Single Review: Kelly Clarkson, “Tie it Up”

Kelly Clarkson Tie it UpThere’s such an obvious trend of genre-hopping between pop, rock, and country right now that I can totally understand the enthusiasm surrounding Kelly Clarkson dabbling with a switch to country music.

After all, if we’re going to have pop and rock stars crossing over anyway, we might as well get one of the best ones, right?  She’s got a strong knowledge of and affinity for, at the very least, the past two generations of country music.   Her pipes are pretty darn good, too.  I prefer the purity of Carrie Underwood’s voice, but there are many who feel the first Idol is still the best.

There’s only one problem, and it’s a big one.  “Tie it Up” is not a country song.  Not by any stretch of the imagination, and my imagination is pretty stretched out at this point.  It sounds like some Globe Sessions-era Sheryl Crow album filler, honestly.  There’s some banjo, but come on.  You can find that on a Kid Rock record.

I know, I know.  Kid Rock had a country hit, too.   It wasn’t country either.  We’ve reached a point where there’s so much distance between the country music radio format and country music itself that the former has very little to do with the latter.  It doesn’t even matter if the country format is the home base.  Lady Antebellum is an Adult Contemporary band that happened to get its start on country radio.   Jason Aldean is a southern rocker who was born thirty years too late for rock radio, so we’ll just call him country.

I have no doubt that Kelly Clarkson could do an actual country record, but this isn’t one.  It’s a pretty bland song anyway, notable only for the fact that it’s her first solo single being sent primarily to country radio.  It’d be pretty unremarkable if not for that fact, which is destined to be little more than a piece of trivia anyway.

So, welcome to country radio, Kelly. You’ll find it’s not that different from the Adult Top 40 stations you’re used to dominating and you won’t have to change a thing to fit in.

Written by Ashley Arrison, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne

 Grade:  (not) C (ountry)



  1. I love Kelly but I love her for her versatility, which is why your review being so true is killing me. My gateway country album was Home by the Dixie Chicks. The thing about Kelly is, like you said, she COULD do an actual country record. She’s done everything else besides rap and, to me, has made each sound legit. I’m in the slightly schizophrenic position of loving country and hating the word “genre.” I guess the only upside for how non-country country radio has sounded lately–as you point out–is that Steve Grand’s album won’t have to sound too country to be played on country radio and, albeit for somewhat selfish reasons, I REALLY want him to have success in the…*shuddering at the word* genre.

  2. Oh also, one reason I really want Kelly to make a proper country album is precisely BECAUSE of the differences in her voice from Carrie’s. While we can’t argue taste–if you prefer her purity (while I wouldn’t use that particular term), it’s cool–what I love about Kelly’s voice is how a magazine once described it: “If Mariah Carey’s five-octave voice is the equivalent of an expensively bred poodle, then Clarkson’s is a bloodhound: earthy and fierce.” I hope her eventual debut country album is….earthy.

  3. The review of “Tie It Up” is totally valid…this song will be worked to Adult AC within a week of it peaking at whatever number it does on Country radio. The one piece missing is that she already came with a more country sound on “Don’t Rush” and radio didn’t respond. Granted, it wasn’t the current sound and it is already hard enough for a woman to get airplay, but I can’t fault her for trying a different direction. I just wish she’d waited for a stronger song.

  4. “Don’t Rush” felt country to me, even though there were obviously other genre influences present. It reminded me a bit of the eighties pop-country style one might have heard from Crystal Gayle or Barbara Mandrell – which doesn’t pass for “traditional” country music, but I think it’s an appreciable nod to the genre’s past, if that makes sense.

    As for this song, I agree with the review – it’s nothing special. I have no doubt that Clarkson has great country music in her – I’m just patiently waiting until we finally get to hear it.

  5. I agree that “Tie It Up” is not country-sounding. But I’m glad that Kelly Clarkson is making a statement that while she will be dabbling into country music, she will not totally change her signature style. “Tie It Up” is undeniably a Kelly Clarkson song – with the big hooks, power vocals and tons of attitude and sass. I also like what Kelly did with “Don’t Rush”, because instead of taking the obvious revenge type of songs like Taylor’s, Carrie’s, Miranda’s and The Band Perry’s; she opted for the throwback and soulful country-pop sound reminiscent of Crystal Gayle’s and Barbara Mandrell’s. I was actually delightedly surprised when I first heard “Don’t Rush.”

    Come on, if Kelly tried to sound just like any other female country singer in the radio right now, she’d be accused of being a sellout. Kelly is primarily a pop-rock type of artist and she will try to bring that flavor in her songs for country radio. She could do flawless covers of straight-up and classic country songs, but those may not totally reflect the kind of artist Kelly Clarkson is.

    Anyway, Kelly Clarkson is just so dang likeable that it is hard to hate her even if her singles for country radio are not really ‘country’. :)

  6. I’m now used to non-country songs being promoted to country that this does not bother me that much about this song. What I do not like about this song is that it gets shouty on some parts. Love Kelly’s voice but this is not her best.

  7. If it was a good song (not), it wouldn’t bother me that it isn’t country. Those who are more knowledgable than I am in determining what qualifies as country music would probably give a thumbs down to some of my current favorites – Blue Sky Riders, Striking Matches, O’Shea and Maggie Rose.

  8. As I said above, I wouldn’t have had such high hopes for a country album if it wasn’t for all the country covers that she does at her concerts that sound so good. They don’t necessarily compromise her sound, but they do sound country. As far as “Don’t Rush”, you’re probably right that it’s a throwback to Mandrell and Gale, and I do actually like the song, but I’ve never been a Mandrell or Gale kind of country fan.

