Super bowl Anthem Rating: 5/10
Overall Rating as a Song: 2/10
So let’s assume this song stays a sports thing. Carrie Underwood and Ludacris are a terrible pair on paper, but maybe I can see appealing to a wider audience with this collaboration. The lyrics are generic, but maybe this is also what you need, just something to hype people up for the Super Bowl. I could take it or leave it I guess, but it serves its purpose and isn’t really hurting anyone at all with is existence.
But let’s now view this as a Carrie Underwood song, and actually, let’s not even take into account that it might be sent to country radio. Obviously it’s pop and has no shred of country in it whatsoever, and if it gets serviced to the country airwaves, this will be another problem altogether, but for a moment, let’s ignore this because of the artist in question. Carrie Underwood has never claimed to be strictly country, has always released pop singles, and has even sent songs to pop radio. She’s never been holding the torch for traditional country, even if she’s been a beacon of talent in the mainstream, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this single favors electronic beats over fiddle and steel.
What should be a surprise, however, and should be met with disgust by all Carrie Underwood fans everywhere, is the absolute butchering of a world-class voice by one, distorting and transforming her to sound almost robotic, and two, by forcing her to sing something so lacking in any measurable melody. This song relies on rhythm, except for one or two spots before the chorus where you hear Carrie break free and subsequently weep for the fact that her voice is kept constrained to these four or five notes and choppy rhythms. Carrie Underwood is better, and indeed, this song could have been better even for what it is had her voice been allowed to shine. This is Underwood’s best quality, and it’s being utterly ignored here. And let’s hope this is a standalone single and not some horrifying glimpse into the sound of her next album; country pop is one thing, straight pop is another, but singing pop infused with hip-hop phrasing and beats is on quite a different level and does not suit the particular vocal quality and talents of Carrie Underwood. The voice that gave us the stunning tribute to country’s fallen greats and the Las Vegas victims on live television should not be forced into these boxes in some sort of misguided effort to stay relevant.
And what about the part of Ludacris in all this? Well, admittedly, the spelling out of “champion” is a bit irritating, but his part actually comes off better than Carrie’s, and well it should, because Ludacris is at least in his lane here. Carrie Underwood doesn’t even sound comfortable singing this–which almost makes too much sense since she doesn’t ever sing stuff like this…but I digress.
But I don’t want to focus too much on Ludacris, for if this does stay a sports anthem, or even if it goes to pop radio, there won’t really be an issue with him. If this comes to country radio, again, obviously it’s a different story, but for now, Ludacris is not the problem with this song. The problem is it doesn’t fit Carrie Underwood in the slightest. So let’s hope it stays a harmless NFL hype song, and that her subsequent singles and album won’t carry this influence–because this, friends, is not Carrie Underwood, and it shows.