Meghan Linsey, formerly of the duo Steel Magnolia, has recorded a country version of the OneRepublic hit "Counting Stars" and released it to country radio. Country versions of pop hits have mixed results in country music, ranging from good (Jack Ingram's "Lips of An Angel" and Reba's "Because of You"), to strange (Alabama's cover of *NSYNC's "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You). In fact, this isn't the first time a OneRepublic song has had a country remake. Luke Bryan covered "Apologize" for his Doin' My Thang album, and did a pretty good job on it. The key is to stay true to the original, but make it your own and make it distinctively country. Meghan does a knockout job with her rendition, making it one of the most unique songs on the radio.
The lyrics and melody of this song are so catchy and sing-alongable that most of the work is done for you when you get a hold of this song. It is one of the bigger pop hits right now, and for good reason. Pop music is built on earworm hooks and slick production, and this song has both. You listen to it once, and you'll be singing it all day. Normally, pop lacks in lyrical depth, but this song actually has some meaning and emotion to it. It's not your typical story song you like to hear from country music, but it isn't some "throw your hands in the air like you don't care" throwaway song either. There is a lot to work with in this song.
So, what did Meghan do with it? She mixed bluegrass and country elements to really make this song have a different feel and groove than the original. The banjo strumming give the song more tempo and bounciness, and makes a cheerful mood for the chorus. Rather than simply going the bluegrass route, Meghan also throws in some twangy electric guitar. The deep, resonating notes sound like Brad Paisley playing a western. It's a distinctively country sound that really brings this song together. The bluegrass is cool, but adding some contemporary country make this a song that could and should be played on the radio and fit right in. Vocally, Meghan sounds great. The harmonies on the chorus sometimes sound a little strange with a high female singing it after being used to a male singing it on pop radio, but it grows on you fast. She delivers with emotion and passion to make a well-rounded, solid track.
This song has all the makings of a big hit. Its catchy, country, and upbeat. The only thing stopping it could be the fact that the pop single is still in rotation. Of course, that may also help it, as the song is very relevant right now. Whether it charts well or not, Meghan should be proud of this effort, and it makes me look forward to what else she will come up with on her own.