Although one of her songs topped the charts last July and the other in November, Carrie Underwood has been so busy she couldn’t take time off to celebrate the achievements. But a space finally did open up. So ASCAP held back-to-back parties at its Nashville digs Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 17) to honor Underwood and the writers of “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” and “Before He Cheats.”
Dressed in a crisp white shirt, tight jeans and high-heeled boots, the diminutive Underwood ran a gauntlet of microphones and TV cameras in the ASCAP conference room before fleeing to join partygoers in the lobby. Everyone wanted a photo with her, and dozens got one. She could barely take a step without someone tapping her on the shoulder and asking her to pose. And this was a music industry crowd.
Toasted at the first party were Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace and Morgane Hayes, the composers of “Don’t Forget to Remember Me.” (Hayes is affiliated with BMI, ASCAP’s main competitor, and was feted — sans Underwood — at a BMI bash in December.)
Connie Bradley, ASCAP’s Nashville chief, called the assembly to order and announced that “Don’t Forget” was Gorley’s first No. 1 single and Lovelace’s sixth. She also pointed out that more than 5 million copies of Underwood’s debut album, Some Hearts, have have been shipped and that the first three singles from it all went No. 1.
There followed a veritable parade of plaques as one organizational representative after another paid formal tribute to the writers and singer. In turn, Gorley thanked his wife and parents and “the two kids you’re glad I didn’t bring today.”
Lovelace admitted that while he was always grateful to get a cut, he wasn’t overly thrilled to hear that Underwood had recorded the song. He said that was because he hadn’t seen her on TV (in American Idol) and barely knew who she was.
Underwood was brief and modest in her acceptance remarks. “I basically consider myself a spokesperson,” she said. “You guys do all the work.”
Because the first party started at 3 p.m. and the second was scheduled for 4:30, many of those who came to cheer Gorley and Lovelace simply stayed on. These holdovers and the new arrivals packed the usually spacious lobby corner to corner.
Once more assuming the hosting role, Bradley said that “Before He Cheats” was Underwood’s fastest rising single and had spent five weeks at No. 1. She introduced the writers, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins, to the audience and noted this was the first No. 1 for both.
Kerry O’Neil, one of the song’s publishers, asserted that “Before He Cheats” had not only stayed No.1 for five weeks but had also spent five weeks in the Top 5 and five more in the Top 10, where it still resides. Caught up in this series of fortunate fives, O’Neil joked that ASCAP had also agreed to pay the writers five times the amount that BMI would and, thus, the writers could now retire.
Hit songwriter (and publisher) Craig Wiseman was equally whimsical. Known for his gag trophies, he presented Tompkins with the “Whatever’s on Sale at Overstock.com Award.” In this case, it was a kitschy windmill-and-cottage wall hanging and a wallet made of duct tape.
Bradley gave each writer a Louisville Slugger baseball bat — in reference to the line in the song that goes, “I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights.” (Sung from the viewpoint of a woman who’s been wronged, the song is one long shriek of vengeance.)
Overcome by the moment, Tompkins unleashed a torrent of thank yous that threatened to stretch into the evening but was finally curbed when someone mentioned that he’d forgotten to thank Underwood.
Kear expressed his gratitude to “my new wife who I got married to when this song was No. 1.” Struggling to say just the right thing to Underwood, who stood close by, he turned to her and blurted, “Thank you. You sang the dog shit out of that.”
Said Underwood, “When I first heard ‘Before He Cheats,’ I thought, ‘Oh yeah!'” She said radio stations loved the song and kept clamoring for her label to release it as a single. “But we had to arrange things very tactfully,” she explained. “It couldn’t come out [right] after ‘Jesus, Take the Wheel.'”