Written by Emma Morgan. 15 April 2015.
One of the leading singles off Carrie Underwood’s third album, Play On, is an emotional and spiritual reflection on those with no permanent earthly home titled “Temporary Home”. Underwood expressed her deep connection with the lyrics to this song and wanted listeners to fully understand its powerful message. “Temporary Home” seems to have underlying themes of religion, which is definitely not a novelty in country music. For decades, many artists such as Underwood have found success in bringing spiritual aspects into their songs. “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” by the Carter Family introduced religion to country music in 1935 and since then, many songs revolve around religious ideas and themes. The main message of “Temporary Home” is based on religion, however it still leaves room for interpretation. Singing about the importance of our temporary home on Earth versus our permanent home with God, Underwood incorporates religion in a way that makes the song relatable and likeable. She was able to achieve such greatness with this single because of its appeal to listeners in terms of the message but also through its writing style and structure.
“Temporary Home” is a sentimental heartfelt ballad that is wonderfully executed. Underwood persuades listeners to really feel what she is feeling and this helps with the overall execution of her message. She tries to make each and every person who hears the song feel sympathy over what is going on in the depths of the story. The song is written in third person, each verse written about a certain person going through a difficult time, whom all end up having the same realization that earth is a temporary home and a place to simply pass through on the way to Heaven. Carrie got the idea for this song after reading a book titled “The Purpose Driven Life”. Underwood says the lyrics “just hit [her] like a ton of bricks, just a flood of words and stories” and she knew exactly the message she wanted to convey. Her co-writer Luke Laird commented that, “She had the whole thing mapped out” and knew what she wanted each verse to say. The first verse sings about a young boy in a foster home; the second talks about a single mom living in a halfway house wondering if she’ll every make it anywhere else. The last verse is the most emotional, depicting an old man on his deathbed surrounded by his friends and family. This acts as the climax because of the bittersweet heart wrenching feeling it leaves listeners. Each verse relates to the chorus in its own specific way, while still personalized to each of the individual stories.
Not only does “Temporary Home” communicate to listeners through its overall message and storyline, but the style in which it is written is also a contributing factor to its popularity. This song embodies most of the virtues of style, but most clearly communicates clarity. It is direct, economic, and energetic. The phrases used in the verses such as “Another new mom and dad”, “When people ask him how he likes this place”, are clear, direct, and easily understood. Even though the chorus uses more indirect language such as “Windows in rooms that I’m passing through”, leaving room for interpretation, Underwood’s intentions are still easily followed. Along these same lines, there is no extremely descriptive or frilly language in the lyrics that take away from the meaning of the song. Underwood wants us to focus on the story being told rather than elaborate wording. The language is very familiar while still being catchy and memorable. Even though the song is depicting a sad theme, the lyrics are placed properly so that they are appropriate for the album as a whole. Underwood wanted this song to be somewhat sad without making it too depressing for audiences to handle, giving it an uplifting and hopeful feel throughout. The balance of sentiment and satisfaction is what makes this song enjoyable to so many people.
Underwood wrote the song in the middle style, using fairly simple language in the verses while exploring more figurative and elaborate language in the chorus to make it more poetic and pleasurable to listen to. Underwood’s delivery is subtle yet powerful, through the pauses she makes and the softer voice she uses when singing “Little boy, six years old, a little to used to bein’ alone”, “Old man, hospital bed”, and “I can see God’s face” to the strong and forceful notes she also stresses while singing “Someday we’ll find a place in this world” and into the second chorus of “This is my temporary home”. It seems as though the lines with a closer connection to God, “a smile upon his face” in verse one and “I can see God’s face” in verse three, are the highest notes she sings throughout the entire song. By mixing the soft and the loud, she was able to emphasize certain aspects of the message to make audience’s feel sad but also feel hopeful, content, and empowered.
The structure of this heartfelt reflection creates a more pleasing and easily understood song. It is written in the verse-chorus form; very simple and plain yet still conveying a very powerful message to the audience. The storyline throughout the song is repetitive, “reiterating the same thing in different variations” (Walker 110), which helps reinforce the overall meaning of believing that life on earth is a temporary home. Using this form of structure makes it easy for Underwood to persuade us into feeling compassion for each character in the plot because it is reinforcing the main theme. Underwood forces us to think about the meaning throughout the whole song, allowing the message to fully sink into the audience. This form also makes Underwood’s message more memorable as well as believable, contributing to the success of the song as a single. If a song has a repetitive form, the ideas within can have a greater impact because they are easily thought of as true. People remember it because there is a reinforcement of a very powerful message.
“Temporary Home” has touched the hearts of so many people who can relate to and believe the message being told. Through incorporating religion and spiritual elements, Underwood created a song that is sentimental, but also leaves listeners feeling inspired. Like other great artists before her, Underwood uses religion in a way to make a powerful and meaningful message while still appealing to a wide range of audiences, regardless of their religious affiliation. “Temporary Home” was so successful because it has an effect on everyone listening no matter what they believe. There was a specific way to go about writing this song so as not to come across as over the top depressing or religious. It was strategically worded appropriately and addressed the issues with respect and confidence. Underwood was able to create a powerful song out of a theme that could have easily been deemed controversial, however, through carefully constructed style and structure, she was able to pass it off as a chart topping country hit nationwide.
|0:00||Introduction||Acoustic guitar, slow drum beat||Guitar strums accompanied by a slow drum beat and piano, guitar plays low notes but then hits higher notes right before the first verse|
|0:11||Verse 1||“Little boy six years old”||Slow guitar strum accompanies Carrie’s singing throughout the verse, as Carrie hits the higher notes at the end of the verse (“with a smile upon his face”) the guitar also plays a high note|
|0:52||Chorus||“This is my temporary home”||Guitar continues to play although a different melody than in the first verse, there are stronger drum beats, the instrumentals pause for a moment as she finishes the last line of the chorus, she exits the chorus with a few “mmm’s” along with the guitar strum and slow drum beat|
|1:33||Verse 2||“Young mom on her own”||The same guitar and drum beat continues, in the second line in the verse Carrie’s voice is accompanied by another but only up until the third line, a stronger guitar strum moves with her voice as she belts out the last line in the verse, holding out the word “world”|
|2:14||Chorus||“This is our temporary home”||Still accompanied by the same guitar and drum melody, her voice softens after having strung out the last part of the song, she accents certain words in this chorus like “belong”, “rooms” and “through”, she holds out “home” at the end while fluctuating her notes|
|2:58||Verse 3||“Old man hospital bed”||Guitar stops completely and drum beat slows and softens, a piano is the main instrumentation, a violin also comes in for the first time, her signing softens tremendously, especially when she sings “I can see God’s face”|
|4:06||Chorus||“This is my temporary home”||The beginning of this chorus is much softer than the first two with little instrumentation except for a piano, as soon as she starts with “this was just a stop” the guitar and piano pick up and so does the tempo of her voice, she finally slows down as she sings the last few words of the chorus|
|4:41||Outro||Guitar strums, piano notes, and drum beats||This is the same melody as was played in the introduction, Carrie sings a few “mmm’s” and a final “This is our temporary home”|
Hughes, Donna. “Carrie Underwood Feels Right at ‘Home’ at No. 1.” The Boot. N.p., 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.
Mansfield, Brian. “Carrie Underwood’s ‘Temporary Home’: The story behind the song.” USA Today. Gannett Co. Inc., 18 Oct. 2009. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.