Watching Glee last night and seeing the brilliant Kristin Chenoweth performing Last Name reminded me just how much I love the music of Carrie Underwood. Country singer Carrie won the fourth season of American Idol in 2005 and quickly went on to become the most successful winner of the show in the US with debut album Some Hearts which has sold almost 7 million copies there since its release, a phenomenal achievement for any artist, but especially one with a first album from a reality TV show. The difference between Carrie and other Idol alumni is that Some Hearts was an absolutely stunning debut album, which could have easily come along three or four albums into her career such was its quality. It was far from the usual reality winners rushed out bland affair and mixed gorgeous ballads Jesus Take The Wheel, Whenever You Remember and The Night Before (Life Goes On) with excellent cheeky Shania Twain style pop-country on Before He Cheats, We're Young and Beautiful and my personal favourite, the autobiographical I Ain't In Checotah Anymore.
Carrie's second and third albums, Carnival Ride and Play On have followed this successful template and been almost as well received albeit with declining sales each time unsurprisngly. Carnival Ride's All American Girl, The More Boys I Meet and the aformentioned Last Name were all incredibly charming and although her latest album Play On is not quite as packed with potential hits as the first two, the Max Martin co-penned Quitter is surely crying out to be a single. It's a brilliant example of why Carrie does pop-country crossovers better than anyone else at the moment, with the exception of Taylor Swift who has tapped perfectly into the teen market, introducing the genre to a younger audience who are likely to remain country fans for life.
Carrie genuinely seems like one of the nicest, most down to earth people in music despite her success and it's a huge shame that she's never been launched properly anywhere else as Taylor Swift proved that there is a market for pop country worldwide, even if record companies believe this not to be the case. Country music promoted outside of the US seemed to disappear after the late 90's/early 00's success of acts like Shania Twain, The Mavericks, LeAnn Rimes and Lonestar, but I really do believe that if it had been promoted like any other new release, Carrie would have at the very least scored a UK top ten hit with Before He Cheats and probably could have even had semi-hits with the likes of Last Name, with its brilliant 'prequel to Before He Cheats' music video, both her version and the cover shooting up UK iTunes after it's Glee performance. I'm not usually a huge country music fan, in fact I used to hate it, but there are some great, very commercial, songs from the genre that audiences around the world are not getting the chance to hear and enjoy and it's a real shame that record companies have completely written off the fact that country could do well in territories other than the US. American Idol has produced global stars in Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks amongst others and I fail to see why Carrie hasn't been given a chance elsewhere yet.