Seven years after she won season four, it’s clear that Carrie Underwood would have been a major star with or without her “American Idol” victory. Likewise, genre is an afterthought for the Oklahoma-bred singer whose latest album is as much about country charm as it is about arena-rock bombast.
“Blown Away,” Underwood’s fourth release, is deliberately familiar to anyone who has listened to commercial country radio — and Top 40, for that matter — so much so that it ends saying little about the woman who made it. In that sense, it’s an archetypal modern country record with hit singles you can spot a mile away.
This might be Underwood’s most calculated record yet, with odes to the virtues of humble beginnings (“Thank God for Hometowns”), feisty women (“Cupid’s Got a Shotgun”), and self-empowerment (“Good in Goodbye”). The generic tropical flavor of “One Way Ticket” is another addition to Kenny Chesney’s canon of fun-in-the-sun summer anthems.
Like Shania Twain and Faith Hill before her, Underwood has a simple matrix for calling her music country: Is there a fiddle in the mix? Twain, in fact, sounds like the blueprint for much of this album. The only thing missing from “Good Girl,” the first single, is Underwood announcing, “That don’t impress me much.”
The title track is an overwrought collision of Fleetwood Mac and Reba McEntire, with a chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on a Britney Spears hit.
The fact that you can’t pinpoint whom the song reminds you of is precisely the problem with “Blown Away.” This is nebulous pop music dressed up in country fringe, zoomed out so far that Underwood never nails anything in particular. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Two Black Cadillacs”