Kate's Notes

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Marie Underwood (born March 10, 1983) is best known for her going down fame’s easy street after getting directions as the winner of the fourth season of the show that has become a national phenomenon, “American Idol.”

Since her introduction onto America’s television screens, she has become a three-time Grammy-award winning American country music singer, and a multi-platinum selling recording artist. Her debut album, Some Hearts, was the fastest selling debut album of any of her "American Idol" contemporaries, the fastest selling country album of all time, and certified quintuple platinum, and is the fastest selling debut country album of all time.

Underwood became the first “American Idol” winner to sweep all three major music awards, including one American Music Award, eight Billboard Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards (including Best New Artist) in a single season.

Early Life

Born at Muskogee Regional Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Underwood grew up on her parents' farm in rural Checotah, Oklahoma. She is the third and youngest daughter of Stephen (retired from an industrial plant) and Carole Underwood (retired schoolteacher of Checotah Public Schools). She has two older sisters, Shanna Underwood Means and Stephanie Underwood Shelton, born in 1973 and 1970 respectively; they are both elementary school teachers in Oklahoma. In fact, Underwood received four detentions during her academic career. Her mother, substitute teaching her class, gave Underwood her first ever detention.

Underwood had a taste for music at a very young age, and performed at Robbins Memorial Talent Show, Old Settler's Day and Lion's Club (which are both local events in Checotah) when she was still only a child. In addition, she attended Free Will Baptist Church, and she sang in church. Then, at the age of 13 in 1996, her manager at the time tried to get her a recording contract at Capitol Records. However, due to management changes at Capitol, it never materialized.

Underwood’s scholastic achievements proved to be quite respectable. She graduated from Checotah High School in 2001 as salutatorian, and moved on to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and an emphasis in journalism. There she became a member of the Alpha Iota chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, in addition to her membership in the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma. For two years during the summer, she used to perform in Northeastern's Downtown Country Show in Tahlequah, and also competed in numerous beauty pageants at Northeastern State University – she was selected as Miss NSU runner-up in 2004.

She currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.

“American Idol”: The Road to the Top

In the summer of 2004 in St. Louis, Underwood gave her singing voice the platform it needed when she auditioned for “American Idol: Season Four.” It was clear from the very beginning that she was a top contender, and when her initial audition aired in January 2005, many people predicted she would win the competition.

On March 22, 2005, the notoriously hard-to-please judge Simon Cowell predicted that Underwood would win the competition and go on to outsell all previous "Idol" winners (which she did). Underwood made history as one of only four contestants never to have been voted in the bottom three. While on the show, Underwood cultivated a loyal fan base known as "Carrie's Care Bears." She is actually in the same sorority (Sigma Sigma Sigma) as Linda Denham, the creator of the original Care Bears franchise.

On May 25, 2005, she was crowned the winner of “American Idol: Season 4,” beating out the pop-rocker, Bo Bice. Her victory at the 2005 American Idol competition has been considered the show's first upset. Many pundits thought she would be bested by runner-up, Bice.

She is set to appear on “American Idol: Season Six.” Underwood will sing her current hit, "Wasted," on March 8 during her second performance on the show since winning the competition in 2005.

Some Hearts: 2005 - Present

Underwood's debut album, entitled Some Hearts, hit store shelves on November 15, 2005, entering the Billboard 200 chart with 315,000 copies sold. The monsterous sales in the first week of Some Hearts made it #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and the biggest debut of any country artist of all modern times. Some Hearts has since been certified five-times Platinum by the RIAA, and is the fastest-selling debut country album in history. Carrie Underwood's first single, "Jesus, Take The Wheel" was released as a single on October 18, 2005. It received so much airplay that it debuted at #39 on the Billboard Country Chart in its first week, setting a record. It eventually reached #1 for 6 consecutive weeks, and was only two weeks shy of Connie Smith's record of an 8-week run back in 1964-1965 with her #1 hit "Once a Day".

"Don't Forget To Remember Me," the second of Underwood's singles to be released to country radio, peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Chart, as well as #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it did reach #1 for a week on the Radio & Records Country Singles Chart.

Both singles “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Don't Forget to Remember Me” have earned #1 spots in Christian radio countdowns. “Jesus, Take the Wheel” won the Gospel Music Association's award for best country single of the year. "Jesus, Take The Wheel" spent six weeks at #1 on the US Country chart. This run tied Faith Hill's "Breathe" as the runner-up of the longest-running female number one in the chart's history.

