Category Archives: Who Done It Better

"Lessons Learned:" Who Done It Better, Carrie or Kristin?

The newest Who Done It Better review will feature the Dianne Warren penned power ballad, “Lessons Learned.” As for the artists, in one corner we have the pint-sized Tony and Emmy award winning diva, Kristin Chenoweth. And in the other corner we have the American Idol winner with a voice that can knock you out, Carrie Underwood.
“Lessons Learned” is a song that revolves around the simplest of themes: the lessons we learn from the experience we go through in life. With lines about “damage I cannot undo” to about how the past can’t be rewritten, this is a song full of all the cliches that come to one’s mind when thinking about the theme. I wouldn’t call this a home run from veteran songwriter Dianne Warren, but nevertheless it has been recorded twice in the country world. It first appeared on Carrie Underwood’s debut album Some Hearts and it was rerecorded by Kristin Chenoweth for her first country album, Some Lessons Learned. So, just like the previous reviews of this nature, I’ve compared the two versions side by side in the following three categories: production, vocal performance, and delivery (i.e. the emotional delivery as well as a connection to the song).

Kristin Chenoweth
Carrie Underwood
This version is very heavy on the production. Nearly every instrument known to man could possibly be heard on this soaring country-pop ballad. Strings, guitars, heavy drums, keyboards, and a little steel guitar could all be heard in this over-produced version.  What hurts the song is the fact that the production completely drowns out the vocals laid down by Kristin.
The production here is also way too over-the-top for my ears, but it isn’t big enough to drown out Carrie’s vocal performance. The power ballad is delivered with a full string backing, heavy drumming, guitars, and plenty of keys. I prefer the production of this version simply because Carrie’s vocal is always the louder than the production.
As a product of Broadway, it’s not a surprise that Chenoweth has some incredible vocal talents. On her version she delivers the power ballad to the best of her ability, but seems to fall a little short because her voice isn’t quite strong enough for a song this big.
Vocal Performance
Carrie Underwood is pretty much a vocal force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to power ballads. Underwood delivers the song with some incredible vocal skills that force you to listen to her rather than the production. Simply listen to the chorus and the bridge and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.
Being a Tony Award winner, you would think Chenoweth has the ability to drench a song with loads of emotion and heart. Unfortunately, that talent ability doesn’t show off on this tune. Kristin merely delivers the song without showing any emotional connection she might have had to the song.
Carrie is no stranger to delivering songs with incredible emotion and attitude (please revisit “Jesus, Take the Wheel” if you need proof) so it’s no surprise that her delivery is just as incredible as her vocal performance. You can hear that there was a connection from Carrie to the song that comes over in the final cut.
Final Verdict
I personally became a fan of Kristin Chenoweth’s vocal talent after seeing her guest star on the hit show Glee, but she doesn’t pack enough hit to match Carrie Underwood on this country-pop ballad. Carrie simply out sings, out performs, and out does Kristin on this song.

Now that you know which version I think is better, I ask you to listen to both versions and compare for yourselves…then let me know who you think “done it better.”

Kristin Chenoweth version:

Carrie Underwood version:

1 Comment

Filed under Who Done It Better

"Swingin’": Who Done It Better, Chris or Leann?

For this edition of Who Done it Better, we are examining two different remakes of John Anderson’s 1983 classic, “Swingin’.” Chris Young recorded the song for his 2010 Voices EP while Leann Rimes recorded the song for her 2011 covers album, Lady and Gentlemen. How do these completely different versions compare to each other?

