After Carrie Underwood's surprise announcement last week that her next album, Storyteller will hit stores October 23rd, fans are now anxiously awaiting another big reveal: the likely massive tour in support of the project. Even just five albums into her career, the country superstar could fill a whole show with nothing but Number One hits, but if history repeats, she'll throw in other fan favorites that were never released to radio — but easily could've been chart-dominators if they had been. In celebration of Storyteller, we asked readers which of Underwood's deep cuts are their favorites, and the number of votes you cast set an all-time Rolling Stone Country record. Here are the results.
Taken from Underwood's 2009 album, Play On, "Quitter" is a steel guitar-laced confessional wherein our heroine admits that, where relationships are concerned, she's "always been a quitter." Until now, that is. Co-written by pop songwriter/producer extraordinaire Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync), "Quitter" is laced together with rosy scenes of front porch swings, picket fences and growing old together. And while the song leans heavily on programmed beats and the slick production elements which color the pop hits in his substantial portfolio, Underwood's strong staccato vocals — underpinned by her pronounced Oklahoma twang — give "Quitter" considerable country substance. Linda Ryan
Written by Hillary Lindsey, Steve McEwan and Gordie Sampson, "Someday When I Stop Loving You" is arguably the strongest — and most delicate — track on Underwood's Play On album. The song finds its narrator brooding over the impossible eternity it takes to move on from a past lover. Her repining is subtle as she sings, "When the desert floods and the grass turns blue, when a sailing ship don't need her moon, it will break my heart but I'll get through, someday when I stop loving you." The country star's voice is beautifully framed in the arrangement, brushing melancholic, traditional folk over a gentle but driving groove that ends up being almost reminiscent of Seventies' Steely Dan. Erin Manning
Taken from the American Idol-winner's second album, Carnival Ride, "Flat on the Floor" is a 'getting over a bad relationship song' that also happens to be the perfect vehicle for Underwood's powerhouse vocals. This isn't an easy song to sing; a less talented singer would have a hard time delivering some of the more urgent, frenzied lines without screeching, yet this demanding vocal sits comfortably within Underwood's seemingly endless range. Driven by electric guitar riffs, pounding drums and a wailing fiddle, this bombastic break up song was, perhaps surprisingly, co-written by the soft-spoken Ashley Monroe. One of Underwood's more musically dense offerings — yes, there's a lot going on here — her vocals shine through the noise, as does her message of empowerment. L.R.
Underwood reunited with former fiddle player Ashley Clark and his group, Sons of Sylvia for this breakup duet filled with regret — not about the split but about how it all went down. That is, if you take the lyrics literally. Because when the two sing, "I'm not sorry that it's over," there's so much angst in their voices that you realize this musical apology isn't just for any harsh words said when the relationship crashed and burned but also for not giving it another shot. Clark matches his former boss note for impossibly soaring note on the weeper, which sees their vocals ebb and flow like the inevitable feelings that come in the aftermath of a breakup. Co-written with Steve McEwan and former Evanescence member David Hodges, the ballad would've been a surefire hit on the AC charts, right alongside country, if it had been released. B.D.
While Underwood's blockbuster Blown Away LP is by no means short on sweeping strings and stagy symbolism, the album cut "Cupid's Got a Shotgun" (buried deep at Track 12) yanks listeners out of the Broadway theater and puts 'em back in the honky-tonk. While the track — a light-hearted barn burner about Cupid giving up on arrows in favor of high-caliber, more-drastic measures — wields weaponized imagery (like sawed-off double-barrels and Kevlar vests) in keeping with the album's melodrama. And its romping, stomping shuffle rolls in like a breath of fresh air and whiskey-soaked sawdust. Adam Gold
A dramatic, stirring ballad attesting to the idea that little actions can make a huge difference in the world, Underwood's "Change" got its time in the spotlight when the singer performed it on American Idol's Idol Gives Back television show. The episode, which also featured Alicia Keys and Sir Elton John among many others, raised 45 million dollars for charities around the globe. And while there were many highlights — and plenty of wet hankies — that song, that singer, that stage, was the trifecta which powerfully stole the show. The ballad's inspiring message, heightened by sweeping strings and dramatic production, was delivered by one of Idol's own, in Underwood's undeniably flawless vocals. L.R.
Many a truth is said in jest, as the saying goes. But "Unapologize" is an example of just how hard it can be to walk back something you blurt out — especially when you really did mean what you said, however much you try to take it back. This double-negative-laced power ballad from Underwood's 2009 album Play On pirouettes from "I love you" to "Sorry, just kidding" to "Not sorry because yes I do" with impressive dexterity, as waves of crashing guitars emphasize the point. Underwood seems to revel in the grammatical awkwardness of it all, secure in the knowledge that sometimes two wrongs actually do make a right. David Menconi
Reba McEntire herself could not pull off wounded hurt-so-good melancholia any better than Underwood does on "Good in Goodbye," a mini-drama from her 2012 album Blown Away. The song leaves a lot unsaid, but it certainly gives the impression that the singer was the other woman in a triangle before opting out for the greater good. Taking on the role of Our Lady of Perpetual Bereavement, Underwood sings through stoically clenched teeth as she admits that distance has made her able to see the silver lining to the cloud of ending the relationship. But she sounds forlorn, still in the shadow of that cloud. Even though she claims to have found someone "who makes me happy," you just don't believe her. D.M.
Underwood's second LP, Carnival Ride, was her first to top the Billboard 200 and her second Number One country album, with five platinum-selling singles released. Surprisingly, one of those five was not this soaring, heart-wrenching ballad penned by Steve McEwan (a writer of the single, "Just a Dream"), Wendell Mobley and Neil Thrasher. In the song, Underwood laments that she's merely an afterthought for someone to whom she has given her all-too-fragile heart. At least that's what she'd like us to believe. What she really conveys is all the anger, sadness, frustration, confusion and longing she can muster, holding one devastating note for a heart- (and glass-) shattering 10 seconds. One of the most brilliantly complex vocal performances she's ever committed to record. Stephen L. Betts
This song soothes like a Bloody Mary hitting a hangover, swirling lost love and regret together in a wine-after-whiskey metaphor to describe how later relationships never suit after experiencing true love. "Once you've tasted a love that strong, you can't go back and you can't settle on anything less," Underwood laments. Originally written with Tom Shapiro and Dave Berg for the superstar's third album, Play On, "Wine After Whiskey" didn't make the final track listing. Instead it was included on her next album, Blown Away, proving to be a better fit with the record's darker sound that toyed with pop and rock-influenced country. The ballad is a creative risk, nestled into adult contemporary territory with unusual chord changes and almost-alt-rock rootings, yet it has resonated as a fan favorite due to its sincerity and straightforwardness. E.M.