“Mr. Know It All” is not Kelly Clarkson’s best single, or even in the top five. It just isn’t. Even fans should just admit this; half of Stronger is stronger. After all, the charts–i.e. the opinion of the masses–are admitting it; follow-up “What Doesn’t Kill You” has already peaked higher than “Mr. Know It All” ever did. But perhaps you disagree. For the purposes of this argument, let’s assume you disagree in a charitable, open-minded way, and not a way that accuses us of hating Kelly Clarkson. (We are on record as not.) Maybe, you’d argue, there’s a fantastic song lurking beneath the Bruno Martian soiling of the production, that could be set rip-roaring free with better treatment. And perhaps you noticed Clarkson’s country tangent with Jason Aldean, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” which was more than tangential to country audiences, going to No. 1 on those charts. Right about now, you’d just about have your argument proven correct, and below is why.
Country crossovers definitely aren’t new, especially the past decade or so, when the genre’s more or less been in a state of continuous crossover to and from pop and soft-rock–both genres that suit Clarkson well. And country remixes aren’t new either, whether lengthy like Shania Twain’s double-CD Up! or touristy like Lady Gaga’s “Country Roads” version of “Born This Way.” (If she releases a country album as the BTW follow-up, we’ll retract that qualifier.)
That said, there’s a lazy way to do these things, copy-and-pasting slide guitar and banjos to fill the spaces where the beats were, and there’s a right way. Kelly Clarkson got it right. The vocals are re-recorded with ad-libs more languid than punchy, the prefab percussion loop is ditched for something looser (check out the extra kick on “you don’t know a thing about me”), the too-tinkly pianos are nowhere to be found, and let’s just come out with it: it no longer sounds anything like “Just the Way You Are.” In fact, this version of “Mr. Know It All” not only a plausible pop-country track, but a rather robust one. Country radio’s certainly not averse to either productions like this or Clarkson; there’s no reason this couldn’t be a hit. It’s got better chances than the original, at least.