“Swingin'” became a number one hit for John Anderson back in 1983 and instantly became a country music classic. Written by Anderson along with Lionel Delmore, the song gives a flirtatious account of how the narrator discovers his infatuation for a young Charlotte Johnson by simply swinging on her front porch swing. The song at first glance seems like country filler but John Anderson’s fantastic vocal delivery keeps it anything but filler.
Many artists have tried to recreate this classic, but the original is something that will be hard to touch, no matter who tries to remake it. It’s for that very reason that I should admit that the versions turned in by Chris Young and Leann Rimes have nothing on the original, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. Below we’ve compared both songs based on three categories: production, vocal performance, and originality. Take a look at what we have to say and then listen to the songs and let us know who you think “done it better.”
Chris Young
Leann Rimes
Chris’ version utilizes a much slower tempo from the original. Rather than enlisting the help of a full backing band, Young delivers an acoustic version of the song leaving behind all the bells and whistles the original consisted of.
Leann’s version kicks the song’s tempo up a couple notches which gives it more life and personality. The horns are also replaced in this version with killer guitar lines delivered by Vince Gill.
Chris is one of country’s latest troubadours. He usually leaves behind any vocal tricks in order to deliver a simple, consistent vocal. Here, he simply sticks to the original’s vocal styling by delivering the song in a consistent tone. The problem here is that the song needs personality from its singer.
Vocal Performance
Leann delivers one of the best vocal performances of her career on this song. Not only does she do a great job in articulating each word to keep up with the song’s tempo, but she also gives the song new life by delivering a cheeky, sassy, and bubbly vocal performance to match the song’s flirtatious spirit.
I’m a big fan of acoustic covers so the fact that this is such a simple version of the song makes me like it and appreciate it. Although I can’t say Chris did enough with it to make it original in any way.
Leann does a fantastic job converting this song about “Charlotte Johnson” into one about “Charlie Johnson.” It takes a lot for a female to cover a classic delivered by a male artist, and Leann succeeds brilliantly.
Final Verdict
Both version are fantastic in their own right, but overall Leann’s version has the slight edge mainly because it’s more fun to listen to and brings the flirty ditty to life.

Chris Young version:

Leann Rimes version:

Leave a comment

Filed under Who Done It Better

Who Done It Better: "A Showman’s Life"

Lately it seems like artists are recording their own versions of songs that have either been previously released or have appeared on another artist’s album. So, as a fun new feature on ATC, I’ve decided to bring you our Who Done It Better reviews where I’ll compare two artists’ versions of the same song. I’ve decided to kick off our new feature by comparing the George Strait and Gary Allan versions of the Jesse Winchester song, “A Showman’s Life.”

“A Showman’s Life” is a superbly written song about the struggles of life on the road as a musician.

     A showman’s life 
     is a smoky bar
     and the fevered chase of a tiny star
     it’s a hotel room
     a lonely wife
     from what I’ve seen
     of a showman’s life

The first verse alone paints a harsh, gloomy picture of the lifestyle that is often perceived as a glamorous one. Meanwhile the chorus finds the narrator almost regretting his choice to pursue his dream which was supposed to include pretty women, money, and good times but instead is having to deal with the “wear and tear” the lifestyle has taken on a “honky tonker’s heart.” This heartbreaking depiction of the lifestyle’s reality has been delivered in two different styles by George Strait and Gary Allan.

Gary Allan’s version was included on his 2003 album, See If I Care as a duet which featured country legend Willie Nelson. The production on this version is more traditional than that of Strait’s version as it contains plenty of steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and even a little electric guitar to give the song its throwback country feel. The nearly acapella introduction sets the haunting tone as Allan delivers a raw, emotional vocal performance that remains consistent throughout the entire song. As the song reaches its second verse, you hear the familiar voice of Willie’s as he delivers his usual vocal styling which consists of half singing and half speaking. Unfortunately the inclusion of Nelson as a duet partner is the song’s biggest flaw. His unusual vocal phrasing doesn’t compliment the fantastic vocals delivered by Allan and causes the song to almost sound like two different versions in one. However, Gary’s portion of the song is fantastic and one of my favorite vocal performances of his.

George Strait’s version is included on his newest album Here For A Good Time and features Faith Hill as a “special guest.” Strait and producer Tony Brown stick to their traditional roots as George finds himself accompanied by plenty of fiddle, steel guitar, and acoustic guitar, much like Allan’s version. However, the production on Strait’s delivery is more mainstream and a bit more radio friendly than Gary’s version. Strait’s vocal performance could possibly be one of his finest as his aged voice delivers the somber song with plenty of heartache and pain as if he’s singing about his own three decade career. The song is taken to a whole other level when Faith Hill’s backing vocal joins Strait during the second verse. Hill delivers an emotional vocal performance as her smoky vocal tone blend perfectly with that of Strait. I’ve tried my hardest to find any kind of flaw or dislike with the Strait/Hill version, but after several listens, I can’t.


Filed under Who Done It Better