Basically, if you liked anything about Underwood’s previous material, like her hits from Some Hearts or Carnival Ride then you’re likely to like what you hear here. Those expecting for a record more like Carrie’s hit “I Told You So” are in for a rude awakening as it seems as if Play On is steering as far clear from traditional country as possible. The album does feature audible steel guitar solos (on first single “Cowboy Casanova” and “Quitter”) but it is far, far more pop than anything she’s done before. Fans of Colbie Caliat-like acoustic pop will enjoy the previously mentioned “Quitter” which has lyrics that are in direct contrast to the joyful 80s-inspired melody as Carrie sings about overcoming her fears and boundaries that are protecting her from truly loving someone.
Carrie has been accused of resorting to diva vocal gymnastics from time to time and while it’s a valid argument, she also can sing these types of songs. Play On has moments of this (“Change” and “Play On”) but there are also times where she reins it in, particularly on “Mama’s Song,” “Look At Me” and “What Can I Say” a song which features Sons of Sylvia (who used to be known as The Clark Brothers and are sometime members of Carrie’s road band).
While Carrie co-wrote seven of the tracks on this record (including two very good ones), it is the stuff from Underwood go-to writers like Gordie Sampson and Chris Tompkins that find her truly in her element. “Temporary Home,” a song released on iTunes as an amp-up to Play On has the potential to be a life-altering single for many while the previously mentioned “What Can I Say” has the potential to be the song that breaks in the Sons of Sylvia to country radio. Ably produced by Mark Bright, Play On certainly moves around from playful to reflective; from pop-in-any-other-name to acoustic based tracks that give fans a dose of what they’ve come to expect from Carrie Underwood. While this is giving fans exactly what they want (and probably then some), it also isn’t showing that much of any artistic growth. And this lack of growth is what ultimately makes Play On the uneven album that it is.
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Listen to the album here (courtesy of Lala.com)