Is Carrie Underwood’s new single, “Cowboy Casanova” too rock for country radio?
With its crunchy guitar riffs, aggressive drums and rapid-fire lyrical delivery, the song has more in common with Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” and Tammy Wynette’s classic “Stand By Your Man” (despite the fact that the video stream on youtube, before dissolving into a still of Underwood opens with a cowboy in a bar walking over to the jukebox as “Stand By Your Man” plays…). However, the answer is “Hell, no.”
Underwood’s label, Arista Nashville, rushed out a completed track of the song, from her Nov. 3 release “Play On,” after an unfinished version leaked a few days ago. The song, about a cowboy who will break your heart (is there any other kind?) and, to quote Elvis is a “devil is disguise,” is a hard-driving, uptempo, in-your-face song bolstered by Underwood’s impeccable vocals.
There’s no denying that the girl can sing and while most folks consider Kelly Clarkson the best belter out of the “American Idol” camp, Underwood gives her a run for her money and is a flat out better singer than Clarkson.
Underwood has done a superb job in her short career of giving radio cuts that lean toward traditional country (in both sound and the “God’s in charge” lyrical content), like “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and mixing that up with songs that have a rockier element. Even though the songs are mid-tempo, “Before He Cheats” and “Last Name” have some pretty hard edges that make “Cowboy Casanova” seem like a fairly logical progression, rather than a major stylistic leap.
Underwood co-wrote the song with Brett James (who co-penned “Jesus Take the Wheel”) and Mike Elizondo, a bassist and producer best known with his work with Eminem, Dr. Dre, Pink and Nelly Furtado. We credit him with the driving sound.
Just to hedge all bets, in case Arista was worried that country radio pushes back, producer Mark Bright has taken a little of the edge off by introducing a fiddle right up at the top of the song. That’s fine, but we would have killed the cheesy “oh, oh, oh” background vocals.
And while we’re at it, are we the only one that thinks the opening notes recall Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel?”