The biggest selling act ever to appear on American Idol. The only female country artist to have 11 number 1 singles on the Hot Country Songs chart. The biggest act in the world to emerge from reality TV (Even ahead of a certain X Factor boyband). It’s surprising that lots of people reading this article will have never heard of Carrie Underwood. With country music not much of a big deal outside of America and Canada, the last 10 years of music from the Idol winner may be new to you. As she releases her first Greatest Hits collection, celebrating her first decade in music, I take a look at my personal favourite songs from the album and try to make some sort of definitive ranking.
20) Inside Your Heaven – Some Hearts
As ‘Winner’s Singles’ go Inside Your Heaven is one of the strongest around. Arguably better than Kelly Clarkson/Leona Lewis’ A Moment Like This, it’s a winners song that oddly sits quite well with the rest of Carrie’s discography on this collection. A big vocal that doesn’t quite match anything that followed it, it’s a good sign that this debut #1 is the weakest track Carrie has released.
19) Temporary Home – Play On
There are probably only 2 types of Carrie Underwood songs, big country stompers and storytelling inspirational ballads. Temporary Home is definitely in the latter category and it’s probably the weakest of the bunch. When she performs it live it comes across quite sweet, but as a song it isn’t too memorable.
18) Remind Me (With Brad Paisley) – This Is Country Music
I have to admit I’d never heard this song before its inclusion on the hits album, so my opinions on it may be slightly premature. As it stands though, this is a perfectly nice duet between two big names in Country music, but doesn’t have that spark I usually hear in Carrie songs. I’d much rather have seen her latest #1 duet with Miranda Lambert as Somethin’ Bad is one of my favourite songs of 2014.
17) See You Again – Blown Away
See You Again is a good song, but next to some of the tracks here it’s lacking polish. I would probably love to sing along to See You Again at a Carrie Underwood concert, but there’s something about the production that feels cheap next to the other songs on parent album Blown Away. I may be being a bit harsh here.
16) Just A Dream – Carnival Ride
‘THIS WAS JUUUSSSSSSTTTT A DREEAAAAAMMMM’. By far the best bit in this song and while the rest doesn’t quite live up to that chorus it’s still a decent Carrie record.
15) Don’t Forget to Remember Me – Some Hearts
I got this song mixed up with Mama’s Song when I first made this list and after listening back and realising that they were actually not the same song, I had to rethink its placement. Don’t Forget To Remember Me flips the story back around in each of its verses, a sweet song that you can probably guess the lyrics of from the title alone.
14) Something in the Water – Greatest Hits – Decade #1
The newest song on the list, recorded especially for the Greatest Hits album Something In The Water sees Carrie take things to church once more. Her vocal is ridiculous on this, it’s the perfect way to sum up her decade in music especially the moment it transitions into a full choir version of Amazing Grace. The first of her great songs to be included here.
13) Wasted – Some Hearts
It’s crazy to consider how well defined the ‘sound of Carrie Underwood’ was on her very first album, it’s hard to think of a reality TV produced act whose sound was so perfectly pitched first time around. Not even that other American Idol winner could find her true sound until her second album (Kelly Clarkson if you weren’t paying attention 10 years ago), Wasted being a perfect example of what makes a Carrie Underwood song great. 10 years on it still makes perfect sense.
12) Mama’s Song – Play On
Mama’s Song finds itself this high for the middle 8 alone. The ‘mama mama’ bit is incredible.
11) Undo It – Play On
Undo It is the first of the uptempo country stompers that make up the best of Carrie’s discography. Think 90s Shania, but with a belting voice to back it up. Undo It is the weakest of the bunch only for having a hook that revolves around the slightly clunky ‘uh uh uh uh uh undo it’.
10) All-American Girl – Carnival Ride
Bear with me on this one, on first listen this may seem like a baffling choice for my top 10; it’s pure, predictable country. Give All American Girl a chance though and after a few listens you’ll have that chorus so firmly lodged into your head that you’ll hurt your voice trying to belt out that final epic chorus.
