Lyrics Uncovered: Carrie Underwood, ‘Dirty Laundry’
Carrie Underwood‘s “Dirty Laundry” lyrics bring the singer right back to the kind of material that she does best, and that might be because it was written with her in mind.
Zach Crowell co-wrote the song with Ashley Gorley and Hillary Lindsey, both of whom have scored numerous Underwood cuts in the past. Lindsey has been particularly closely associated with the superstar, and Crowell says that in writing with her and Gorley, there’s always the thought that the resulting song could be for Underwood.
Crowell doesn’t remember who came up with the title “Dirty Laundry.”
“I can definitely say it wasn’t me,” he tells Taste of Country. “I had a track before they got there that day. I recall playing them the track, and just saying, ‘Hey, this is something I worked up.’ Someone threw out the title ‘Dirty Laundry,’ and it just kinda went from there.”
They decided on a unique spin on the idea. The “Dirty Laundry” lyrics depict a wronged wife who decides to reveal her husband’s indiscretions to the world: “Now I’ma have to hang you out to dry, dry, dry / Clothespin all your secrets to the line, line, line / Leave ’em blowing in the wind just say goodbye to you / All those midnights sneaking in / I’m late again, oh, I’m so sorry / All the Ajax in the world ain’t gonna clean your dirty laundry.”
“When we came up with the Ajax line, we loved that line,” Crowell shares. “‘Ajax’ we knew was a buzz-y word to say, and a bizarre word to say. No one else is really saying the word ‘Ajax.’ When I think of Ajax, I typically think of shower cleaner and tub cleaner, and we were like, ‘Do they make clothes detergent?’ So we Googled Ajax detergent, and we were all super-excited when we saw that they do make laundry detergent as well as toilet and tub cleaner,” he adds with a laugh.
"She’s not afraid to murder people in songs, but we did not kill him in ‘Dirty Laundry.’"
“We were excited, ’cause we could use our word correctly. We knew that word was a buzz-y word, especially in the melody and the post-chorus part that it’s in. We knew that would be a cool line, if we were lucky enough for someone to record it. Anytime you can find a word like that, find a buzz-y word that lyrically fits and melodically fits, you kind of get excited about it, because it’s hard to do. Those words stand out.”
Crowell deferred to Lindsey and Gorley when it came to the “Dirty Laundry” lyrics.
“They’re two living legends, and I’m lucky to even be in the room with them,” he says. “I was definitely passing the ball to them. When you’re playing with teammates like that, you’ve got to let them do their thing.”
Lindsey tended to be the arbiter of what Underwood would and would not do in song.
“It’s one of those things where if Hillary can do it, Carrie can do it,” Crowell explains. “They have very similar voices and styles, and Hillary’s just tuned in with Carrie. She’s written most Carrie Underwood songs, the majority of the songs. In that room particularly, Hillary would speak up if something was possible or out of boundaries.”
Underwood has carved a unique niche for herself with a string of woman-done-wrong songs, but while the singer exacts revenge, the “Dirty Laundry” lyrics don’t go quite as far as some of her other efforts.
“We just broke up with him. We didn’t kill him,” Crowell says with another laugh. “There was no talk of murder in this song. I wrote ‘Church Bells’ with Hillary; I was lucky enough to write that song as well. That was the first song I’ve ever killed someone in the song. It was cool to do it, ’cause we knew we were kinda taking a shot at a Carrie song, and we knew, ‘Oh, she would like that, if we killed this guy.’ She’s not afraid to murder people in songs, but we did not kill him in ‘Dirty Laundry.’ We just announced it to the whole town.”
Crowell didn’t know that “Dirty Laundry” had made the album until just before the tracks were announced publicly. He ended up producing two tracks on the album as well, after being called into a meeting with Underwood and her manager.
“We sat in a room and talked for about an hour, just a little general meet and greet, and at the end of it they asked, ‘Hey, do you wanna hear ‘Dirty Laundry’? And I’m like, ‘Of course I wanna hear ‘Dirty Laundry’! They played it for me in the room that day, and of course I was blown away. Any time Carrie sings a song of yours, it’s kind of the ultimate high a songwriter can feel, someone doing your song with a voice like that.”
“Dirty Laundry” is the third single Crowell has had from Underwood’s current Storyteller album, which has been career-changing for him. “Heartbeat” and “Church Bells” both reached No. 1.
“It’s crazy, man; it’s very, very weird,” he reflects. “You know, I’m 35 years old, and been doing [music] since I got out of high school. All of a sudden the moons start to line up, and the stars I guess, and it’s crazy. It’s a surreal thing.”
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