Lionel Knows Best: 10 Black Pop Stars Who Should Go Country

Categories: Lionel Richie

whitelionel.jpg
By Mike Seely

[Editor's note: Country Time is a new biweekly column for our sister music blog in Seattle.]

With the nation's major-party political conventions drawing to a close recently with a rousing reelection appeal from the nation's first black president, it seems fitting to cast a spotlight on an equally rare profession: the black country music artist. Or, rather, the former black pop star seeking to reinvigorate his career by moving to Nashville. Lionel Richie and Darius "Hootie" Rucker both fit this description. Fittingly, their performance of Richie's "Stuck On You" was just nominated for a Country Music Association award for duet of the year, quite certainly the first time two African-Americans have been nominated together in any category.

Will this mark an Obama-like moment in the genre's evolution? All signs point to yes.

More »

Radio Hits One: Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie And Countrified Pop Tunes

radiohitsone_july23.jpg
After Kelly Clarkson went to No. 1 on Billboard's Country Songs chart last year with the Jason Aldean duet "Don't You Wanna Stay," I wondered hopefully if the Texas-born pop star would finally go country with her next album. So I was a little disappointed a few months later, when she debuted the bland "Mr. Know It All" as the lead single from her fourth album, Stronger. But months after the song came and went as a moderate Hot 100 success (it peaked at No. 10) and was supplanted on pop airwaves by the chart-topping follow-up "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," something happened that made my initial reaction quite ironic: "Mr. Know It All" was remixed as a country song. It peaked at No. 21 on Country Songs earlier this month, and cable country music networks have the video in heavy rotation—the same video VH1 was airing six months ago, with a new audio track dubbed in.

"Mr. Know It All" seems like an odd candidate for the country treatment in many ways. Brett James, a country songwriter who's penned hits for Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood, had a hand in the original, but he was just one member of a large team of writers and producers dominated by writer Ester Dean and producer Brian Kennedy, who've both worked on chart-topping Rihanna singles and a bevy of other R&B hits. Country has always placed a high value on big emotional ballads and carefully crafted lyrics; this is a strident midtempo song with the painfully vapid opening couplet, "Mr. Know It All, you think you know it all/ but you don't really know it all, ain't it something, y'all?" Perhaps it was simply the presence of "y'all" that marked the song for country crossover potential.

More »

100 & Single: The Dawning Of The MTV Era And How It Rocket-Fueled The Hot 100

dontyouwantme.jpg
What was the first rock and roll song? Ask music historians and you'll get a range of '40s and early '50 candidates, from "Good Rockin' Tonight" to "Rocket 88."

Ah, but when did the Rock Era begin? That's easier. Everybody knows that Bill Haley and His Comets' rendition of "Rock Around the Clock" was America's first-ever No. 1 rock and roll song, topping the Billboard charts in the summer of 1955 and launching the Rock Era as we know it. Occasionally, musical epochs can be demarcated easily, with a bright temporal line.

So it goes with the era of the music video. The promotional-music-clip format is more than a half-century old, dating to the 1940s and raised to a high-pop-art form by such pre-'80s acts as the Beatles and Queen, among others.

But the music video era, better known as the MTV Era, began unequivocally 30 years ago this weekend—on August 1, 1981, the day Music Television went live on cable TV. The No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot 100 that week was "Jessie's Girl," by a guy so telegenic he was crossing over from a soap opera: General Hospital's Rick Springfield. Appropriately, "Jessie's Girl" came packaged with a fairly slick (for its day) music video.

More »
Loading...