By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Gretchen Wilson tore us a new one as a beer-drinkin', shit-kickin', Wal-Mart-lovin' "Redneck Woman." But aside from the hubristic drunk-driving anthem "All Jacked Up," Wilson's struggle to stay on the charts can be likened to fitting a size-10 hinder into size-two Wranglers. Here, her duet with Big & Rich wiz John Rich (the architect of her first two hits) attempts to soften her image and beckon us to the back of the double-wide, but the problem with Wilson's attempt at reforming her rowdy party-girl persona with a ballad is that her voice has all the character of Hamburger Helper. If this lusterless tune is any indication of Wilson's forthcoming One of the Boys, we're gonna wind up liking the trashy broad she used to be waaaaaay better.
The Dixie Chicks, "The Neighbor" from the Shut Up and Sing soundtrack
Remember when the Dixie Chicks sang songs and didn't just sing songs about trying to sing songs in the wake of Natalie Maines' controversial stage banter? Even if their suspiciously generous Grammy sweep had more to do with Bush's astonishing failure than the Chicks' astonishing achievement, the heavy-handed career metaphors in this Taking the Long Way scrap should've been left on Rick Rubin's floor. We're certainly not in favor of their shutting up, but for the love of God, sing about something else.
Carrie Underwood, "Wasted" from Some Hearts
Continuing coverage of American Idol contestants: Carrie Underwood's latest has broken up the sausage party atop Billboard's country charts. It hardly matters that the song's topical Wonder bread—whiskey, redemption and freedom (yawn)—powers a chorus as puffy and worthless as George Jones' liver; Underwood is the most charming newcomer in ages, even if her inroads to fame bypassed Music Row via reality television. Whatever the engine, she's in Def Leppard territory now.