Country superstar Carrie Underwood claims "you can't cry pretty," but she still manages to do so in the music video for "Cry Pretty," the first single from her upcoming album of the same name. In the video, we see the American Idol winner performing the song on-stage while wearing the same glittery tear makeup she wore at the 2018 American Country Music Awards — but breaking down in tears when she's alone again.
Despite the waterworks, though, Carrie looks characteristically gorgeous. (And we still see no sign of the face injury she warned might make her look different.) But as the lyrics attest, glamorousness doesn't negate glumness. "Oh no, you can't dress it up in lace or rhinestones," Carrie sings. "It don't matter if you're in a crowd or home all alone / Yeah, it's all the same when you're looking in the mirror / A picture of pain, so let it flow like a river."
In April, before Carrie debuted this title track from her sixth studio album, she revealed the song's backstory in a letter to her fans. "The first single is a song I love so much and can't wait to share with you," she wrote. "It's called 'Cry Pretty,' and I wrote it with three incredible women: Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose, and Lori McKenna, who also write under the name Love Junkies. I joined one of their writing sessions last year to see if we could come up with some magic… and we did!"
The 35-year-old continued, "The title refers to when emotions take over and you just can't hold them back. It really speaks to a lot of things that have happened in the past year, and I hope when you hear it, you can relate those feelings to those times in your life. It's emotional. It's real. And it rocks!"
And this comeback track is already winning over critics. "[Carrie's] performance communicates… the injustice of being expected to keep it together so that the world is a little better-looking," wrote Ann Powers for NPR's All Songs Considered. "Women look in the mirror and see not just their own pain reflected, but also the cost of hiding it… In [Carrie's] hands, a song like 'Cry Pretty' becomes a subtle feminist anthem about how, for women performers, a focus on glam often obscures the artistry."
Carrie's album Cry Pretty is due for release on Sept. 14, but this lead single has already hit #1 on Billboard's Country Digital Songs list — the first Carrie Underwood track to do so since 2015 — and it has also broken into the Hot 100. You go, Carrie!