Overwrought delivery and bombastic arrangements – those qualities are no strangers to albums by “American Idol” alumni. But when the songs’ stories add a ludicrous element to the mix, the singer is in trouble. Carrie Underwood is stuck navigating a collection of odd pop-country material on her second album, “Carnival Ride,” that quickly distinguishes itself from the rootsy qualities of her debut.
(That’s good news and bad news). Underwood’s strength lies in the country-pop equivalent of a power ballad like “Crazy Dreams” and “I Know You Won’t”; when playful or expressing remorse, Underwood gets the job done. But on other tunes she sings about a teenage bride whose husband was killed in war, the endless cycle of how girls distract high school athletes, how her dog is better than boys who talk to her in bars and, finally, how she drank too much tequila and wound up married to guy who drove a Pinto. (What year is this, people?) To become a good story-teller, she needs better stories to tell.