On Oct. 23, Carrie Underwood will release her highly-anticipated fifth studio album, Storyteller. Since she surprised fans earlier this year with the announcement of both her upcoming release and new single "Smoke Break", many have wondered what to expect from the new album.
The 32-year-old's evolution from an aspiring singer in Oklahoma to country superstar was a rapid one. After winning the fourth season of American Idol in 2005 and the release of her debut album Some Hearts, Underwood quickly became one of the most popular artists in both country and pop.
Since then, she's earned 14 number-one hits, won seven Grammy Awards and 11 Academy of Country Music Awards. Her last full album of new music, Blown Away, was released in 2012, and explored a more mature sound with darker lyrical content. Her impressive ability to take chances while staying with her signature sound attests to her staying power within the industry.
Underwood has seen quite a few changes in the past four years, including the birth of her first son, Isaiah. After taking a hiatus from music to spend time with her newborn, it's only natural that these new life experiences would have an affect on her music.
The last track on the album, "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted", is all about the overwhelming feeling of joy and love that she felt following the birth of her child. However, you shouldn't expect Storyteller to be a soft and overly-sentimental collection of lullabies.
The sassiness that permeated through "Before He Cheats" and "Good Girl" is far from lost. The choice to release "Smoke Break" as the first single was a smart one, cluing in fans that she hasn't lost her edge. The gritty, Bonnie and Clyde inspired track "Choctaw County Affair" also shows off Underwood's expertise at fun, yet focused storytelling.
Storyteller was produced by Jay Joyce in his East Nashville studio, miles away from the mainstream mecca of Music Row, and it shows. Joyce's edgy and raw style, which has stylized recent releases from Eric Church and Brothers Osbourne, creates a brilliant counter-balance between Underwood's polished and controlled vocals.
Underwood's newest effort is likely to go down as one of the most solid and artistically well-developed albums of her career. The wisdom that she's earned over the past ten years, along with her constant push to do the unexpected, will likely lead her to another string of number one hits.