Piece by Piece (song)

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"Piece by Piece"
A cropped monochromatic image of a woman hair whose hair are overlapped with a small hexagonal-shaped pieces; on its lower left side, the words "Kelly Clarkson" and "Piece by Piece" are printed in white stylized typefaces
Single by Kelly Clarkson
from the album Piece by Piece
ReleasedNovember 9, 2015 (2015-11-09)
February 29, 2016 (2016-02-29) (Idol version)
Format
Recorded2014
GenrePop[1]
Length
  • 3:44 (radio mix)
  • 3:31 (Idol version)
LabelRCA
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Greg Kurstin
Kelly Clarkson singles chronology
"Second Hand Heart"
(2015)
"Piece by Piece"
(2015)
"Softly and Tenderly"
(2017)
Alternative cover
A five-faceted kaleidoscopic image of a woman looking sideways from her back; with the words "Kelly Clarkson","Piece by Piece", and "Idol Version" are printed at the center of the image
Idol version single cover
Music video
"Piece by Piece" on YouTube

"Piece by Piece" is a song by American singer Kelly Clarkson taken from her seventh studio album of the same name. She co-wrote the track with its producer Greg Kurstin. A midtempo pop song about restoring someone's faith in love and family relationships, Clarkson promulgated "Piece by Piece" as a sequel to the song "Because of You" (2004) but with a "happy ending". After a discussion with her sister about their family life, she introspectively co-wrote the song in a first-person narrative to her father, whose neglect of his family was used as a juxtaposition to her husband's unconditional love for her and their daughter, whom they both promised to never abandon.

"Piece by Piece" was first released as the second promotional single from Piece by Piece by RCA Records on February 24, 2015. Upon its release, the title track received praise from music critics, who commended its lyrical content as one of the album's highlights. Clarkson premiered the song in a live acoustic performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and has showcased it on the set list of the Piece by Piece Tour. A re-worked version of the track was released to American hot adult contemporary radio stations on November 9, 2015, as the third and final single from the album. On February 25, 2016, Clarkson performed "Piece by Piece" in a live presentation on the fifteenth season of American Idol. The successful commercial and critical response of her performance on the program led RCA to issue an "Idol version" of the track on February 29, 2016.

The combined versions of "Piece by Piece" allowed the song to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number eight, becoming Clarkson's eleventh top ten hit and tying itself with "Never Again" (2007) as her highest debut on the chart. The track also attained the top position on three Billboard charts—primarily the Billboard Digital Songs chart, earning Clarkson her 100th Billboard number-one hit—a milestone in her musical career. Elsewhere, "Piece by Piece" became a top 40 hit in the music charts of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Scotland. Clarkson later performed a reprise of the Idol version on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on March 3, 2016. The Idol version was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

Composition[edit]

One of the five songs she had written by for her seventh studio album, Clarkson co-wrote "Piece by Piece" with frequent collaborator Greg Kurstin, who produced the track. Clarkson has said about writing the song:

A lot of the reasons why I wrote "Piece by Piece" was I guess I didn't realize the gravity of the situation until I had a child of my own, and until I experienced love like I do with Brandon (Blackstock) on the daily basis. I guess you don't realize something is missing until you feel it. I can't imagine walking away from my little girl. I can't imagine not having that love anymore. I didn't know it was missing because I never had it. It was a revelation and that's why I wrote that song. I think a lot of people go through that.[2]

Lyrically, the song is a midtempo pop number about restoring someone's faith in love and family relationships.[1][5] The song starts with a woman's recollection of her father abandoning his family; by the chorus, she finds a new man in her life, whom she describes as someone who, "piece by piece", had restored her "faith that a man can be kind and a father could stay".[6][7] Written in a first-person narrative, Clarkson introspectively co-wrote the song to her father, whose abandonment of his family when she was six years old was utilized as a juxtaposition in contrast to her husband's unconditional love to her and their daughter, whom they had both promised in the song to never leave behind.[2][8][9][10]

Clarkson pegged "Piece by Piece" as a follow-up song to her 2004 track "Because of You" and the album's "most personal" record, saying that "once you've worked through that and you find love and the kind of happiness you hoped for but didn't really know was possible. It's a happy song. And it has a happy ending, unlike 'Because of You'".[6][11] She revealed that she was inspired to write it after a discussion with her sister about their relationships with their respective families.[2][11][12][13] She remarked, "I was talking to my sister on the phone about how sometimes girls with daddy issues don't find men like that!".[2] Clarkson also noted that how their husbands were so supportive and loving were in stark contrast to the cliché about people with "abandonment issues" dating "losers".[2] She also said that "Piece by Piece" is a positive song, despite its somber resonance, and that she's still grateful to her father for making her want to be much more present in her family.[2] Sonically, Jon Pareles of The New York Times compared it to the anthems recorded by U2.[14] While Marissa Muller of CBS Radio described its sound as having a stadium feel with big drums.[15]

