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After releasing the best-selling country debut album ever by a female with 2005’s Some Hearts and a multi-platinum follow-up with 2007’s Carnival Ride, American Idol's fifth season winner Carrie Underwood looks to retain her spot as Country’s leading lady with her third release, Play On, which is currently No.1 on the Billboard 200 (with sales of 318,000; the largest sales week by a female artist in 2009).

No one would dare dispute that the songstress’ life has literally played out like a fairytale over the last 4 years, which saw her collect an impressive 4 Grammys, 3 consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year awards from both the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association, as well as ACM’s reigning Entertainer of the Year, an award that had previously only been bestowed upon 6 women.

Aside from that, she officially notched her eleventh consecutive No.1 single with “Cowboy Casanova” (all of her single have reached the top spot), which would make most people think that she feels a constant pressure to live up to her prior success, but the songstress quickly buries those notions and reveals how making this album made her feel at home and a sense of ease.

“I feel like the second album had the most pressure for me," she says, acknowledging that she felt the first one had a shot at succeeding because of her built-in "Idol" audience. Then it exceeded expectations. "It kept going and kept going and kept going and the next thing it was like triple-platinum and quadruple-platinum and five-times-platinum and it was like 'Oh, my gosh!'.”

“I want to be somebody in the music business, not just somebody that [people say], 'Oh, yeah, five years ago she won that. Where did she go?' So making ["Carnival Ride"] was pretty stressful, but on this one I feel like I'm home," she says. "I'm in the music business. When people mention names like Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban and Brad Paisley, sometimes my name is in there too.”

Track-by-Track Analysis:

“Cowboy Casanova”: On the sassy opening number and lead single, Underwood warns the ladies about a guy that looks like “a cool drink of water”, but is nothing more than the “devil is disguise”. With a slight feel of rock, the track quickly wins you over and brings forth a change for the singer, given she normally leads a project off with a touching ballad (“Jesus Take the Wheel” & “So Small”).

Acknowledging that she has never tried too hard in relationships (hence the title), she finds solace in the arms of a lover who refuses to quickly call it quits and sees the future filled with “picket fences” and a “swing on the front porch”, as well as, being equipped with the ability to make her feel like she never wants to give up.

“Mama’s Song”: Paying tribute to her mother for teaching her how to navigate life, while also acknowledging the end of her search for the right man. The vocals are tender and touching, and although I originally deemed the track as kind of bland, it was only after a few listens of letting the lyrics and message resonate, that the beauty of it all shined through.

In an inspiring and thought provoking highlight, Underwood poses the question; can one person really change the world? Demonstrated through two stories that everyone has experienced throughout their life, the songstress recalls memories of the homeless woman on the street and the save a child commercials that are often ignored. Aside from just being an extremely beautiful cut, it really makes you think and reaffirms that the smallest things really can make a difference.

“Undo It”:
Recalling her past anthems “Before He Cheats” and “Last Name”, she depicts a relationship that has taken more happiness than it has supplied, and wishing she could take it all back. As I previously stated, this cut will no doubt occupy a space in our music players and have us singing along to words. It’s catchy, infectious and if Underwood is smart it will undoubtedly be released as a single in the near future.

“Someday When I Stop Loving You”:
Trying to let a love go is never an easy thing, especially when you’re still in love with that person, which she portrays in this ballad. Comparing moving on to the day the “grass turns blue” and the “desert floods”, she pointed out that she has never really tackled love songs on her previous projects, which was something I never really noticed until she said it. The track is nice, especially the metaphors, but it can tend to get a little bland, given she never really delivers a climax.

“Song Like This”: Unleashing her inner man-crusher, she extracts revenge on a lover, who “pawned her guitar” and “maxed out her credit cards”. More than anything it surprises her how easy the act of revenge feels natural and she delivers it with such a gritty and fiery flare that it easily secures its place as a winner.

“Temporary Home”: A beautiful and touching cut that manages to be slightly sad and inspiring simultaneously. It poignantly depicts not being in the place you want at this stage in life, but the stronger embedded message is that Earth is just a detour or temporary stop along the road to reach your final resting place in heaven.She documents this with three touching stories of an orphan boy, a single mother in a halfway house and an old man on his death bed.

“This Time”: Rejoicing in new-found love with beau Mike Fisher, she details how the “stars are aligned”, how everything makes “perfect sense” and why past encounters pale in comparison to this time.

“Look at Me”:
Aware that she has kept her personal life to herself, she recognizes that she has found “the one” and how this is “what she’s been waiting to find”.

In a moment of weakness, she mistakenly reveals how she truly feels about a friend with the words “I love you”, and regrettably takes it back with the words “I’m sorry”, only to realize she can no longer keep her feelings bottled up.

“What Can I Say”: A duet with Sons of Sylvia, who won Fox’s The Next Great American Band, about lacking the right words to repair a broken relationship. Definitely an interesting and unexpected choice, which is exactly what she, seemed to be going for, “When thinking of duet partners, you think of the common names - but I wanted someone that people would say, 'Who's that?'”.

“Play On”:
The title track about pressing on with life even the cards deal you a losing hand or you feel like you’re in the game all alone, which she drives home with her stellar range.

Final Verdict:
With not a bad song in sight, Play On can easily be categorized as Underwood’s most “versatile” offering to date, and although it also lacks some of cohesive quality that was present in her past offerings, it still manages to reaffirm just why she leads and shines brighter than her female country peers.

4 out of 5

Celebrity Bug’s Key Tracks:
“Cowboy Casanova”, “Change”, “Undo It”, “Songs Like This”, “Temporary Home”, “Unapologize” & “What Can I Say”.

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