Is This Carrie Underwood’s Best Single?

If you were to ask a random group of fans to name a Carrie Underwood song, some might say “Jesus Take the Wheel” or even her American Idol finale, “Inside Your Heaven.” However, one song stands out: “Before He Cheats.” 

It’s hardly cheating to name that song because the numbers back it up. It’s her best-selling song by a considerable amount. It certainly helps that so many people can relate to the lyrical content. 

What are Carrie Underwood’s best sellers?

Carrie Underwood in purple, smiling at the camera in front of a repeating background
Carrie Underwood | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Carrie Underwood is one of the biggest stars to emerge among American Idol winners, the only other true contender being the first winner, Kelly Clarkson. None other than Simon Cowell predicted, even before Underwood won, that she would sell more records than anyone else. 

Per record industry reports, her first single, “Inside Your Heaven,” sold 821,000 copies. Singles at or over a million sold include “Jesus Take the Wheel” with 2.6 million, “So Small” at 1.08 million, “All American Girl” with 1.8 million, “Last Name” with 1.3 million, “Just a Dream” 1.26 million, “I Told You So” with 1 million, “Cowboy Casanova” with 2.3 million, “Temporary Home” with 1.09 million and most recently, “Something in the Water” with 1.08 million. 

However, “Before He Cheats” tops them all with 4.5 million. In a relatively distant second place is “Blown Away” with 2.8 million. In a more subjective list, The Boot ranked “Before He Cheats” at the top of their list. 

What’s the story behind ‘Before He Cheats?’

“Before He Cheats” was the third single from Underwood’s first studio album, Some Hearts. Although Underwood obviously gives it a strong female point of view and many people think of it as the ultimate kiss-off song to an unfaithful man, the song was actually written by two men, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins. 

According to The Boot, the song was written in the wake of the success of Gretchen Wilson, who had a huge hit with “Redneck Woman,” and Kear and Tompkins wanted to write a song in a similar vein. Tompkins said “I’d just moved into my new house, and Josh had come over, and we were just looking for ideas. I played him what I’d typed earlier. And without even talking about it, Josh just sang that chorus line, ‘Maybe next time, he’ll think before he cheats …’ So we just started talking about it from there, how to match that first verse, and started thinking of some quirky stuff like that. And like good songs always do, the song kind of wrote itself from there.”

Kear said he was surprised when hearing Underwood’s recording, recalling, “When Carrie got hold of it, she just did it so well and really made it her own. We expected it would be a little more lighthearted … but when we heard it, we thought, wow, she really drove it home! We couldn’t be more grateful to Carrie — for just wailin’!

What was the impact of ‘Before He Cheats?’

Besides the financial impact of the song, it became arguably Underwood’s signature tune, the one that prompts the most cell phones to be held aloft at one of her concerts. It held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard country chart for five weeks, and was in the Hot 100 for over a year. It was the third best-selling song by an American Idol singer after Phillip Phillips‘ “Home” and Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” It won Grammys for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, which went to Underwood, and Song of the Year, which went to Tompkins and Kear. 

Underwood utterly sells the lyrics about damaging the cheater’s car, perhaps the ultimate punishment for many a man. But although Underwood herself has been cheated on, she said, “I wouldn’t recommend doing any property damage, though. I’m a ‘let it go, move on’ kind of person.”