Songwriters: Brian Seals, Ester Dean, Brett James, Dante Jones
Yes, you read that right.
Kelly Clarkson’s recent pop hit has been remixed for the country market, and shipped to country radio. It currently sits at #48 on the Billboard country chart.
Not surprisingly, the track has been given a moderate dose of country instrumentation, with some peals of fiddle and steel, and some interesting though scarcely audible banjo work. The acoustic intro is pleasant, but the fact that the single retains the same heavy pop beat and bass line as the original makes the country trimmings feel like window dressing, as it obviously a pop song at its core – acknowledging of course, that the same could be said of many a current country hit. It’s hard to deduce what qualities of the song would make one think it well-suited to a country reinterpretation, though the fact that Clarkson has already enjoyed a pair of hit country duets with Reba McEntire and Jason Aldean could be a sign that country radio is generally accepting of her.
Of course, the fact that the song is pop is not a criticism in itself. Indeed, regular readers of this blog now that I am not a genre purist by any means. But how good of a pop song is it when evaluated on its own level? One certainly cannot fault Clarkson’s vocal delivery – That much is sure. Though she sings in a much more narrow range than we know her to be capable of, Clarkson remains fully engaged in her spitfire performance, which imbues a bit of life into the song’s rather pedestrian melody.
The main problem is that the production and mixing is already so busy that to squeeze in country instruments only adds to the clutter, making the finished product sound like something of a mess. That combined with the average melody and the so-so hook of “You don’t know a thing about me” keeps the countrified mix of “Mr. Know It All” from fully taking flight.
Of course, I should stipulate that I am not approaching this song with any inherent negativity. I enjoy Clarkson’s pop efforts as much as the next kid, and should she ever release a full-fledged country album, I would heartily embrace it. But if the intent here is to introduce Clarkson to country music audience as a solo performer, independent of any established country star duet partners, “Mr. Know It All” is not the right single to do it with.