Forget Nostradamus: Simon Cowell saw the future in Carrie Underwood and that future is now, courtesy of the country star machine that was desperate for someone to fill Shania's über-diva heels in a post-"Redneck Woman" world. (American Idol was good to her but nothing like CMT and Clear Channel.) One might begrudge Underwood her media saturation were it not for the cheeky, good-girl-gone-bad talent behind the ultimate-makeover blondness. On last year's Carnival Ride, she sounds a little more gritty and twangy — banjos and fiddles stand at attention — even when wailing out power ballads as big and conservative as her native Oklahoma. When she struts down the walk of shame on the Cuervo-buzzed single "Last Name," she brings the catharsis to a table-dancing shot party rocking a karaoke bar near you soon.
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