Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” is Strongest Yet

If Kelly Clarkson‘s defiantly somber My December record in 2007 scared away scores of new fans acquired by her breakthrough record – the omnipresent, six-times-platinum selling My Breakawaythen Clarkson’s follow-up album, 2009’s platinum-selling All I Ever Wanted release, couldn’t help but feel like a rehashing of the Breakaway formula, a pandering to radio to regain her status as female pop royalty.  In all fairness, Clarkson did try to blend her sounds on that record so that the end result reflected both the pop sensibilities of her monster-radio Breakaway hits as well as maintain the rawness of her passion project My December.  While that record scored several radio successes, including the #1 hit-single “My Life Would Suck Without You” as well as Top 20 hits “I Do Not Hook Up” and “Already Gone,” it remained an inconsistent album of hits and misses, carrying a sonic identity that was neither completely fresh or original.  Even the two aforementioned singles selected for radio release were – whether intentional or not – Katy Perry and Beyonce retreads in both lyrics and sound.Kelly Clarkson - Stronger

The fortunate news for Clarkson fans is that – regardless of whether All I Ever Wanted was as successful commercially or creatively as it could have been – it served its integral purpose of restoring the American Idol alum as a relevant radio-ready artist who was becoming more comfortable in her own skin as an artist and pop star.  On her latest release, the 2011 release Stronger, the singer completes her search for musical identity, as Clarkson and her team of producers have crafted what is surely one of the strongest, indelible pop albums of the year.  Lead single “Mr. Know It All” kicks off the sonic celebration in a surprisingly rhythm and blues-leaning fashion, harkening back a bit to Clarkson’s songs on her 2003 debut record Thankful.  This mid-tempo pace is short-lived, however, as soon-to-be follow-up singles “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” and “Dark Side” are pulsating, hook-laden anthems that are remininescant of Clarkson’s biggest hits without sounding copy-cat.

In fact, this is the strongest quality about the entire Stronger record: when you think Clarkson is about to cover the same-old, tried-and-true territory of past records, she surprises you with a sound that is truly a delight, an amalgamation that is part pop punk rock (see infectious tracks “You Love Me”, “Einstein”, “I Forgive You” and “You Can’t Win”), alt-pop (see hard-hitting tandem “Hello” and “The War is Over”) and sweeping, slow-burner balladry (the gorgeous “Standing In Front of You” and country-leaning “Breaking Your Own Heart”).  This is the key difference between Stronger and the rest of the records in Clarkson’s catalogue.  While each has produced some radio-ready singles, none have been as consistently refreshing nor eclectic as Stronger proves itself to be.  Even the Deluxe Version and accompanying Smokestack Studio recordings are worth a listen, as humming pop-gems “Alone” and “Don’t Be A Girl About It”, as well as Clarkson’s elegant cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” deserve equal consumption with the standard release.  No pun intended, Clarkson has never sounded Stronger than on this record, which proves to be her paramount release to date.

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One thought on “Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” is Strongest Yet

  1. Pingback: Kelly Clarkson’s Album “Stronger” Tops Them All | Tasithoughts's Weblog

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