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Kelly Clarkson: Under New Management

After firing her former manager, Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm, two weeks ago, Kelly Clarkson has signed on with a new manager: Reba McIntire's husband.

According to Billboard, Clarkson's new personal manager is Narvel Blackstock, CEO of the Nashville-based Starstruck Entertainment, which he founded in 1988.

McIntire and Clarkson have already started working together.

Clarkson re-recorded her 2005 top 10 hit "Because of You" with McIntire. It's the first single of McIntire's upcoming album, "Reba Duets," due for release in September.

The two performed the song on the Academy of Country Music awards in May, and then appeared together for an episode of CMT Crossroads last month.

Clarkson has been embroiled in controversy surrounding her third album, "My December," released on June 26 and expected to debut at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts today.

Photos: Kelly Clarkson
Reports surfaced in the spring that the Grammy-winning singer and the head of her record label, Clive Davis, had clashed over the direction of the album, which is in a darker more rock-tinged mood than her previous work.

The singer downplayed the tension, telling Associated Press Television in May that reports of the feud were exaggerated.

"There's always this battle, and it's not a bad battle to have," she explained. "I mean, you obviously don't want 'yes' people around you. And, obviously, (Davis) and others at the label have been in the business far longer than I have. So you obviously take their opinions in."

On top of the album controversy, Clarkson had to deal with canceling her summer tour in mid-June, due to low ticket sales.

The album's first single, "Never Again" hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, but tumbled soon after. The second single, "Sober," was just released.

Reviews of "My December" have been mixed, but even some of the critics who panned the album gave Clarkson credit for being Miss Independent.

"The original 'American Idol' is fighting a good fight, one that will likely help her career in the long run," writes Glenn Gamboa in Newsday. "Unfortunately, 'My December' isn't as good as her intentions. Not only will it not match the popularity of 'Breakaway,' which featured a string of hits, but it's not as artistically sure-footed."

"As much as one can applaud Clarkson for wanting to be taken seriously, neither pop nor rock should sound as labored as most of 'My December,'" said Time magazine's David Browne.

But others aren't quite ready to count Clarkson out just yet.

"Instead of soaring, Ms. Clarkson digs in, singing melodies that sometimes sound cramped and repetitive; perhaps the music echoes the obstinate lyrics too well," writes Kelefa Sanneh. "Let's not get carried away, though: Ms. Clarkson's voice still sounds great, and there are a few songs that conjure the old giddiness, like 'How I Feel,' a new-wavey lament."

"Recent management changes and her canceled tour have furthered the assumption that '(My) December' must be a train wreck," writes Chris Willman in Entertainment Weekly. "It's not. There's real artistry blossoming on this, the boldest and best effort ever by an 'Idol' star."

Industry Web site has already predicted that "My December" will debut in the second spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart today, closely trailing "Hannah Montana 2 - Meet Miley" by Miley Cyrus.

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