To the passive bystander, things have been quiet on the Kelly Clarkson front. The Kelly faithful know she’s been writing, recording, getting songs leaked, and even went country for a duet with Jason Aldean. Clarkson’s fifth studio album Stronger is slated for an October 25 release and today on her website she officially released the first single “Mr. Know It All.”
Ten years after her American Idol win, Kelly seems to still be struggling to find her figurative voice. Some call this evolving, maturity, experimenting, while others call it floundering. “Mr. Know It All” starts off beat-driven, instantly recognizable as being poppy, radio-friendly and a bit dance-y. I quickly note that Clarkson’s voice is restrained and dialed back a lot. It reminds me so much of Pia Toscano’s “This Time” I can hardly stand it. It's worth noting Ester Dean was a co-writer on both songs. In my mind, Kelly Clarkson embodies soulful, R&B vocals with a rock edge and this song evokes none of that. Does she sound great? Of course she does. Is it a catchy, easy to get stuck in your head song? Of course it is. Is ”Mr. Know It All” moving Kelly forward in a new direction showing growth and depth? No, it’s not.
Clarkson’s most popular songs have never been known for strong lyrics, “Miss Independent," “Since U Been Gone," “I Do Not Hook Up” as examples but her powerful vocals and some savvy production value have always pushed her to the top of the heap. Her least commercially successful album, My December produced only one top 10 hit but is the only Kelly Clarkson album I have ever purchased (“Never Again” and “Sober” being the best songs on the album). I loved the overall vibe: dialed back songs with strong vocals.
What “Mr. Know It All” has given us is a dialed back song and vocals with weak lyrics. I really wanted to crank this up and sing along with Kelly as I dusted my living room, but she made me stop in my tracks and look at the computer like it just screamed out a 4-letter word. I won’t form an opinion of an entire album on one song but “Mr. Know It All” is not piquing my interest or leaving me wanting more. Check back for my review of Stronger when it’s released October 25.