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Carrie Underwood: Soundtrack of my Life

From her karaoke jam to the song that chokes her up, the country darling shares the tunes that have influenced her

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Carrie Underwood may be releasing her first album as a missus (she wed professional hockey player Mike Fisher in 2010), but don’t expect marital bliss to rub off on her lyrics. Blown Away, out May 1, contains multiple songs about infidelity, including the twangy ”Two Black Cadillacs” and the scorching title track. ”You know I don’t sing love songs,” Underwood, 29, tells EW. ”So that means I have to write more cheatin’ songs! I love strong female anthemic songs. And what better way to feel like a strong woman than getting over a guy with power and grace and in-your-faceness?” Read on to find out how her musical education was shaped by such ladies, from Karen Carpenter to Courtney Love — and a few men, too. (Here’s looking at you, Billy Idol.)

The song that makes me think of my childhood

”Top of the World,” The Carpenters

”I remember going to my grandma’s house on the weekends and my parents would listen to the oldies station. It was only a 45-minute drive, but it seemed like three hours each way. Whether you love it or don’t like it, Karen Carpenter just had a unique, velvety, and deep voice; she didn’t sound like anybody else.”

The first song I ever sang in public

”Somewhere Out There,” Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram

”I have photographic evidence of me singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ as a 3-year-old in church with another kid. And apparently I stole the mic and brought the house down. But the first one I remember singing on stage was ‘Somewhere Out There’ from An American Tail. I was around 7, and my choir teacher at school asked me if I would sing it. My parents told me that I needed to move around the stage, so for the entire time I just walked back and forth from side to side while I was singing — there’s videotape of it. I watched it recently, and I don’t know why on earth Mrs. Cooper would have asked me to sing. I don’t think I would have been like, ‘Yes! This child needs to have a solo!”’

The album that reminds me of my first crush

Yourself or Someone Like You, Matchbox Twenty

”When I was in seventh grade, I totally had a crush on a guy who was older than me, and he listened to alternative music. So he was into Days of the New and stuff like that, and more poppy stuff, too, like Matchbox Twenty. I started listening to more alternative music and liking the whole grunge thing. That was a fantastic album.”

The song that reminds me of my time on American Idol

”Could’ve Been,” Tiffany

”I think most people would think of [Heart’s 1987 power ballad] ‘Alone.’ I don’t know if I would. The whole time before you’re on camera is when you have songs in your pocket. So that Tiffany song that I did on the first live show was definitely one that I wanted to do. Because I was like, ‘Nobody is going to expect this song!’ And I’ve always loved it, ever since I was little.”

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My favorite song to sing live

”How Great Thou Art” (traditional Christian hymn)

”I like a challenge — like, big songs, big vocal moments. It’s not even one of my songs, but ‘How Great Thou Art’ always gets such an amazing reaction from the crowd. It’s beautiful, and it’s got plenty of money notes in it. They’re big and open and long. After I’m done, that’s the one people want to stand up for.”

The song that makes me want to dance

”Dancing With Myself,” Billy Idol

”I love ’80s music. When I am working out and I just want to get amped up, I listen to Billy Idol. ‘Dancing With Myself’ is my theme song because [my husband] Mike doesn’t dance, really. So I’m always dancing with myself!”

The song that always makes me cry

”Forever Changed,” Carrie Underwood

”It’s one of mine, from the new record. I have yet to actually successfully make it through that song. It’s not meant to be sad, but it’s that whole circle-of-life kind of thing. It’s from the point of view of a daughter singing about her mother. I even get emotional talking about it. The last verse goes, ‘Someday she’ll talk about Aunt Rosie, the sister she lost/Asking when she’s coming over and why she hasn’t called.’ That gets to me. I’m going to cry right now!”

The album people wouldn’t expect me to love

Live Through This, Hole

”When I got into all the grunge stuff, I really liked Hole. And I actually saw them in concert when I was a sophomore in high school. I love Live Through This and Celebrity Skin. It was kind of rare to see a successful female rocker get down and dirty with the guys. And Courtney Love did. It was fun to be a fan of something different.”

My karaoke jam

”Hold On,” Wilson Phillips

”Anything where you can be dramatic is always fun. The last time we went out karaoke-ing, which was a while back, several of us girls got up and sang ‘Hold On.’ And then Bridesmaids came out and we were like, ‘That’s our song!’ I’m not even good when I karaoke. Karaoke is not a place to be good; it’s a place to have fun. So when we go, I really don’t even get up on the mic. I stand at the back and sing loud. It’s fun to sing bad, too.”

The song I want to be remembered for

”Jesus, Take the Wheel”

”I would pick an important one. Not ‘Before He Cheats’ or ‘Good Girl,’ none of that. Something that somebody can hear and it would make them feel better or help them through an important time or a tough time in their life.”

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