In the past few years, Taylor Swift has collected quite a trophy case of awards, especially in the fan-voted categories. During these same years, American Idol Carrie Underwood has earned enormous success, snatching up well over 100 awards including the coveted ACM Entertainer of the Year Award twice. Meanwhile, Kellie Pickler, who some thought had the chops to follow in the footsteps of Carrie Underwood when she arrived on the scene of American Idol just one year later, has yet to really establish herself as an artist.
That’s not to say Kellie hasn’t had success. She most certainly has. With her singles Red High Heels, I Wonder and Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind from her first album all landing in the Billboard Country Charts top 20, Kellie seemed to be well on her way. Her sophomore album, which was featured in its entirety on St. Louis station 99.9 KFAV’s Lunch With Your Favorite Country Star, even produced a top 10 hit. Best Days of Your Life peaked at #9. In addition, Kellie has received award nominations from both the ACMs and CMAs. And yet, even with so much recognition early on, there has always seemed to be something missing.
While Taylor Swift was busy becoming the voice of teenage girls around the world and Carrie Underwood was proving that she could deliver powerhouse ballads as well as sassy up tempo tracks, Kellie Pickler seemed to only touch on a musical identity here and there. Kellie’s strength, in addition to her voice, has always been her sweet natured personality. Though some poked fun at Kellie’s lack of culture, that same genuine, down to earth sweetness is what drew so many fans to her. For those who could see past the small town girl limitations, a sweet, spunky superstar was in the making.
When Kellie sang her hit song, I Wonder, people got a glimpse of the difficult path Kellie had walked before she found her place in Nashville. Lesser known songs, I’m On My Way and My Angel, also seemed to reveal a little bit of Kellie’s memories and personal journey. However, despite the catchy and downright sassy songs that she’s most remembered for, many people still haven’t been able to pinpoint who Kellie is, as an artist. Even Kellie herself has stated that she has felt like people still don’t know who she is. But that may all be about to change.
Kellie’s new single, Tough, is a shot-out-of-the-starting-gate, fire off some rounds, stomp your foot, grab the mike and announce you have arrived kind of song. With just-dare-me type lyrics like “Tough, I ain’t never been nothing but tough, all my edges have always been rough” and “Oh backbone, there ain’t nothing wrong with a woman that got a little backbone”, delivered in Kellie’s telltale southern drawl you get the idea that she knows who she is and she’s not down for the count just yet. When she works up to that spitfire attitude after singing the more gentle opening lyrics, “I wanted lace, I wanted pearls, to be a princess like the other girls”, the song becomes a window into the life of a young woman who has, in fact, had to be tough most of her life.
It’s no secret that Kellie’s parents were not able to offer her the secure, loving childhood home that most kids take for granted. Though Kellie formed a precious bond with the grandparents who raised her, she still never had the kind of carefree childhood that many people her age can look back on with nothing but happy memories. Between the struggle of finding her way in the world as a young adult and working hard to get her singing career off the ground, Kellie Pickler has definitely earned the titled of Tough.
This first single off her upcoming third album was written by Leslie Satcher, whose songwriting credits include hits performed by George Strait, Vince Gill, Martina McBride and Patty Loveless. Even with so many legendary artists recording her songs, the new song for young Kellie Pickler may just turn out to be one of Satcher’s greatest efforts yet. The lyrics to Tough finally seem to capture both the struggle and the strength that has made Kellie Pickler who she is. For fans who have known all along that Kellie had a lot more to say, the release of her third album can’t get her soon enough. There’s a turning point coming for Kellie Pickler, and for anyone who doesn’t like it, well, that’s just tough.
If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to Kellie’s new single, Tough, on her website or download it from iTunes today. It is surely only the beginning of bigger and better things from Kellie Pickler.
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