Country star, Season 5 American Idol finalist and Season 16 Dancing With The Stars champion Kellie Pickler has been teasing a new single since last month,” when she described it as “up-tempo” and said, “I hope that it will be this year’s summer anthem. Represent the girls and have fun. It’s sassy, and fun.” Now, we have our 1st taste of new music from her via her new single “Feeling Tonight,” written by Sarah Buxton, Josh Osborne and Jimmy Robbins and, in a shift from her past 2 albums, co-produced by her husband Kyle Jacobs and long-time Lee Brice engineer & producer Matt McClure (the pair also produced Brice’s CMA and ACM-winning song “I Drive Your Truck”). The production returns Kellie to the pop/rock leanings of her sophomore album, though with some prominent steel and slide guitar accents and a mandolin line anchoring the chorus.
“Feeling Tonight” is a sweet, upbeat number with a very catchy pre-chorus that fits the current radio climate. Kellie’s next album will mark her 2nd album with Black River Entertainment, a young indie label co-owned by billionaire Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula that just scored its 1st Mediabase t10 (and now, t5) hit with new female act Kelsea Ballerini. Ballerini’s material is pretty much full-on pop in its own right, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Black River felt that its best bet to consolidate its place at country radio were with poppier material from its most recognizable star.
What makes Kellie most distinctive and charming as an artist may be best showcased through a more traditional country sound, something reflected in the strong critical acclaim for her 3rd album 100 Proof and the positive critical reception of its follow-up The Woman I Am. But her turn to more traditional material has coincided with a dip in her sales and radio presence. Kellie is 1 of the last 3 solo country females to follow her 1st t20 country hit with another t20 hit – and that was in 2007. The other 2 solo country females, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift have gone on to become a country superstar and a pop megastar, respectively. But the downturn in country radio’s support of solo women as hit Kellie as hard as anybody, as her last t30 hit was 2011’s “Tough.” Her album sales point both to her potential audience and her recent struggles to reach that audience as her airplay has declined:
Small Town Girl (released 10/31/2006): 900k (through late November 2013)
Kellie Pickler (released 9/30/2008): 470k (through late November 2013)
100 Proof (released 1/24/2012): 90k (through late November 2013)
The Woman I Am (released 11/11/2013): 47k (through late January 2014)
With those numbers in mind, it would not be surprising to see Kellie and her label make a grab at some radio traction, especially since her biggest hit is the very pop leaning “Best Days Of Your Life” (a track that Kellie cowrote with megastar Taylor Swift). Odds are she would save more traditional cuts for her full album.
In the meantime, Kellie’s star power continues to serve her well in scoring TV and live gigs. She is set to star in her own Ryan Seacrest-produced reality show for CMT, premiering on September 18. A veteran of 8 USO tours to entertain the troops, she was part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Salute The Troops event recently, performing “Tough” and “Ain’t No Cure For Crazy.” She also recently honored her country roots at the Opry by covering Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.
What do you think of Kellie’s new song, “Feeling Tonight” and do you think it can be another radio hit for Kellie?