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Tag Archives: Reba McEntire

Kelly Clarkson – “Mr. Know It All”

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.

KELLY’S SCORE:  5
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Single Reviews

 

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Songs I Love: Reba McEntire – “The Fear of Being Alone”

Released:  1996
Album:  What If It’s You (1996)
Chart Peak:  #2
Songwriters:  Walt Aldridge, Bruce Miller

I’m very excited to introduce a new regular feature for The 1-to-10, aptly titled “Songs I Love.”  It is exactly what it sounds a like – a feature in which I will spotlight songs from various eras in country music history, and discuss what makes each particular song special.  It will hopefully serve to balance out the negative reviews from time to time, as well as remind readers that, yes, I actually do like country music.  It certainly will be nice to be able to write about good music for a change!

By the way, I’m open to running guest posts for this feature, so if you are interested in writing about why you love a certain song, by all means email me and let me know.

The inaugural edition of this feature will discuss a classic nineties hit by the amazing Miss Reba McEntire.  I’m a pretty big Reba fan, and if you were to ask me what my favorite Reba song is, I would immediately reply “The Fear of Being Alone.”  Why, you ask?  Where would I start?  “The Fear of Being Alone” encompasses so many of the makings of a killer single.

I’ll start with the lyrics, since that’s the definitive component of a great country record.  “The Fear of Being Alone” is a lyric that displays maturity and intelligence, such that certain younger artists would have difficulty pulling it off convincingly.  When I think of all the qualities that are lacking in Reba’s more recent musical offerings, “The Fear of Being Alone” is invariably the song that I think of when reflecting on what once was.  The lyrics find the narrator feeling out a developing romance with caution and restraint, warning herself and her potential lover not to let themselves think that they’re in love when they’re really just fearful of being alone.  At the same time, you can detect the romantic excitement gradually building up inside of her, to the point where she has to ‘bite her tongue and remind herself’ “Don’t say that word/ Not the one we’ve both heard too much/ You may think you do, but you don’t/ It’s just the fear of being alone.”

It’s a song clearly sung in the voice of one who’s lived life, made mistakes, and learned lessons as a result.  Reba was in her early forties when she recorded and released the song, which meant she had lived enough to be able to deliver the song’s sentiments with authority and believability.

This song well demonstrates the fact that when Reba brings her maturity and life experience to the table, it invariably results in great music being made.  With that in mind, I am ofted saddened and frustrated when I see Reba attempting to downplay her age and experience in order to fit in with the crowd in an increasingly youth-obsessed country music market.  When I compare great songs like this one with songs like “Turn On the Radio” and “Somebody’s Chelsea” – songs that she’s too mature for, and that tend to sound like mid-life crises set to music – I often wonder what all we must be missing out on.  What kind of music could Reba be making if she didn’t feel she had to adopt the perspective of the younger generation just to be heard?

Of course, the purpose of this article is not to pick on Reba for aspects of her more recent material that I find disappointing.  The purpose is to commend her for having given us such a fantastic, memorable single, which brings me to another thing I love about “The Fear of Being Alone.”  The record sounds absolutely fantastic.  It has a sound so effortlessly infectious that it reels you in quickly, but at the same time, it has substance for those willing to dig deeper into it.  The opening instrumental hook is one of the catchiest I’ve ever heard, but not in a way that comes across as gaudy or cheesy.  It’s the kind of catchiness that puts an instant smile on my face as soon as I hear those opening guitar chords, and that leaves me humming those few lovely notes as I go about the rest of my day.  Best of all, the production doesn’t distract from the song’s sentiment, and it doesn’t try to compete with Reba’s powerhouse vocal delivery.  It sounds great, does its job, and supports the song without overwhelming it.

That is my best attempt at putting my passion for this song into words.  To me, “The Fear of Being Alone” is the complete package – an outstandingly great lyric, a killer production, all delivered by one of the most dynamic female vocalists in country music.  It’s a contemporary country music classic, and a definite highlight in Reba McEntire’s legendary career.  It’s the kind of song that comes along once in a very great while, but it’s the kind of song that stays with us forever.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Songs I Love

 

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Faith Hill – “Come Home”

Songwriter:  Ryan Tedder

After a lengthly hiatus from recording, the drought is finally over.  Country diva Faith Hill, the voice behind ubiquitous crossover smashes like “This Kiss” and “Breathe” is returning with her first new album in over six years, and she’s launching her highly-anticipated new project with… a OneRepublic cover.  Whaaaaat?

To see Hill end her half-decade career drought with a cover song is, by default, disheartening.  An original song would have been highly preferable – something to hint at what we might have been missing during the years she was on hiatus.  Of course, launching with a cover song could be forgivable, so long a it’s a good cover.

Lines like “Forgive me if I’m young for speaking out of turn” feel slightly awkward when rolling off the tongue of a woman in her early forties (and may bring back memories of Reba McEntire ‘kicking it’ with Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy”).  Hill, however, demonstrates that her strong interpretive abilties remain very much intact.  She turns in a hushed and restrained vocal delivery of the song’s opening verses, and as her voice gradually rises, a palpable earnesty is exuded throughout her performance.

Unfortunately, “Come Home” lacks the vibrancy and sonic stickiness of Hill’s best pop-country efforts.  It suffers most from a bloated power pop arrangement that reaches a grating crescendo as the song nears its end.  It’s an ineffective, misguided treatment of a song that was already an awkward fit to begin with.  Far from letting the song itself pull the weight, the lyrical story is treated as mere window dressing, as if of secondary importance to the wall of needless noise that surrounds it. (The OneRepublic oringinal, in contrast, was backed primarily by a piano and a subtle string section) Despite some positive characteristics, a lack of focus shines through on the final recorded product, which makes “Come Home” feel like a letdown after having waited so long for Hill to release new music.

A redeeming vocal fails to topple the fact that, as a package, “Come Home” does not feel like a single that is worth waiting six years for.  One can still hope that Hill’s upcoming album will be a solid home run, but the lead single is undoubtedly a strikeout.

FAITH’S SCORE:  5
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)

 
6 Comments

Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Single Reviews

 

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