She's no longer the It Girl in Nashville. Not with Taylor Swift flitting about. Her second album didn't sell nearly as well as her first. And you just don't hear people talking about her as much as you used to, even though she did win a CMA for female vocalist of the year. These are pivotal days for the ever-smiling Carrie Underwood, the former American Idol queen who ruled album charts, magazine covers and Mary Hart's brain just a few years ago. She's now on a major arena tour at a time when we're not quite sure if she's the next Faith Hill — or the next Gretchen Wilson.
Of course, the 25-year-old Oklahoman has more than a few things going for her. Although her 2007 album Carnival Ride was weak, her voice is not. Unlike most of the tabloid-friendly crowd these days, Underwood has legit talent. She wants to be a singer. In fact, she's one of the top cover artists around, interpreting everyone from Guns N' Roses to George Michael with nuance and passion. (She also does a mean Skid Row! Metal rules!) Above all, Underwood seems genuinely sincere, a likable vibe to go with her cover-girl looks. It will be interesting to see how many fans she puts in the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday. But those who come should get a pretty, and pretty good, show.
Carrie Underwood, with Little Big Town, performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $35-$55. (813) 301-2500.