  9. I’m predisposed to love anything Kelly does, so I’ll be the dissenter here and say how much I enjoy this song. I find the lyrics and production pretty catchy. I can already say with certainty that my hillbilly family will be line dancing to this one at my cousin’s wedding this fall — the one where all the guests have been asked to wear camouflage.

    BTW, is this the same Kevin John Coyne who awarded an A- to “Undo It,” that nettlesome cacophony of non-countriness by Carrie Underwood? Why the sudden double standard?

  10. [quote]BTW, is this the same Kevin John Coyne who awarded an A- to “Undo It,” that nettlesome cacophony of non-countriness by Carrie Underwood? Why the sudden double standard?[/quote]

    Not speaking on behalf of KJC, but I don’t see a double standard because there’s a difference between a song being lyrically-lackluster and being an overall disaster and a song being lyrically-lackluster but still managing to be catchy and enjoyable. Kelly screaming to “cut the cake” to an Alanis Morissette instrumental is much more nettlesome. Carrie at least tones her voice down well enough to make the track sound enjoyable, but still provides enough ferociousness in her vocals to provide an entertaining melody and hook. “Tie It Up” is terrible. “Undo It” is bearable.

  11. I can understand the argument on this not being country but at this point and time I really don’t care what they play on country radio as long as it sounds good and I, for one, do find this song very catchy. It’s very much like “Undo It” in the sense that both songs lack substance but are still entertaining to listen to.

    I can understand people not wanting any more “non-country” songs on radio but I think it’s time to pick the lesser of the the two evils for now. It’s either this or a Jason Aldean-esque song about tractors and trucks. I’m going to go with the former.

  12. I don’t think liking “Undo It” and disliking this constitutes a double standard. Every song has its own unique qualities – a great vocal performance can elevate a mediocre song, and a great song can transcend a forgettable performance, etc., etc. Also, a person’s individual tastes aren’t always consistent, and reviewing is subjective anyway, so it doesn’t always adhere to rigid metrics.

    I’m sure I’ve written positive reviews of songs that had traits which caused me to pan other songs, but I just try to be honest and straightforward about what I like or dislike and why.

  13. …i guess, little big town could have made this song a real homer in a country sort of way. kelly clarkson cannot.

    now, it starts backfiring that nashville embraced keith urban’s sound as country music. you cannot dismiss this one as not country anymore. it’s good music, but country keith urban seldom is actually. same here, it is a decent kelly clarkson tune, but only faux-country at best, which makes it a quite ok-effort in a chimaera-sort of way.

    having said that, it grew quickly on me, because of its undeniable catchiness. a little twang sprinkled over the whole production, could have given it perhaps just the right amount of rural flavour. unfortunately, that is something you will not find in kelly clarkson’s original tool box.

  14. I grant you that a person’s individual tastes aren’t always consistent, yet it seems a little unfair to grade Kelly’s song so harshly because it isn’t very country, when, in my opinion, “Undo It” was even less country.

    I leave you now with a reminder of some of the lyrics of that Carrie Underwood classic:

    “Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it

  15. I do love “Undo It.” I’m a sucker for “na na na” songs.

    “Tie it Up” got a C from me because I found it bland and uninteresting. I just played with the formatting of that C for the sake of amusement.

    I’d give it an A on its own merits if I thought it deserved one, country or not.

    But as I wrote in the review, the only thing remotely interesting about the record is the way the label has chosen to promote it. The song itself? Meh.

  16. I didn’t really care for “Undo It” but thought Carrie Underwood sounded like a country rocker on it. Because it was supposed to be a resentful remembrance of an ex she was regretting, I *got* why Carrie was roaring that chorus even if I didn’t especially enjoy that part. But with “Tie It Up” I find myself wondering why Kelly Clarkson is yelling at me about being engaged. It’s a song that reminds me of those stereotypical female characters you see on TV/in the movies who constantly and loudly drag their engagement rings and wedding plans into every conversation. It gets to the point where it feels like they are happier about being engaged than who they are engaged to, even though that’s surely not the case.

    I agree with Kevin’s review of “Tie It Up.” It’s neither country nor likable nor well-constructed as a song. It’s a few steps back from “Don’t Rush,” which despite not being especially country or that great a song, was a nice showcase of soulfulness and vocal restraint.

  17. I dunno… I guess I tolerate this one. I had hoped for more though.

    What this review really reminded me of, however, is how much I dislike the Sheryl Crow single “Easy”. I’ve been a fan of Crow’s since she first came on the scene in the early 90s and I haven’t minded when she’s dipped her toe into the Country pond (on “Picture”, “The First Cut Is the Deepest” and as a guest on B&D’s “Building Bridges”). However, this new single, in my opinion, is the most insincere and smug song currently in the Country Top 40. I know, I know, most of those dirt road and farm country songs aren’t genuine either, but when Crow sings about not having enough money to go to Cancun, surfing the radio in the backyard and who Jack Johnson is, it feels downright insulting to me as a listener. I’m not sure why this song and not others, feels so acutely deceitful to me, but the way she romanticizes this lifestyle feels like she’s pandering to and/or mocking the country audience. Sort of like, “Hey, while you suckers buy anything that celebrates beer and summer. Meanwhile, I’ll laugh all the way to the bank where I deposit the big, fat checks.”

  18. The difference for me in a comparison to Carrie Underwood is “intent”. Underwood committed herself to country music and has done so for 8 years. She recieves credit for making her brand of country, whatever that happens to sound like. ITs sincere and honest.
    Clarkson seems to want to stand on a soap box and declare that she does not want to be a country singer. So she is either being dishonest or she is allowing her team to promote her for the money. Either way it comes across as insincere.
    But at the end of the day this song boils down to one thing for me, much like the poster above stated, I just want Kelly to stop yelling at me about her wedding. I am not sure I understand what she is yelling about!

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