Daisy in her hair aside, Carrie Underwood looks flat-out glamorous on the cover of Play On, which is a pretty fair indication of what awaits listeners on her third album. Carrie is still nominally a country artist and sometimes will sing supported by fiddles and steel guitar, but this is crossover pop pure and simple, whether it's the thundering rhythms on the Shania-styled strut "Cowboy Casanova" or the succession of maudlin melodies on the preponderance of power ballads. Many of these overwrought ballads are infused with a heavy-handed social consciousness -- Carrie decries hunger on "Change" and homelessness on "Temporary Home" -- unfortunately reminiscent of Idol Gives Back, and they're not the only AmIdol connection here, as fourth wheel Kara DioGuardi co-wrote the strained sassiness of "Undo It" and the sticky, tacky "Mama's Song" with Underwood herself. Carrie takes a much stronger presence as a writer here, co-authoring seven of the 13 songs, and she's attracted to hookless showstoppers designed to showcase her powerful voice, all glory notes with no glory. When she sticks to tunes written solely by the professionals, Play On does have some slick pleasures, particularly on the breezy "Quitter" and "This Time," songs built on solid melodies and delivered without flash, relying on craft and Carrie's considerable small-town charm -- a gift that remains intact despite the misguided attempt on the rest of Play On as if she's nothing but a diva.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine