On Sunday, April 1st when Kelly Clarkson accepted the award for Single Record of the Year for “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Jason Aldean at the ACM Awards, she bent over the microphone quickly to thank the country music community for “taking her in from the pop world.” It was one small step for pop music and a giant leap for mankind.
Clarkson’s first official puncture into the country community on solo terms happened this week when her team released the country remix of “Mr. Know It All,” which was originally her lead single of the Stronger era. Her original version was well received amongst fans and critics, calling it her thrust back into the community after a few years away post-All I Ever Wanted (2009). The song was up-tempo, urban and sultry, sassing off breakup-style as Clarkson is known to do, saying no to the men who continually loved her wrongfully. Even before the remix happened, “Mr. Know It All” had won over its audiences.
This recent version of Clarkson’s original hit could be described as not only new but improved, too, replacing bitterness and sass for a splash of forgiveness and contentment. You could say that when Dan Huff, musician and producer of a song or two (cough, “My Heart Will Go On,” “Here I Go Again,” “Man In The Mirror“), got his hands on the wonder of Kelly Clarkson, he set out to record an entirely different song. And this is just what he did.
Huff’s talents in tandem with Clarkson’s took “Mr. Know It All” in an entirely different direction. The lyrics went untouched but the spirit was lightened. The way acoustic guitars replace the electric ones and the borderline R&B riffs in her Country mix really place a stake in the emotion, lightening up the mood entirely as the sound returns to more traditional and rootsy hinges. A set of violins help to highlight the word “y’all” that we barely even noticed in the first version. It’s almost like this song was meant to be sung with Country loving.
She’s no longer backed by a chorus of Kellys in the makeup of the single, instead trading density in character and sound for a more freeing and self-confident blanket over the attitude of her piece. Listen for the qualities we picked out in the new mix, we promise we’re not just making it up!
If Kelly’s voice didn’t already sound at the top of her game in the pop version of “Mr. Know It All,” somehow there was room to top herself even further. Clarkson herself mentioned on twitter that she went back into the studio to recut “Mr. Know It All” with Dan Huff, laying down a new set of vocals for a new audience. This remastered version not only appears more clear and humble but has an even more crisp and defined sound than her previous effort.
Producers were bold to omit backing vocals from the hook, where the notable lyrics sing:
Baby you don’t know a thing about me
You don’t know a thing about me
Though both versions claim a high range of vocal ability, starting out high in key already, this country version soars higher. Its final chorus allows Clarkson to show off what made her famous and lovable, surprising listeners with a high note that was never featured in the song’s former version. For the umpteenth time in Clarkson’s career, her voice has stunned us and amazed us, still claiming our hearts as the number one reason we buy her records. At the end of the day, her talent is the reason for her success. Pop, country, the phone book: if she sings it, she’ll sell it. We have great confidence that Clarkson will keep us loyal until she retires.
It’s not Clarkson’s first time singing country. The singer, almost 30 years old and a Texan herself re-recorded “Because Of You” with Reba McEntire back in 2005 for their joint tour, and has sung with singers like Rascal Flatts and Miranda Lambert. She’s got the background of experience to support this transition of hers, whether temporary or permanent.
Even with “Mr. Know It All” turning from urban to backwoodsy, taking a 180 stylistically but remaining grounded soulfully, there’s more reason to celebrate. Though Country music is a genre to either love or hate, this song is hard to hate on. More material from Clarkson is more substance to cherish. And with that, the Clarkson train keeps chugging. Whoever ‘didn’t know a thing’ about her really missed out!
Listen to the Country magic below: