If I were a weatherman describing Blown Away, I'd have to say that the morning is going to be dark and dreary, but we'll see some clearing by afternoon.
Underwood wouldn't quibble with that. She described her the album's vibe this way in an interview with Glamour: "There's a happy-go-lucky feeling to some of [Blown Away]: A nice spring day, put the top down, turn it up, enjoy the world," she said. "But there's a darker feeling too. We kill a couple people."
"Who Are You" could be heard as a rapturous song of praise to Underwood's husband (Nashville Predators hockey player Mike Fisher) or as a love song to God. "Who are you/ … The one I'll always love above another/ … You're all my dreams and all my heart," she sings. "Who are you/Who takes me through the flood and through the fire/ … Who leads me through the desert and the dry/You're in my thoughts, you know my mind/ … You're my savior, you're my center/My beginning and end/You're the one I live for."
"Forever Changed" is a dignity-affirming tearjerker about the reality of life's major adjustments. The song narrates the arc of a woman's life, from her first date to pregnancy to the poignant conclusion in which a daughter visits her now Alzheimer's-ravaged mother. "Some days I just hold her fragile hand," we hear. "Some days it just kills me/To watch her memories slip away a little more." In a similar vein, "See You Again" anticipates being reunited with a deceased loved one.
"Nobody Ever Told You" finds Underwood affirming a young woman's inner beauty and exhorting her not to compare herself to celebrity culture's unrealistic beauty standards. "Good in Goodbye" thematically echoes Garth Brooks' 1990 hit "Unanswered Prayers," with Underwood looking back on a hard breakup and realizing in retrospect that it was for the best ("As bad as it was, as bad as it hurt/I thank God I didn't get what I thought that I deserved/ … Sometimes, yeah, sometimes, there's good in goodbye"). "Thank God for Hometowns" reflects on the goodness of growing up in small-town America, places where you're welcomed and remembered when you come back home ("Thank God for the county lines that welcome you back in/When you were dying to get out/Thank God for the church pews/And all the faces that won't forget you").
"Good Girl" delivers a warning to nice girls who get duped by no-good guys.
On "Blown Away," we hear about a preacher man gone bad. He's an abusive drunk, which may be why his wife is already dead ("Mamma was an angel in the ground"). Still living with him, apparently, is his daughter. And when she hears a forecast for a tornado, she prays that the coming storm will take his life. "There's not enough rain in Oklahoma," she says, "To wash the sins out of that house." So when her prayers are answered, "She heard those sirens screaming out/Her daddy lay there passed out on the couch/She locked herself in the cellar/Listened to the screaming of the wind/Some people called it taking shelter/She called it sweet revenge."
Murderous payback is also the subject of "Two Black Cadillacs." The song tells of a man who's killed by his wife and mistress when they find out he's been living a double life: "Two months ago his wife called the number on his phone/Turns out he'd been lying to both of them for oh so long/They decided he'd never get away with doing this to them." At his funeral, neither woman sheds a tear. Instead, "They shared a crimson smile and just walked away/And left the secret at the grave."
"Do You Think About Me" alludes to young lovers' first sexual tryst: "You were kissing me, and the years stood still/You said, 'We don't have to' till I said, 'I will.'" Drinkin' and dancin' "help" overcome the blues on "One Way Ticket." "Wine After Whiskey" uses that boozy progression to explain why a girl isn't satisfied with milquetoast guys after a relationship with a "wild and reckless" Casanova.
The album cover reveals quite a lot of cleavage and leg, and some of the liner note photos are similarly immodest.
By the time I made it through the first three songs on Blown Away, I was thinking, "Man, this album is dark." A daughter abandons her drunken dad to be swept away by a tornado. And two women team up to take the life of the man who done them both wrong.
But Underwood claims, in an interview with Glamour, "It wouldn't be a Carrie Underwood album without a revenge song on it. People really like when I do that."
Not me. I'll take a pass on that. And on the fond remembrance of a sexual encounter. And on the extended alcohol metaphor.
Thankfully, the sweeter side of this 29-year-old Oklahoman does eventually emerge. And we get quite a few upbeat, poignant and life-affirming themes. But I still have to report that this one's partly sunny with a chance of … murder.