Carrie Underwood, "Play On"
There's no doubt that Carrie Underwood's third album, "Play On," is her best collection yet: Here, the artist seems to finally feel comfortable in her own skin. It's a wide-ranging album-she's in love, out of love, light-hearted and playful. But isn't that real life? The bass-heavy and lyrically light first single, "Cowboy Casanova" (which Underwood co-wrote), makes for fine radio candy, but it's not the type of song that defines the album. The socially conscious anthem "Change" and the spiritual-sounding "Temporary Home" (another Underwood co-write) provide the meat and potatoes that make the syrupy-sweet dessert offerings more palatable. "What Can I Say" (featuring Sons of Sylvia) is a soaring lamentation about how love was lost, while "Someday When I Stop Loving You" is a well-written look at a life that's going downhill. Elsewhere, Vince Gill's high harmony on "Look at Me" helps elevate a simple song to a potential country classic.-Ken Tucker