It's a refreshing contrast.
So many young stars begin their careers talking winsomely about their faith only to seemingly move as far away from it as possible. But Carrie Underwood, the down-to-earth country girl next door from Checotah, Okla., has come full circle with "Something in the Water," a faith-doused song added on to her first Greatest Hits album.
Ms. Underwood, if you'll remember, took American Idol by storm in 2005, winning the Season 4 competition and becoming one of two singers (along with inaugural season champ Kelly Clarkson) who've indisputably lived up to the series' lofty title. Her first hit following her Idol coronation was the smash single "Jesus Take the Wheel," a song that helped make Carrie's debut album ( Some Hearts) both the best-selling solo country debut by a woman and the biggest-selling country by any artist in that genre over a span of 10 years.
Now 31, married to Nashville Predators hockey player Mike Fisher and expecting her first child, Carrie's returned unabashedly to overt Christian themes with a song about trials and tribulation, baptism, redemption and "Amazing Grace."
"Something in the Water" begins with a story of desperation followed by a trip down to the river for a personal spiritual revival. "He said, 'I've been where you've been before,'" Underwood begins. "'Down every hallway's a slamming door/No way out, no one to come and save me/Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me.'"
The man continues with his story of salvation: "Then somebody said what I'm saying to you/Opened my eyes and told me the truth/They said, 'Just a little faith, and it'll all get better'/So I followed that preacher man down to the river, and now I'm changed/And now I'm stronger."
Underwood doesn't think much about what he's been telling her at first: "Well, I heard what he said, and I went on my way/Didn't think about it for a couple of days." But when she runs into a brick wall of hopelessness herself, the man's message comes back to her, prompting a spiritual surrender: "Then it hit me like lightning late one night/I was all out of hope and all out of fight/Couldn't fight back the tears, so I fell on my knees/Saying, 'God, if you're there, come and rescue me.'"
God answers that prayer: "Felt love pouring down from above/Got washed in the water, washed in the blood, and now I'm changed/And now I'm stronger/There must be something in the water/Oh, there must be something in the water."
The song's final verse buoyantly testifies to a life redeemed and transformed. Carrie exults, "Now I'm singing along to 'Amazing Grace'/Can't nobody wipe this smile off my face/Got joy in my heart, angels on my side/Thank God Almighty, I saw the light."
In a 2012 interview with Glamour magazine, Carrie suggested she would be returning to songs about her faith ... and added, "It wasn't a worry to me at all. Country music is different. You have that Bible Belt-ness about it. I'm not the first person to sing about God, Jesus, faith, any of that, and I won't be the last. And it won't be the last for me, either. If you don't like it, change the channel."
Just a few days before its release, Underwood said of "Something in the Water," "It's really kind of a joyous, uplifting song about changing your life for the better and kind of having that 'a-ha' moment, to waking up and your life being different from that moment forward."
It's the kind of moment, in other words, that comes after you let Jesus take the wheel.
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First-week sales of 124,000 units is a career best for Carrie Underwood as well as the strongest first-week track performance for any American Idol winner.
September 29, 2014