Release and reception[edit]

"Piece by Piece" was first issued as the album's second promotional single by RCA Records on February 24, 2015.[15] Clarkson also revealed plans for the song to receive a single release.[16] RCA then commissioned a re-worked version of the track for commercial release, which was serviced to hot adult contemporary radio stations on November 9, 2015 as the third single from the album.[17][18] Following Clarkson's performance on American Idol, RCA issued an Idol version accompanied by a piano by Jason Halbert and produced and mixed by Jason Halbert on February 29, 2016.[19]

Critical response[edit]

"Piece by Piece" received acclaim from music critics, who promulgated it as one of the album's highlights for its lyrical content. Reviewing for Billboard, Jamieson Cox regarded the song as a raw and standout vocal showcase, saying that when Clarkson forges a real emotional connection with the track, it allows the album to transcend hammier and hackneyed moments in between.[20] In his review for The New York Times, Pareles described it as the album's most accusatory song; and noted that despite the lyrical's vulnerability, its music rises quickly to bombast, triumphal and glamorous but remote.[14] He also lamented that those moments are far too few in the album.[14] Writing for AXS on its release, Chase Hunt singled out "Piece by Piece" as the one that feels more natural than the rest of the album's tracks. He wrote, "Songs penned by [Clarkson], or any artist writing their own songs, feels different. The track is letting fans into her soul while telling more of her story, past and present."[9]

Katherine St. Asaph of Time also highlighted the song as one of the album's stronger moments, describing it as a dagger to deadbeat dads everywhere that marks her most pointed lyrics since Stronger's "You Love Me" (2011).[21] AllMusic's senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine also included it as one of the three tracks (along with "Nostalgic" and "Good Goes the Bye") that strike a right balance of Clarkson's indomitable character and fresh electronic beats on the album's production.[22] In their reviews of Piece by Piece, New York Post's Hardeep Phull also pegged the track as the album's emotional peak, while Jim Farber of the New York Daily News highlighted the song as one of the two (along with "Someone") that show Clarkson's flair for the passive aggressive put-down and help focus on her persona.[23][24] Reviewing of the album for The A.V. Club, Annie Zaleski also commended the track as one of the tracks where Clarkson is far more engaging, and recommended that the album could use more of those emotional complexity and personal connection.[10]

Chart performance[edit]

"Piece by Piece" made its debut chart appearance on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart on the chart week ending December 19, 2015.[25] It attained a peak position of number 32 and stayed on the chart for nine weeks.[26] Following Clarkson's performance of the song on American Idol, Nielsen Soundscan announced that digital copies of the song had sold a total of 21,996 copies a few hours prior to the end of the tracking week ending on February 25, 2016, posting a 4777% gain from its previous week and allowing it to debut on the Billboard Digital Songs chart at number 35 and at number 18 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart in the issue dated the week ending March 12, 2016.[27][28][29] The following week, "Piece by Piece" made its debut Billboard Hot 100 chart at number eight, becoming Clarkson's eleventh Hot 100 top ten hit on the chart and tied itself with "Never Again" (2007) as her highest entry position on the chart.[30] In addition, it also became her first song to reach the top 10 in since "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" reached number one in 2012. It also ascended to the top position on the Billboard Digital Songs chart and Pop Digital Songs chart with 210,000 digital copies sold and 3.1 million streaming activity, posting a 852% digital surge and 969% streaming gain while also becoming her 100th number-one hit on the Billboard charts.[30][31] In addition, the song re-entered the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart at number 33 and debuted on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at number 23.[30] "Piece by Piece" peaked at number nine on the Adult Pop chart, becoming Clarkson's fifteenth top-10 hit on the chart and set a record for the female artist with the most top-10s on the chart.[32] Internationally, "Piece by Piece" debuted on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 at number 17,[33] on the Official UK Singles Chart at number 95, with an entry at number 37 on the UK Top Sales Chart, and on the ARIA Singles Chart at number 24.[34][35][36] Following a performance of "Piece by Piece" by Rebecca Grace on The X Factor, the song re-entered the Official UK Singles Chart at number 27, attaining a new peak position. [37]

