A lyrical deep dive into the “probable” psychosis of Carrie Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats’
Ten years ago, at the 50th annual Country Music Awards, Carrie Underwood was awarded “Song of the Year” for her scorned-girl power anthem Before He Cheats. It was a wildly popular kiss-off country-pop track that had millions of men deleting their text messages and millions of women avoiding Shania Twain karaoke for years and years.
However, as I’ve previously discussed in the UNREASONABLE series, popularity does not equate to reasonableness. What this series aims to do is to dissect and examine song lyrics to determine a level of reason. Today, we will take a deep dive into Before He Cheats to determine just how reasonable or unreasonable Carrie Underwood was acting.
“Right now, he’s probably slow dancing with a bleached blond tramp, and she’s probably getting frisky.”
There are three words in this sentence that turn this version of Carrie Underwood from a strong, independent woman with a thirst for revenge into a paranoid schizophrenic, recently escaped mental patient who should be considered armed and dangerous. The words are, of course, “Right, Now, and Probably”. Carrie will go back to those three words several times throughout this song. Those three words tell us quite a bit about the situation she finds herself in. First off, “Right now”, indicates that everything that she is experiencing, physically, mentally, and emotionally, is happening in real time. In this moment, Carrie knows what we know. Which is not a lot, as evidenced by her liberal use of the word “probably”. Probably indicates an assumption without fact or merit. All of her actions from this point forward are driven by baseless assumption. This is not only concerning, but also DANGEROUSLY UNREASONABLE.
“Right now, he’s probably buying her some fruity little drink, because she can’t shoot whisky. Right now, he’s probably up behind her with a pool stick showing her how to shoot a combo. Right now, she’s probably up singing some white trash version of Shania karaoke.”
This is actually an impressive bit of paranoid delusion. In this particular moment, Carrie Underwood becomes the Tolkien or Rowling or Hemmingway of Tramp World Building. Underwood put a face (tramp-like) and hairstyle (bleached blond) to the object of her ire, which in some ways is natural and standard and a common coping mechanism. What’s most wonderful about Carrie’s dedication to her bloodlust are the additional layers she adds to the character she’s created. The tramp is not a strong drinker (“Can’t shoot whiskey”). She isn’t excellent at pool (“He’s probably up behind her with a pool stick)”. She’s a visual learner (“Showing her how to shoot a combo”). She’s a country music fan (“Shania karaoke”). Considering what Underwood is about to do, creating a fully-fleshed out character with flaws, strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes is actually ADMIRABLY REASONABLE.
“Right now, she’s probably saying ‘I’m drunk’ and he’s a-thinking that he’s gonna get lucky.”
The fact that Underwood says “a-thinking”, like the fourth lead in an off-Broadway version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is VICTORIAN ERA UNREASONABLE
“Right now, he’s probably dabbing on three dollars worth of that bathroom polo.”
Underwood measuring a liquid in terms of currency value as opposed to the more universally accepted liquid measurement units such as cups, ounces, gallons, tablespoons, even quarts, is SCIENTIFICALLY UNREASONABLE.
“Oh, and he don’t know…”
This particular aside is the most frightening part of Underwood’s revenge ballad. After world-building for several verses, she tosses a quick “oh”, as in “oh, by the way, no big deal, but um…”
“I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four wheel drive. I carved my name into his leather seats. I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights. I slashed a hole in all four tires. Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.”
Keying your boyfriend’s car because he is probably cheating is CRIMINALLY UNREASONABLE. Carving your own name into your boyfriend’s leather seats for probably cheating is STEPHEN KING PRESENTS CARRIE: UNDERWOOD LEVEL UNREASONABLE. Taking a Louisville slugger to both headlights and slashing a hole in not one, not two, not three, but all four of his tires for probably cheating is an effective way to not get chased down when leaving the scene but still OUTRAGEOUSLY UNREASONABLE.
Most concerning of all? Carrie Underwood suspected her boyfriend of cheating. She apparently followed his car to some kind of ballroom dancing/billiards/karaoke bar. All she had to do was look in the window to see what he was up to. She couldn’t bring herself to do that. Maybe, just maybe, if she had bothered to confirm her suspicions by entering the establishment or at the very least, peeking through a window, her actions may have been deemed slightly more REASONABLE. But alas.