9) Cowboy Casanova – Play On
There’s a noticeable trend with my favourite moments from Carrie Underwood songs coming just before the final chorus. Cowboy Casanova is no exception, the brief second the music drops out producing a stand out moment in an already brilliant song. The way Carrie slurs through ‘Leaning up against the record machine’ too also gives this a feisty attitude so often missing from the genre.
8) Good Girl – Blown Away
Good Girl is basically Before He Cheats 2 and after reading my words on that song below you’ll understand just how good that makes it.
7) Jesus, Take The Wheel – Some Hearts
The first proper chart hit Carrie had, Jesus, Take The Wheel manages to capture everything that made her a worthy Idol winner. It’s inspirational, but story driven so never feels too forceful. Her vocal on this track is so effortless, powerful and then understated at exactly the right times. If it wasn’t for Jesus, Take The Wheel, we wouldn’t be talking about a greatest hits collection 10 years later.
6) I Told You So – Carnival Ride
The version of I Told You So on Decade #1 features the original singer Randy Travis, but I much prefer this as a solo Carrie number. There’s not really much I can say about I Told You So, it’s a pretty simple country ballad. The way Carrie sings it though transforms it into a dramatic, touching and epic sing along track. When she performed it on the recent Blown Away tour it took on a life of its own and is definitely one of her stand out ballads.
5) Blown Away – Blown Away
Without a doubt the most dramatic hit in Carrie Underwood’s discography, Blown Away was possibly the first Carrie song I properly loved. Relatively new to the whole ‘country music’ thing a friend of mine said I would love Carrie Underwood and made me download the Blown Away album. At the time the standout track for me, it’s a storming song that’s relentless throughout. Her voice is insane on this song, the chorus is brilliantly over the top something that makes live performances with full wind machine incredible.
4) So Small – Carnival Ride
The next two songs will always hold a special place in my heart. I used to listen to So Small and Before He Cheats at work on a daily basis for about 6 months solidly. I can’t really go into detail exactly why watching music videos was part of my daily routine at work, but safe to say I would listen to these song over and over. So Small is the greatest ‘winner’s song’ that never was. The ‘you’ll make it through’ sentiment seems pretty boring on paper, but I doubt anyone could listen to So Small and not feel at least a tiny bit inspired. The best vocal of Carrie’s career is why So Small finds itself this high on the list. The amazingly predictable and generic country music video just makes it that bit more memorable.
3) Before He Cheats – Some Hearts
The song most would have expected at #1 Before He Cheats is by far one of the best country hits of the last decade. It’s also one of the biggest, far and away Carrie’s biggest selling single and was the biggest from any American Idol act until Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). Feisty is an understatement for the attitude laced across Before He Cheats, which sees Carrie destroying her ex’s car while considering who he’s probably with while she does. There are too many incredible lines to mention here, but ‘Right now, she’s probably up singing some white-trash version of Shania karaoke’ is obviously the best. Before He Cheats is Carrie’s very own Since U Been Gone moment.
2) Last Name – Carnival Ride
Where do I even start with Last Name? It’s a song so perfectly constructed that it’ll take just one listen to understand why it’s one of my all time favourite country singles. Drunken flirting, Pickup trucks, a shotgun Vegas wedding, Last Name has the makings of a late night soap special all with one massive infectious hook. The way Carrie delivers every line is the most impressive thing here though, as she coo’s ‘There’s just one little problem’ before the final chorus. What could possibly be better than Last Name?
1) Two Black Cadillacs – Blown Away
You know the one thing missing from Last Name? Murder. Two Black Cadillacs delivers this and more, full of drama and scandal. Carrie brings an intensity to the song which few can match, while the way she delivers the chorus of ‘And the preacher said he was a good man’ is thrilling. Two Black Cadillacs has become my favourite Carrie Underwood single as it was the first single campaign I saw unfold as it happened. The video, the performances I was hooked and have been ever since. Two Black Cadillacs is the best example of why Carrie Underwood is one of the most successful artists country music has ever seen.