Song Review: Carrie Underwood, “Cry Pretty”

Never has a song tried so hard and made me feel so little.

Despite running this blog for over a year and a half, this is my first chance to review a Carrie Underwood single, which seems impossible to fathom. Underwood exploded out of the gates with her American Idol victory in 2005 and has been a major force in country music for over a decade, but a lot has happened since her last single “Dirty Laundry” came out in late 2016: A family-driven hiatus, a label change, a slew of collaborations (“Forever Country,” “The Fighter,” “The Champion”), and a serious accident that left her with a broken wrist and over 40 stitches in her face. Now, however, Underwood is rested, recovered, and ready to return to the radio with “Cry Pretty,” the leadoff single for her upcoming sixth album, and…well…it’s okay, I guess? As much as I enjoyed Underwood’s material in the past, I have to admit: This song doesn’t move me at all.

The production starts small (a bit too small, honestly, as the guitar is really hard to hear), opening with only Underwood singing over a dark, methodical electric guitar. Things ramp up in a hurry, however, as an affected drum set and a steel guitar jump in halfway through the first verse, and the whole mix (including Underwood herself) gets cranked up to eleven for the choruses, guitar solo, and extended outro. For all the noise and volume, however, the song’s slow tempo and waltz time seem to drain it of all its energy, making the track feel hollow and superficial instead of deep and moving. You can practically feel the musicians straining as they try to pump life into the tune, and yet for me, it just flows in one ear and out the other without leaving any impression at all.

Carrie Underwood is perhaps the most talented artist we’ve seen in country music since the turn of the millennium, so her failure to connect with the listener here is completely baffling. Her range and power remain stellar and unmatched, and though some of the “cryyyyyyyyy pretty” phrases feel a bit awkward, she’s mostly on point here as well. She’s also as earnest and believable as ever, and plays the narrator’s role with plenty of conviction and charisma. Yet outside of her haunting pseudo-yodels on the outro, she just can’t seem to transmit her pain and feelings to the listener as she’s done in the past, a result so unexpected that it makes me wonder if the issue is with Underwood or with me. I suppose I’m not really part of the target audience here, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been part of Underwood’s target audience, and it’s never stopped me from absorbing her material in the past. I’m at a loss to explain this one.

The lyrics here feature the narrator matter-or-factly stating that sometimes their emotions get the best of them, and they need to let them out regardless of how it makes them look or how other people might view them. Though they “apologize if you don’t like what you see,” the song is anything but an apology, with the narrator declaring that a) sometime people get emotional, b) it’s not weak or impolite to show said emotions, and c) and if you don’t like seeing that, tough cookies. It’s a strong, positive message, but it gets obscured by the serious, minor-chord-heavy production (perhaps brighter, faster production like Terri Clark’s “Emotional Girl” would have delivered the message more effectively?) For a song that defiantly proclaims that showing emotion is okay, it draws surprisingly little emotion from its audience.

really want to like “Cry Pretty” and the song really wants me to like it, and I almost feel the need to apologize to Carrie Underwood because I don’t. The sad fact, however, is that I would rather listen to a fun no-op song like Old Dominion’s “Hotel Key” than this track, because I’ll at least feel something when it’s over. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’m going to let this pass by and hope Underwood’s next single is more interesting.

Rating: 5/10. I wasn’t impressed, but I’d still encourage people to check it out and make up their own mind on it.

3 thoughts on “Song Review: Carrie Underwood, “Cry Pretty”

  1. I kind of understand where you’re coming from on this song,Kyle.I just can’t understand for the life of me Why she decided to release such a sad song when radio is pushing happy upbeat songs & near summer of all times when that is the LAST thing people want to hear on the radio in the summer.Her voice is on point as usual,but I can’t connect with the song for some odd reason.I can’t see people wanting to listen to an entire album of sad songs if they’re all going to be like this.The problem is that it’s a FEMALE driven song from the single art cover with the glitter tears,live performances of the song with the glitter tears,the feminine font on the single & album cover art,the lyrics & the music video which is sadder than the song itself.Her voice doesn’t need all of this loud production,simpler but tasteful production would’ve suited her incredible vocal range so much better than this loudness which I read has kept many people from liking the song.Its very little wonder why this song hasn’t gotten to #1,when it’s a very female focused song & it talks about mascara running when we all know that most men don’t wear mascara unless they’re a drag queen & most people aren’t comfortable showing their emotions!!I wanted to like this song like you did,but it also left me feeling empty & uninspired.I just hope that her next single is something that I can latch onto & hope it’s more interesting than this.

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    1. Both of y’all are crazy! The guitar playing was awesome, it’s nit trying to pump life in a tune, music comes the ought the soul, emotions do to through an instrument. You both are too left brained and too much linear and superficial thinking. Carrie’s voicemail is pure and raw and soulful in this song. Speaks to many women including myself. Stop being so petty.

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      1. Speaks to many women?Are you out of your literal mind?Believe it or not,I’ve encountered quite a few women on social media that can’t relate to the song & my guess is that it doesn’t “speak” to them like you’re claiming it does.I can’t relate to it myself because I’ve never had a problem showing my emotions so openly like Carrie is doing in this song.Saying it speaks to a lot of women is a blanket statement because what you’re saying is untrue & false.You just can’t assume that every woman likes this song because you think it speaks to them when in reality probably not as many women relate to it like you think.I’m not denying that her voice doesn’t sound incredible on this song,because it does,it’s the lyrics that I’m having such a hard time relating to.I don’t know what you’re implying that I’m left brained when you don’t know me well enough to even say that & superficial?Its an honest opinion about a song that I had hoped would be much better in lyrics than this.Having an honest opinion about CP isn’t a bad thing,it’s good that it has this criticism so people can see both sides of the argument here.Let Kyle & I have our own opinions & you can have yours,no matter how wrong it may be.

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