Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Queen is (Not McEntirely) Dead. Long Live The Queen!

Kelly Clarkson: Why Haven't I Heard From You? 

For as long as folks have been warbling on the Earth there has been a method for raising up the young in such a way as to make the old accept them and teach them the Secret Ways which will allow them to survive and thrive, as opposed to view them as a threat and simply crush and eat them. Such a system provides a pecking order for young and old alike with rules to follow. The novice pays homage to the professional and attempts to affect humility while seeking to impress; the professional takes note and sees that one has to adapt in order not to be eclipsed before one’s time. There ensues a period of mutual appreciation until the master’s skills fail or he/she simply croaks. The apprentice steps smoothly into place and thus begins a new cycle, with some fresh whippersnapper biting at the new master’s heels.

A perfect example of this symbiotic relationship is the one that has developed between between Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson. Wha? you say? Let me show you.

When I say Kelly Clarkson, you’re thinking she’s that girl who won the first season of American Idol, had a few hits, and then got fat and dropped off the planet.

Not quite. Did you know, for instance, that Billboard ranked the Grammy-winner  the #14 artist of the decade? And that according to Nielsen SoundScan, she has sold around 36 million singles and 23 million albums worldwide? I know! WTF!! 

So back when Kelly was a baby popstar, she claimed Reba was her idol, and sure enough, they were soon hooked up. It was while Kelly was doing all these guest-appearance-at-a-TV-show things that she started doing after Idol, that she (or the folks who managed her) figured something out: she may not be big enough a star to command huge audiences on her own, but she sure can kick the ass of anyone whose stage she walks out onto. In short: she makes a shit-hot Guest Star. Here she is wiping the floor with everyone and upstaging her gracious accompanist Jeff Beck by using the occasion of a zillion billion American Idol viewers to showcase Patty Griffin’s “Up To The Mountain” instead of one of her own hits, which was a really classy move. 

Cleverly, the one time you really want to blow the roof off a place is when you have all of your peers in the record industry sitting under it, so awards and tribute shows are a great place to strut your stuff. To wit: “Why Haven’t I Heard From You” at the Reba Tribute (I completely and deliberately ignored Kelly Clarkson until I happened to see this).

One of the folks whose eye she caught is one Narvel Blackstock (awesome name!) who happens to be Reba’s husband. He’s now her manager. Which helps explain how come you see these two gals together so very much. When Reba’s performing, Kelly invariably shows up. They did a CMT Crossroads show together, which spun off into a double-header tour.

Here she is, a few years down the road, showing Reba how it’s done. Check out Reba's face, y'all. "Up To The Mountain." 

I saw Reba doing her massively gaudy and slick thing on tour this Fall when she shared the bill with George Strait and LeeAnn Womack, which is one hell of a triple play. When Kelly walked out unannounced to join her in their duet “Because Of You” the house nearly, I kid you not, fell down. There was such rapturous ovation you could hardly hear them sing. But sing they did, each lass playing off the other to up the artistic and vocal ante considerably. They did a whole mini-set. Here's "Walk Away." Reba, of course, is the consummate showgirl, squeezed into tight pants and sequined tank-top, red hair fixed just so, all gestures and looks and Drama with a capital D. Kelly, on the other hand, was barefoot, and looked like she just got off the sofa, in a hideously unflattering short flowery dress and what looked (from the stands) like no make-up. But what she lacked in stylistic Drama, she made up for with her chops. This girl long ago realized that she didn’t need to give a shit about looking the part if she could sound LIKE THAT

The truth about Kelly Clarkson is that she sings other people's songs better than her own. "Why." Kelly's better when she's singing with Reba. Consider this very odd thing: two videos for the same song,  "Because of You"; recorded two years apart, one as a solo act, and one as a duet. (And doesn't Kelly look odd in her solo video? Thin! Blonde!) (And doesn't Reba look odd in the duet? Hmmm....)

All of this Reba business has meant that Kelly Clarkson, the Pop Diva, has fallen into the clutches of Country Music, where all singers with God-given talent end up. Her much-touted duet with hottie Jason Aldean “Don’t You Wanna Stay” debuted in the form of a stage spectacular at this year's CMAs that became the song’s video. Sure, she’s glammed it up for the occasion, but we’ll forgive her that velvet monstrosity for the sake of seeing the next mighty pair of lungs bask in the spotlight where she belongs. 

Reba and Kelly gabbing.

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