As of September 2017, the song has sold over 813,000 copies in the United States.[38]

Live performances[edit]

Kelly Clarkson performing in a dark purple dress against an orange-lit LED screen background
Clarkson performing "Piece by Piece" on the Piece by Piece Tour.[39]

Clarkson presented "Piece by Piece" in a short live acoustic performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on March 2, 2015, and explained how she co-wrote the song.[40] She revealed that the song's lyrical content had also made it hard for her to perform it live, saying "It's not even the sad parts of it because I'm not there. I'm not in that place anymore, like where I'm sad about it. I'm in a very forgiving place about it and everybody's human. But I think I get really choked up because I just realize how lucky I am... And a lot of girls that grew up with their daddy issues and with not having that figure in their life, you know, take a very different road, and I just feel lucky that I'm not that girl." To promote the album, Clarkson had also performed the song in a stripped-down performance as part of her set list during her Piece by Piece Tour.[12][39] On February 25, 2016, she performed "Piece by Piece" in a live performance a year after its release on the fifteenth season of American Idol.[41] Her rendition of the song was met with a standing ovation from the audience[42] and critical acclaim from music critics[43][44][45][46]— with Olivia Waring Metro praising it as poignant while USA Today's Erin Jensen describing it as a "heartfelt performance that we just can't get enough of".[42][43] On March 3, 2016, Clarkson appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show where she discussed her American Idol performance and closed the program with a rendition of the song.[47]

Music video[edit]

An accompanying music video filmed by Alon Isocianu was commissioned to promote the single and premiered on Vevo on November 19, 2015.[48][49] The video, filmed entirely in a monochromatic form, features tribute scenes to women of all ages—primarily to mothers, abandoned daughters, and pregnant women, ending with a scene of Clarkson carrying her own daughter.[3][4]

Track listing[edit]

Single – radio mix[50]
No.TitleLength
1."Piece by Piece" (radio mix)3:44
Single – Idol version[19]
No.TitleLength
1."Piece by Piece" (Idol version)3:31

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the Piece by Piece liner notes and "Piece by Piece" metadata.[51][52]

Recording
  • Engineered at Starstruck Studios, Nashville, Tennessee and Echo Studio, Los Angeles, California
Personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[65] 738,000[38]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

List of release dates, showing region, release format, label catalog number, and reference
Region Date Format(s) Label Catalog number Ref
United States November 9, 2015 (2015-11-09) Hot adult contemporary radio RCA N/A
[17][18]
Worldwide November 19, 2015 (2015-11-19) Digital download – radio mix Sony Music GBCTA1500077
[50]
United Kingdom February 12, 2016 (2016-02-12) Digital download RCA GBCTA1500005
[66]
United States February 29, 2016 (2016-02-29) Mainstream contemporary hit radioIdol version N/A
[67]
Worldwide Digital download – Idol version Sony Music GBCTA1500109
[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b Chouinard, Haley (November 19, 2015). "Kelly Clarkson Releases "Piece By Piece" Music Video That Will Make You Want To Hug Your Parents". Bustle. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Clements, Erin (November 20, 2015). "Kelly Clarkson's 'Piece by Piece' video features adorable daughter, River Rose". The Today Show. NBCUniversal. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
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  8. ^ Vain, Madison (February 24, 2015). "Kelly Clarkson shares super personal new track, 'Piece by Piece'". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
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  10. ^ a b Zaleski, Annie (March 3, 2015). "Kelly Clarkson's usual spunk and self-empowerment can't rescue Piece By Piece". The A.V. Club. United States: The Onion. Archived from the original on March 5, 2015. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
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  50. ^ a b Worldwide releases of "Piece By Piece (Radio Mix) – Single":
  51. ^ Piece By Piece (booklet). Kelly Clarkson. 19 Recordings Limited under exclusive license to RCA Records. 2015. 88875070852. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  52. ^ "Piece By Piece" (metadata). Kelly Clarkson. 19 Recordings Limited under exclusive license to RCA Records. 2015. GBCTA1500005.
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  65. ^ "American single certifications – Kelly Clarkson – Piece By Piece". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  66. ^ "Key Releases". Music Week. Intent Media. Archived from the original on January 26, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  67. ^ Cantor, Bryan (February 29, 2016). "Idol Version Of Kelly Clarkson's Piece By Piece; Sent To Pop, Hot AC Radio, Debuts on iTunes". HeadlinePlanet.com. Retrieved March 1, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]