She’s the most successful American Idol winner of all time and the reigning queen of country vengeance; an imperious Las Vegas diva with the Okie girl-next-door wholesomeness of a Puzzler magazine cover girl.
Whether she’s having her revenge on a cheating waste of space boyfriend or taking us all the way to church, Carrie Underwood has proved to be one of country music’s most enduring and well-loved stars. She’s released eight albums – nine including her Greatest Hits - sold over 70 million records worldwide, won seven Grammy awards, 15 ACMs and made over 100 Opry appearances.
In 16 years, Underwood has built an enduring legacy, cementing herself as one of the biggest country music stars of her generation. Holler takes the opportunity to rank a few of the musical highlights from her incredible career, one that doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.
It’s party time down at the Marina!
Two-for-ones on Redneck Margaritas (a low budget cocktail made by mixing Tequila and Mountain Dew, for anyone who didn’t watch the first season of Queer Eye) as summer comes to Carrie’s small-town riverbank, her and her friends unwinding spring-break style with a boat party down by the creek.
There’s ropes-a-swinging and boats-a-rocking in this upbeat tailgater from Carrie’s sixth album Cry Pretty, proving that she’s more than capable of mixing it up with the best of the bro-country party pack.
The lead single from Carrie’s fourth studio album, Blown Away, became her fastest-selling single ever, as she dealt out the warnings to the titular 'Good Girl' about the perils of falling for a no-good man.
She went all Superman II in the video, doubling up to play the part of Good Carrie and Evil Carrie as she tries to persuade her alter-ego that her boyfriend isn’t good enough for her.
Luckily, we could tell which Carrie was which - one of them wears spectacles and is dressed head to toe in Laura Ashley, while the other has a cane and arrives straight out of a funeral scene from Pretty Little Liars.
Taken from Carrie’s second album, Carnival Ride, this was the second single to be co-written by the singer; a semi-autobiographical pop-country banger that tells the story of a "beautiful, wonderful, perfect all-American girl".
At first, it’s the story of an expectant father hoping for a baby boy to go fishing and play football with, but when the midwife comes in with a “little pink blanket” all that goes out the window for him.
Thankfully, he still loves his daughter - despite not being able to play sports or go fishing with her (gender roles must have been quite strictly prescribed in Oklahoma in 2007).
The verses fast forward to find that the same girl is now a teenager, falling in love with a local football hero, and going on to have a baby daughter of their own.
Carrie based the lyrics loosely on her own life and relived her various experiences and jobs in the video – vet, waitress, beauty pageant competitor, sorority member – eventually bagging a sports star all of her own when she married ice hockey player Mike Fisher in real life.
Carrie was back in cautious fairy godmother mode for the lead single from Play On, warning away any hapless women from a dishonourable Don Juan leaning up against the jukebox.
It was the first time Carrie and Brett James had co-written with Mike Elizondo – best known for his work with Dr Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent – giving Carrie a chance to let her inner rock chick out.
It was undoubtedly one of her sassiest takedowns yet.
God works in mysterious ways in the title track of Carrie’s fourth record, as she takes a turn towards some of the darker lyrical themes that become prominent on her later albums.
One of her trademark vengeance songs, this time it’s nature itself dishing out the retribution, as a daughter locks herself in a cellar safely out of the way of an incoming tornado, while her abusive alcoholic father is passed out on the couch, right in its path.
Unable to wake him, the storm takes care of the rest as her life is quite literally blown away.
Carrie plays the Thelma to Miranda Lambert’s Louise in this stomping girl power anthem, as the badass duo take a cross-country road trip to New Orleans, outrunning the cops with a tank of gas and a mattress full of cash.
The video featured the two singers playing a pair of office workers turned jewel thieves – inexplicably called Belle Boyd and Priscilla Parker - playing poker, riding Indian motorcycles and pulling off a jewel heist, before blowing up a bank and escaping in a helicopter – all while wearing wigs and power suits.
Apparently, after filming had finished, both singers got to keep their motorcycles and take them home with them; pretty damn cool.
The title track to Carrie’s sixth studio album possesses some of her most personal lyrics to date, as she looked inwards for inspiration.
“I would literally have these horrible things going on in my life and then have to go smile and do some interviews or photoshoots”, she explained, revealing the feelings that inspired her to write the song.
Written by Carrie with Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna, it’s a triple strength country power ballad that doesn’t pull any emotional punches - Carrie belting her way through one of country music’s all-time greatest anthems on female strength and empowerment.
Carrie celebrated her first 10 years at the top with a double-disc Greatest Hits album, with this unabashed spiritual belter acting as the lead single that accompanied it.
Carrie bows to her knees, looks up to the heavens and offers a little faith, in a song that would see her turning the corner on her first decade with a renewed vigour.
While pulling on the heartstrings, she staked her claim as one of country music’s all-time greatest vocalists.
Despite her success outside of country, Carrie has always eschewed following Taylor Swift in a move towards mainstream pop.
This was particularly evident when she released Storyteller, the boldest and most traditional country album of her career. From the vengeful melodrama of 'Dirty Laundry' to the mysterious southern gothic of 'Choctaw County Affair', it was Carrie but not as we knew it, as she added some timeless country storytelling to her oeuvre.
‘Dirty Laundry’ has it all - lipstick on a collar, an unfamiliar perfume, a little red wine stain on a white shirt (when everyone knows Carrie only drinks white) – delivered with a finger-wagging sassiness that she’s made undeniably her own. It's also probably the only song to ever name check Ajax laundry detergent.
The first of Carrie’s record-breaking 15 no.1 singles - and the first from her debut album Some Hearts - ‘Jesus Take The Wheel’ has become a firm favourite for any Carrie Underwood fan.
The song tells the story of a woman driving home with her baby to see her mum on a snowy Christmas Eve night, when she hits black ice and loses control of the car she’s driving.
It all ends up okay – both mother and baby are unharmed – as Carrie pulls out the sort of soaring pop powerhouse vocal that would send tingles down even the most unsentimental of spines.
In 2021, you’re nobody unless you’ve had a TikTok moment.
Luckily, Carrie had hers when ‘Church Bells’ inexplicably began inspiring hundreds of thousands of TikTokkers to post videos of themselves dancing to the song’s opening bars.
Influencers, best friends, truckers and even horses all jumped on the bandwagon with their unique takes on the moves (consisting of shouting “woah” and rocking back and forth like a sorority girl, if you wanted to try it at home). Taken from her Storyteller album, the song itself - a dark mid-tempo murder ballad about domestic abuse – seemed like an odd mismatch for TikTok, but I guess you can’t choose which of your songs people want to make up online dance routines to.
Long before Beyoncé was swinging Hot Sauce around in the ‘Hold Up’ video, Carrie Underwood was taking her Louisville slugger to the headlights of her duplicitous boyfriend’s four-wheel drive in the video for ‘Before He Cheats’.
Written by Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins – who also wrote ‘Blown Away’ – it tells the story of a woman imagining her unfaithful boyfriend playing pool, buying drinks and flirting with another woman, then retaliating against him by keying his car, slashing the seats and smashing his headlights with a baseball bat.
Such vengeance paid off - it won the CMA award for Single of The Year and earned Carrie a brace of Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 2007.
15 years later, it’s still very much Carrie’s signature song - even popping up in Pitch Perfect when the Barden Bellas perform it during one of their riff-offs. Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.