NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — "American Idol" did more than launch Carrie Underwood's career — it helped shape the picture-perfect image she has today.
In interviews and public appearances, she never has a hair out of place and always says the right things. She only recently decided it was safe to join Twitter, and if there's ever a controversial tweet from her account, assume it got hacked.
Her carefully crafted persona doesn't come from "American Idol" media training, but rather from what she feels were cringe-worthy moments during her winning run on the show in 2005 that stereotyped her as a naive "country girl."
"I'm glad I can present a polished version of myself when it counts. When I was on 'Idol,' I said some dumb stuff, and learned what that could do, and that stuff lives on," said the Oklahoma native. "It seemed like every single solitary stupid thing I said was aired and featured and replayed over and over and over again."
After that, the 29-year-old made a conscious effort to portray herself in public as what she calls a "somewhat intelligent person" who graduated from college.
Yet when recording her fourth album, "Blown Away," out Tuesday, Underwood allowed herself to be unguarded, and sometimes downright silly.
"When you go in to write, you have to be willing to sound stupid," said Underwood during a recent interview at the Grand Ole Opry, of which she is a member. "Before you have a chance to think about something, you blurt it out and it doesn't make any sense, and everybody gets a good laugh out of it. You can't be afraid to sound completely dumb when you go to write."
She's giving herself permission to be a little less concerned about her image these days as well. It has taken her multiplatinum, Grammy-winning success, as well as the confidence of co-writing six of her 14 No. 1 country singles, for her to get comfortable with letting her personality shine through in more than just her music.
"Blown Away" represents Underwood's continued growth as an artist. She co-wrote eight of the album's 14 tracks, a far cry from the one tune she penned on her debut album. The disc is also a diverse collection, both musically and thematically.
The title track pulsates with a dance beat over a storyline describing a girl who heads to a storm shelter, hoping a tornado will destroy her home and her drunk, abusive dad asleep upstairs. "One Way Ticket" sways with a reggae groove. "Cupid's Got A Shotgun," featuring Brad Paisley on guitar, introduces fans to her redneck side. And "Wine After Whiskey" is a heartbreaking break-up ballad that has a classic feel.
Grammy-winning songwriter Josh Kear, known for hits like Underwood's "Before He Cheats" and Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," wrote four songs on "Blown Away." Three were penned with Underwood, including the foreboding "Two Black Cadillacs" about a wife and a mistress who conspire to get even with the man who betrayed them both.
Kear, who had never written with Underwood before this record, was thrilled with her as a collaborator. The day they wrote the quirky "Cupid's Got A Shotgun," Kear had suggested the title at the beginning of the session, and they had spent two to three hours working on another tune before getting stuck.