On May 23, 2006, Underwood sang “Jesus, Take the Wheel” receiving a standing ovation at the ACM Awards and ended up winning Best New Female Vocalist and Single of the year for the song. Also she was nominated for Song of the Year and Female Vocalist of the year.

On November 6, 2006, Underwood performed her #1 hit, “Before He Cheats,” at the 40th Annual Country Music Association Awards and later won both the Horizon Award (similar to the "rookie of the year" award in sports) for new country artists and Female Vocalist. Underwood’s double win is the first time since 1995 that an artist won both the Female Vocalist and Horizon award.

On November 21, 2006 Underwood went into the American Music Awards with two nominations, that night she left the building winning the Breakthrough Artist of the Year award beating out the Pussycat Dolls and Chamillionare. She was also nominated for Best Female Country Artist, but did not win in that category.

On December 4, 2006, Underwood attended the "2006 Billboard Music Awards", and eventually took home five awards. She won the coveted Album of the Year, Top 200 Female Artist of the Year, Female Country Artist, New Country Artist, and Country Album of the Year.

Controversy: 2006 CMA Awards

In November 2006, Faith Hill made entertainment news headlines when she appeared to react angrily to losing the Female Vocalist of the Year award to Underwood at the CMA Awards. Hill, who was backstage at the time and pacing in anticipation, could be seen throwing both hands in the air, mouthing "What!?" and possibly, “Come on!” and then stepping away from the camera after Underwood's name was called. Hill defended her reaction, claiming that is was a joke. She released a statement saying, "The idea that I would act disrespectful towards a fellow musician is unimaginable to me. For this to become a focus of attention, given the talent gathered, is utterly ridiculous. Carrie is a talented and deserving female vocalist of the year." She later called Underwood to congratulate her and clear up any misconceptions between the two singers. Several other notable country singers have rallied to the defense of Faith Hill over the misunderstanding.

One of the country singers who came to Hill's defense was LeAnn Rimes, in a statement on her website (since removed) also criticized the Country Music Association for awarding Underwood both the Horizon Award and Female Vocalist award stating, “I usually keep quiet on topics like this but I feel I need to stand up for my friend, Faith. She was just being honest and emotional like every other person sitting at home with an opinion. These awards shows are SO political and we all get fed up with them. We all work very hard and have for many years so to see someone come in and win Female Vocalist that has been here for a VERY short time, is a little disheartening.

Grammy Awards: 2007

On December 7, 2006, Carrie received two Grammy nominations for "Best New Artist", "Best Female Country Vocal Performance" for "Jesus, Take the Wheel," while "Jesus, Take the Wheel" itself received nominations for "Best Country Song" and "Song of the Year": award categories that recognize songwriters (in this case, Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson, and Brett James) rather than simply the performers themselves.

Underwood's nomination marked the first time that an “American Idol” winner or contestant had been nominated under the "Best New Artist" category. Underwood walked away triumphant, winning awards for Best New Artist, and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Additionally, "Jesus, Take The Wheel," the song for which her vocal performance was recognized, took the award for Best Country Song.

Personal Life

Carrie was selected in the People magazine's top 100 Most Beautiful People in 2006. She was also selected as one of the top 25 Hottest People under 25 in Teen People magazine.

At her “American Idol” audition, Underwood revealed to the judges that her favorite singer is contemporary country recording artist Martina McBride. Throughout Carrie's time on “American Idol,” home videos were shown in which she sang "Independence Day," one of Martina's biggest hits. Carrie also released her version of "Independence Day" as the B-side to her first #1 single, "Inside Your Heaven."

In addition to being a singer, Underwood is also a skilled guitar player, and has played guitar during performances of certain songs like "Don't Forget To Remember Me" and "Inside Your Heaven" during some of her live concerts, as well as on the albums.

She loves animals, and has stated that she is a vegetarian since the age 13. She was voted "World's Sexiest Vegetarian" alongside Coldplay front man Chris Martin in 2005 by animal-rights organization PETA. Underwood is also a supporter of the Humane Society and has done several public service announcements for the organization.

A native of eastern Oklahoma, she co-wrote a song dedicated to her hometown, "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore." In December 2005, Underwood was named Oklahoman of the Year by Oklahoma Today magazine.

Charity and Activism

Carrie performed with the USO Christmas Tour in Iraq during the 2006 Holiday season, to spread holiday cheer to the troops overseas. She follows a celebrity entertainment tradition started by Bob Hope that continues to this date. Several internet sites have photos and video clips of Underwood’s performances in Iraq, including photos of her in military garb.


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