Friday, May 7, 2010

Why I'm a Carrie Underwood Fan

As I watched CMT this afternoon, I got to see the World Premiere of Carrie Underwood's video for her new single, "Undo It." I then reflected back on this "Carnival Ride" I've been on these past five plus years with her. After a rough 2004, I was looking for someone or something I could believe in as year changed to 2005. Yes, I still had my faith in God, but something in me longed for someone to root for here on Earth.

So during the auditions for season four of American Idol, I see this cute little blonde girl From Checotah, Oklahoma, with faded jeans and a pink top wearing the number "14887." Then I start hearing her rendition of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Her vocal range simply AMAZED me! That song is one of the hardest ones for anyone to sing and she was FLAWLESS! But that wasn't all. I found out she was a fellow Christian and had very good morals and values. But she also was a little shy. I knew that if she was going to go anywhere, she was going to become more confident and break out of that shell. I hoped and prayed that she would make it past the auditions and that she would gain self-confidence... Thankfully, both of those things happened, and she made it into the top 24!

If you're an Idol fan, you know making the top 24 is a great accomplishment. This season, another cute blonde with a great voice, Janell Wheeler made the top 24. I was so impressed by her version of Estelle's "American Boy" in the auditions, that I felt compelled to do something I hadn't done since season four - vote! I really thought Janell was going to be the next Carrie! Janell sang Heart's "What About Love?" and despite me voting all two hours, she was the first one eliminated this season.

Thankfully, Carrie didn't have the same fate as Janell... her week one song was a cover of Tiffany's "Could've Been." Perhaps not the song one would have picked for her, but she absolutely nailed it... to the point where I actually felt compelled to vote!!! And so after the show I voted five times for her.

Each week, I'd vote five more times than the previous week. So, I voted 15 times for Carrie the week they cut the field down from 16 to the final 12. Two weeks later, on March 22, 2005, Carrie would have her defining moment on Idol. She sang a rendition of Heart's "Alone" which simply blew the judges away. Simon Cowell stated "Not only you will win this show but you will sell more records than any other previous Idol winner." A pretty bold statement, especially considering how well season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" album was doing at the time - that album would spawn five straight top five singles, including three which reached #1 on the U.S. pop chart. "Breakaway" went on to sell over six million copies in the U.S.

Getting back to season four of Idol, Carrie continued to impress and kept breezing through. As the field was pared to five, I was now up to 50 votes for Carrie. Over time it became more and more who was #1 in Carrie's life. Yes, she loved her family and friends very much, but she made it very clear that God was the #1 person in her life. When I voted for Carrie, I felt like I was doing what God wanted me to do. She was not only a great singer, but a sister in Christ.

As the season drew to a close, my mindset became not one of just supporting Carrie, but giving her 100% of my efforts! I was going to do whatever I could to help her win! The next three weeks, I spent all two hours of the time the phones were open voting for Carrie. During those three weeks, I voted a total of over 2,100 times! Yes, that's 700 times a week. Ironically, my second favorite contestant that season was a guy named Bo Bice. And wouldn't you know it, not only would Bo make it to the final show along with Carrie, but he also became very good friends with her.

I still remember that final week as if it were yesterday. The phone lines opened up at 9 pm, and I voted until 1 am the next morning. In four hours, I managed to get through 1,418 times! Yes, I wanted Carrie to win BAD! My fingers were sore for the next two days afterward! On May 25, 2005, Carrie was crowned the American Idol season four champion. I jumped in the air and yelled at the top of my lungs "YES!" and then I cried many tears of joy. I'm a huge sports fan as many of you know, but this was better than any championship by my Lakers, Angels or Dodgers where I just watched passively and cheered. With Carrie, it was different because I had given my time and participated in helping her win. The 10 hours I spent voting those four weeks were not at all wasted, rather they were an investment in a sister in Christ who I knew could make a positive difference in the world.

Like everyone else, I wondered what would happen to Carrie after Idol. Deep inside, I knew she would be successful and I wasn't afraid to tell anyone that. I even got ridiculed on the ESPN fantasy baseball boards about my support for her by one person in particular. Like Rolling Stone magazine and their infamous "0 star" review of the video for Carrie's first single and their complete omission of reviewing her first album, he eventually proved to be an EPIC FAIL about Carrie. I only hoped that she would stay true to herself and keep her focus on God.

The afternoon of October 18, 2005 is one that I'll never forget. I was listening to a Tim McGraw song called "My Old Friend" on the now defunct Country station KZLA 93.9 here in the City of Angels. The next song was going to be the new Carrie Underwood single, and it was entitled "Jesus, Take The Wheel." The title of the song alone made me ecstatic. A genuine woman of faith, willing to put it all on the line for Him. Many thought she was taking a huge risk, others such as myself knew better. Sure enough, this song of hope and faith was a HUGE hit, making an unheard of debut at #39 on the Country chart in its first week of release and climbing to #1 for six weeks. It even rose to the top five of the Christian Pop and AC charts. The song would go on to earn the Gospel Music Association’s award for best country single of the year. Not only did Carrie have a huge hit song, but she had a hit song about Jesus which raised the spiritual awareness of our nation! What a blessing!

In the years following the amazing success of "Jesus, Take The Wheel," Carrie has won tons of other major awards. 66 major ones to be exact including 10 Academy of Country Music awards, five American Music awards, five Country Music Association awards, four CMT awards, and five Grammy awards. With each every one of the awards Carrie's accepted she's always thanked GOD first - before her family, friends, fans and anyone else. This has never changed!

Over these five years, God has continued to bless her musical career. Carrie's first album, "Some Hearts" sold seven million copies here in the U.S., breaking Kelly Clarkson's record for an Idol, and making Mr. Cowell a prophet of sorts. Her follow-up "Carnival Ride" has sold nearly four million copies, and her current "Play On" release is nearing double platinum. Her first 11 singles released to Country radio have hit #1 (Wikipedia is wrong) on one of the major Country airplay charts (Mediabase or Billboard), including her latest, "Temporary Home." Like "Jesus, Take The Wheel," it's another song about faith and how our lives here on earth are just temporary. Our greater life is in the heavens above with our Lord.

As many of you also know, Carrie is engaged to hockey player, Mike Fisher. In a recent article in the Christian Post, Carrie talks about how her fiancé has actually helped improve her walk with God. At her last awards show, the ACM's, Carrie once again proclaimed her faith in Jesus Christ as her savior stating "I thank God for country music. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for my family." It's so awesome that Carrie can be so bold and up front about her faith in God. All of us Christians can learn from Carrie's example and try to emulate her boldness. In this society of so few role models, it's nice to know that there are few still out there.

Thank you, God for Carrie Underwood!



Anonymous said...

Well said! Carrie is a great role model and her Christian faith make her even better. Thanks for a great read.

Anonymous said...

Very well said indeed but Carrie didn't write "Jesus, Take the Weel". I know this is nothing compared to everything you said, I too am a Carrie Underwood fan, but it's just a correction. It was written by Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson.

John C said...

Thanks for that correction! I have edited my post so that it now reads as I meant it to.