Winning American Idol season 4, releasing two multi-platinum albums, winning multiple awards and gaining over 10 #1 singles on various charts, Carrie Underwood has, without a shadow of a doubt, made a name for herself. And with both the previous albums selling over 1 million copies each in the US alone, Play On had a lot to live up to. Her second album, Carnival Ride, went straight to #1 on the US Billboard 200, and Play On, released on November 3rd 2009, did exactly the same. It has also sold over 1 million copies in the US alone, making it the third album to do so for her. If that wasn’t enough, sales from Play On made Carrie Underwood the highest selling American Idol contestant in America, outselling Kelly Clarkson by around 100,000 albums.

The album kicks off in style with Cowboy Casanova, the song having the strings you’d expect a killer country anthem to have, but the verses have a funky guitar riff to accompany Carrie’s vocals, which clearly haven’t packed up and gone anywhere. A perfect song choice to promote her third album, filled with attitude and punch. Quitter begins with a nice little acoustic intro leading into a story-like verse, followed by a melodic bridge/chorus. I really like how she changes up the tempo in the song, keeping it faster during the upbeat story verses, and slowing down during the more heartfelt chorus. Slowing down the pace a bit, Mama’s Song is a lovely little ballad, albeit a little sleepy at some points, the longer notes during the chorus are sublime. I also enjoy the backing singing after the chorus. Continuing the slower songs, Change is another story from Underwood. And even though this is a slower tempo, this one is definitely not ‘sleepy’. “You’re just a fool, just a fool to believe you can change the world” is beautifully sung and really a highlight on the album. Undo It brings a little pace back to Play On, with a funky little banjo intro. Underwood does attitude well in the verses, but the chorus is the real reason why this song is a success for me. The “uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it” is catchy, and the harmonies just round off the pleasurable ear experience. Someday When I Stop Loving You is another ballad which, in all honesty, is probably forgotten when you think back over the album after listened to it. Obviously, you can’t fault Underwood’s vocals, but this song could’ve been so much more than just another boring country ballad. It almost becomes memorable towards the end of the chorus, but just as it starts to escalate, it falls back down flat again. Now the fasted song we’ve heard since Cowboy, Songs Like This rescues the album from almost slipping down in quality. It’s a fast-paced, action song with so much energy and, that thing Carrie does well that I’ve mentioned before, attitude. It sounds like a brilliant choice for radio, including hand claps and strings which are brilliant. Just as we gain some momentum, the pace slows down again, and just as I think ‘Oh great, just what we need..’ Temporary Home hits me with anything but boredom. The song is filled emotion, sadness and heart. The lyrics are beautiful, the melody and harmonies are wonderful, completely doing those lyrics justice. Underwood shows control and power throughout her vocals. This Time quickens up the pace one again, and I can’t say I’m hugely raving about it. It feels all too familiar, like this song has been heard before, not just similar to some of her other album tracks, but other country artists too, which is a real shame. For me, it’s just a filler song. The chorus is a good sing-along though. Look At Me continues the pattern of the slow-fast-slow switch this album has going on. The male backing vocals work really well here, in all honesty they’re probably the best thing about the song. Unapologize is next, and I never tire of hearing Underwood’s voice. The verses are brilliant, the way they’re constructed, the melody, everything is fantastic, leading into a big chorus with killer hooks and harmonies. It also has a minor chord breakdown before going back to the chorus. My favourite song from the album comes near the end, in What Can I Say. A song featuring ‘Sons of Sylvia’, a male country group, consisting of three brothers. It’s a slower song, starting off with just Carrie for the first verse and chorus, before the boys join in wandering all around Carrie’s melody with such ease. Everything about this song is perfection. The harmonies are brilliant, neither Carrie nor the Clark brothers outshine the other, they work together in perfect sync. Definitely worth the wait. Finally Play On, the title track, finishing off the album in style. It’s signature Carrie. Classic country arrangement, classic Carrie vocals, flawless as usual, and a classic soaring chorus.

This is probably my favourite Carrie album, even if it got a little repetitive at times. The songs have improved, there are less and less filler tracks than before, and Play On even entered the UK album chart at #93, the first time she’s made it onto the chart. Success! 8/10

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