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

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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.

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