Kelly Clarkson's going country, but at the same time she can't seem to decide if she is or not. After a country mix of her hit 'Mr Know-It-All', a duet with Reba, a duet with Jason Aldean, being nominated for CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, a country single with Vince Gill ('Don't Rush'), then turning round and saying she wasn't going full country and releasing a few more pop singles, I am confused. I was ready to ignore Kelly for a while as she figured out where she sat genre-wise, but as soon as I began to do it she debuted her new country single 'Tie It Up' at CMA Fest and everything starts all over again. I am not convinced by Kelly's jumping around and I wish she and her record label would just focus their efforts on one thing. You can't just live two separate careers.
As for the song, well it's a little strange for me. While it's nice to hear some lyrics clearly about Kelly's experiences (about leading up to a wedding day), there's a lot of those lyrics and they tumble out so much it's almost visual. Wordy, in fact, isn't the word – and while this creates a rhythm of its own, I a still warming to this technique. It's not one that can be used over and over, let's just say. Musically it's nowhere near as 'country' sounding as I would have hoped, and seems rather more genre-ambiguous than 'Don't Rush', which was in itself a little vague. Among pop vocal effects, plenty of ascending and descending melodies that run in circles and literally tie up my thoughts in knots, the song is fairly rocky. The electric guitar, I think, is meant to be punchy, and designed to add dynamics to the song, but it doesn't really quite live up to that and the drums do that more effectively.
There is a possibility you could attribute a Southern rock vibe to this song and there is its link to country, from a hint of twang I get from a few listens. However, the reality is 'Tie It Up' didn't need the banjo solo (that randomly launches in out of nowhere and sounds a tad out of place), as it could have claimed that Southern rock positioning and have been done with it. As it is, the random brief inclusion of prominent banjo makes it sound as if they're trying to convince listeners of its belonging again, and that annoys me. A song should just be country, there shouldn't be any convincing about it.
Aside from all this the lyrics, while wordy, are quite clever, and clearly a great deal of effort has been put into making them solid and entertaining. Kelly's vocals are on par (as usual) and she sings it with gusto and some sass, although I think she struggles with the wordiness issue and I can imagine particularly live she would miss enuciating properly.
If Kelly were to only be releasing songs marketed as country I would be a little more convinced of her status as a country artist. However, her pop singles coupled with country tracks that don't seem to be all too sure what they are shows she has some more figuring out to do in terms of where she wants to direct her career. I can imagine with the slow failing of her pop singles that she is migrating over to a more sympathetic country audience; however I despise this tactic (as if we're a second choice?!). As a song it is not bad by any means, but it isn't amazing and the context in which it's been released has cast some doubt over it.
I hope to hear more country singles from Kelly in the future, but perhaps with a little more country intent. Maybe that's just me.