosjean   Viola
Charles Judge   Organ,Synthesizer,Strings,Hammond Organ,Lap Steel Guitar
Anthony LaMarchina   Viola
Chris McHugh   Drums
Nashville String Machine   Strings
Craig Nelson   Bass
Pamela Sixfin   Violin
Jimmie Lee Sloas   Bass
Alan Umstead   Violin
Catherine Umstead   Violin
Gary VanOsdale   Viola
Kris Wilkinson   Viola
Jonathan Yudkin   Bass,Fiddle,Mandolin,Violin,Cello,Viola,Track Performer
Aubrey Haynie   Fiddle,Mandolin
Jimmy Nichols   Synthesizer,Piano
Lisa Cochran   Background Vocals
Keith Nicholas   Viola
Gordie Sampson   Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Piano
Monisa Angell   Viola
Karen Winkelmann   Violin
Julie Tanner   Viola
Bruce Christensen   Viola
Cate Myer   Violin
Gerald Greer   Violin
Betty Small   Violin
Wes Hightower   Background Vocals
Tom Bukovac   Electric Guitar
Connie Ellison   Violin
Carole Rabinowitz-Neuen   Viola
Carrie Bailey   Violin
Denise Baker   Violin
Beverly Drukker   Violin
Dave Angell   Violin
Ilya Toshinsky   Acoustic Guitar,Banjo
Erin Hall   Violin
Hillary Lindsey   Background Vocals
Sari Reist   Viola
Zeneba Bowers   Violin
Mike Johnson   Steel Guitar

Technical Credits

Randy Travis   Composer
Cathy Dennis   Composer
Derek Bason   Engineer
Barry Dean   Composer
Charles Judge   Programming,Loop
Gordon Kennedy   Composer
Chris McDonald   Arranger,Composer
Jonathan Yudkin   Arranger,Composer
Mark Bright   Producer
Neil Thrasher   Composer
Brett James   Composer
Tom Shapiro   Composer
S. Wade Hunt   Art Direction
Wendell Mobley   Composer
Gordie Sampson   Composer
Chris Lindsey   Composer
Kelley Lovelace   Composer
Aimee Mayo   Composer
Steve McEwan   Composer
J.R. Rodriguez   Engineer,Digital Editing
Hillary Lindsey   Composer
Troy Verges   Composer
Carrie Underwood   Composer
Ashley Monroe   Composer
Judy Forde Blair   Liner Notes,Creative Producer
Nathan Dickinson   Digital Editing
Ashley Gorley   Composer
Luke Laird   Composer
Hank Williams   Mastering
Hillary Lindsay   Composer

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