Carrie Underwood, 'Play On': The extended Music Mix album review

Carrie Underwood, Play On (19/Arista Nashville)

Note: Underwood’s label didn’t make her new album available early for press; Play On is out today.

If it seems vaguely insulting to call the smashingly successful Idol alum’s material formulaic, know at least that it is, three albums in, one the most well-honed formulas in the business. Underwood’s M.O.—equal parts good-riddance-to-bad-boys stompers and fervent, string-swelling balladry—has served her well, and she’s no fool.

Hard-charging rocker “Undo It,” with its stuttering power-chord chorus (“I wanna uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it”) gives first single “Casanova” a run for its kiss-off glory; the banjo-goosed revenge anthem “Songs Like This”  comes in a close third. Inevitably, the saucy stuff, which she embodies with easy, appealing verve, tends to eclipse the ballads, which too often substitute slick Hallmark-card sentimentality for genuine affect.

“Change” is an admirable if inevitably treacly call for social awareness and action (think John Mayer’s “Waiting On the World to Change,” lady-Nashville style); “Temporary Home” is the sonic equivalent of a Keane painting. She does better on more personal pleas like the aching, prettily melodic “Look at Me” and “What Can I Say,” a hit-the-big-notes duet with Clark brothers trio Sons of Sylvia. As always, her vocal ability is beyond reproach; a crack in the immaculately polished veneer, however, would be welcome too. Grade: B Download This: “Cowboy Casanova”

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Comments (51 total) Add your comment
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  • Jacquelyn

    I think it is an amazing album. Well done Carrie!

  • flicketyflack

    Look At Me really is achingly pretty. There’s something about Underwood’s voice that she sounds the best when she is pining away or begging for something. Someday When I Stop Loving You’s another album highlight.

    Temporary Home being the sonic equivalent of a Margaret Keane painting is an analogy made of WIN! I’ve always had a soft spot for those and so I have a soft spot for Temporary Home too because of how pretty Underwood sounds on it.

    I have a feeling I shouldn’t like Undo It but I do. Thumbs up to Cowboy Casanova and Songs Like This too.

    Pretty good album I’d say.

  • Tom

    Best of Carrie’s Three Cds, by far.

  • Tia

    I downloaded the album and have played it non-stop today! Carrie’s voice is immaculate and the CD offers a great mix of ballads and up-tempo tracks. My faves are “Look At Me” and “Undo it”. Great job Carrier!!!!

  • Kevin

    Best Carrie album yet!! Kudos to Carrie for a job well done!!!

  • MA Sink

    I don’t think Play On is as good as Carnival
    maybe too soon to release another album. Nothing seems special on this one.

    • Stephanie

      I have to disagree about it being too soon-Carnival Ride came out in 2007! We’ve been waiting two years for a new Carrie CD. I’m still undecided how much I like Play On (though my fave song is definitely Unapologize)

  • stryker

    She sure is purdy…

  • Jimbo

    Love her. Love this album. Her vocals are flawless.

    • homerox13

      Of course they’re flawless…the power of the recording studio fixes all! : )

  • Christina

    Looking forward to getting this

  • Andrew

    Have to agree with MA Sink on this one, Play On is less than stellar compared to Carnival Ride and Some Hearts. This sounds extremely formulaic, but in a way that is also watered down and lazy. I love “Undo It” and “Cowboy Casanova”, but the rest of the album just runs together for me. :(

    • Charlie

      haha stop using Formulaic like you know what it means

  • Ed

    I liked her past two albums, but i have to be honest and say that I was kinda bored as i listened to this one. I just feel that it’s the same-old, same-old.

  • curt

    Love her. Lover her music. She can do no wrong. She is SOOOO much better than that egyptian eye-makeup old Taylor Swift—

  • nina

    Note: Underwood’s label didn’t make her new album available early for press; Play On is out today.

    So this is a rushed review. It’s out today, you reviewed today. It’s not a very trustable review, you may change your opinion in a few days. That’s why the press receive the albums early. If i were you i would check out the allmusic review for this album, they have been hearing this album since last week. And posted their review saturday. Before the release date. How the press didn’t receive the album, if they and others reviewd before ?

    • Danny

      Why should reviewers have to work at trying to like an album? Casual listeners aren’t going to give this album more than one shot–and that’s who these reviews are aimed toward. Fans are going to buy no matter what.

      • nina

        It’s not called “try hard to like an album”. Every music critic and music fans knows that it’s not in one or two shots that an album reveals itself, that’s why i think is a rushed review. Music reviewers are not there to make someone buy a record, they are there to rate a record, talk about it, point the flaws, if there’s one, point the highs and the lows. If you think that your critics are trying to make you buy a disc, them you need to stop reading Rolling Stone. Real critics do this for the music, for the passion. This is why allmusic reviewers, robert christgau even pitchfork reviewers are still around.

    • Edinete

      kathy jean Hello Ryan,Truly hope you’re feeling okay today and all is going well too.Just a idrmneer, unless you and your cast and crew already know, that this is the time of year, here in the U.S.A., to get a Flu Shot. I realize that not everyone believes in Flu Shots, and since I’ve never been to Europe, I don’t know if they have them there???? So please believe me when I say A Flu Shot really protects ya from getting the Flu which really wiped me out once for a couple of weeks here in Chicago ..thought I was going to die!!!!! : ( You can get them at any Walgreens or CVS stores .just walk right in no need for an appointment.And as per the Internet ..In the United States, influenza season usually begins in October and can last until May.God Bless You, Ryan, and THE CANDLE IS LIT!!!!!Sincerely,Kathy Jean xxx : )

  • Jen

    I don’t think it’s as good as the first too….kinda disappointed…

    • Diana

      i dont think most people adrenstund that most bands are in debt to their record lables.if you love a band and want them to tour or get in the studio for their next album ya got to buy their release.if you dontsupport them they will be dropped. the 1# album in the u.s.for 2009 was taylor swift at 3 million. thats it!this number scares me. people aren t buying music their stealing music sales are going down the midwest has figured how to steal too. i am a U2 fan their latest album sold 1 million in the us,yet they had the single most succesful tour for all of when i am fed ex field with 86,000 people paying to see u2 i know that there is a portion of the audience that stole their album and dont care. bands big or small have overhead.regardless if a band has sold 100 million records or if they are selling music out of their trunk theft is theft.clearly the record companies have made mistakes,making rare recordings available over the internet in the mid ninetys would have been a good start oops or lowering the price on cds like they did for vhsremember 89.95 how about 29.95 then the average price went down to 14.95 and so i walk in to sam goody ok mine are closed i walk into tower records ok not there either but the point is someone tells me check out killing joke i go to a store and the albums only 5 dollars.yeah i ll buy it and a handful more.itunes price fair ,not really but its a start.

  • Jen

    I meant as the first TWO albums..ugh

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