After Carrie Underwood won American Idol in 2005, she wanted to be marketed as a country singer, and she has been fabulously successful: 11 #1 country singles and three more that peaked at #2, plus three multi-platinum albums, with the new Blown Away released earlier this month. Her two best singles, “Before He Cheats” and “Wasted,” show two different sides of her—the sassy girl who won’t be mistreated and the powerful singer who can open up on a song like a firehose. Her latest single, “Good Girl,” tries to combine the two, but creates a vortex of suck that can only end up one of the World’s Worst Songs.
You know you’re in trouble within the first 15 seconds when you notice that “Good Girl” is slathered in Auto-Tune. I can’t tell if this is a production gimmick to give it a particular sheen or if it’s to keep Carrie in the right key. (Suggested motto for Auto-Tune: “Because professionals do it in one take, no matter what.”) About two-and-a-half minutes in, Carrie decides add extra sass by singing louder, blasting through the rest of the song like she was trying to demolish it. The first time I heard it I wondered, “Why is this person screaming at me?”
That “Good Girl” is considered a country song is a marketing decision, not a musical one. It’s country because the record label says it is, not because it has the remotest thing in common with country music. It’s not just Underwood who benefits from this, it’s much of Nashville these days—but it comes at the cost of un-mooring country from its history, and turning it from an organic art form into a plastic commodity. (We took a glance at this phenomenon in a Popdose post last month.)
But the thing that’s most annoying about “Good Girl” is the song’s emotional payoff line: “You better get to gettin’ on your goodbye shoes.” What are goodbye shoes? Are they athletic shoes, so you can get away faster? Galoshes, so you can get away in the rain? Stilettos, for a sexy strut out the door? The amount of brainpower it took me to think up three examples of what goodbye shoes might be is vastly more than the concept deserves. “Goodbye shoes” is a hacky songwriter construction that sounds like imagery but paints no meaningful picture.
So for a lot of reasons both technical and aesthetic, one will rarely come across a record more objectionable than “Good Girl”—but it doesn’t matter. The record is poised to cross over from country to pop, and will likely become one of the biggest, broadest hits of Underwood’s career.