Kelly Clarkson's third major label release My December
is her best offering so far. Produced by David Kahne (The
Strokes, The Bangles) and featuring collaborations with
bassist/producer Mike Watt (The Stooges, Sonic Youth,
Gov't Mule), the album dilutes the bubble gum sugar pop/hip
hop derivative a la Britney Spears from Clarkson's debut album
Thankful and shows more of Clarkson's hard rock-tinged pop,
which was beginning to bud on her sophomore release Breakaway
from 2004, with a few shallots of alternative country, folk pop, and
orchestral tones tossed into My December. With contemporary
female artists like Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne resorting
to gimmicky pop to appease label executives and audiences, it's amazing
that Clarkson held on so tenaciously to what she wanted rather than
falling into the pitfall that has sunken many fine artists before
Pop/rock has become so diluted in the last 15 years that Clarkson's
album actually feels brand new and refreshing, but for those music
fans from the '80s who remember Quarterflash, The Motels,
Vixen, Scandal, and Pat Benatar, this album is
ripe for their liking. And for those younger fans who like Mandy
Moore but wished she had more substance in her music and Mindy
Smith but want more gusto in the vocal melodies, this album will
thrill them. Clarkson has made the album that she was born to make.
She is like the female counterpart of Chris Daughtry and Nickelback,
and as long as she stays in touch with the music that best expresses
her sentiments, she'll outlast her contemporaries and avoid the proverbial
Clarkson wrote many of the lyrics for the album including the song
"Sober" which displays the mood and lyrical themes of
the album in a nutshell, "And I don't know/ This could break
my heart or save me/ Until you let go completely/ So here I go with
all my fears weighing on me/ Three months and I'm still sober/ Picked
all my weeds but kept the flowers/ But I know it's never really
over." The lyrics talk out emotions that got all tangled up
in relationships and take on a therapeutic release, but not everything
on the album is about undergoing an emotional upheaval and house
cleaning. There are a few songs like "Can I Have A Kiss"
and "Yeah" which reflect on the positive side about being
in a relationship.
There are a few dance rock tracks like "One Minute," "How
I Feel," and "Judas" which have strong synth textured
guitars imprinting dynamics along the chord progressions and a light
buoyant beat supporting the palaver. The pop/rock rustling of the
guitar sweeps and the misty vocal choruses on "Haunted"
have a melodic combination like Evanescence, and the orchestral
tones and feathered string arrangements for songs like "Sober"
and "Be Still" form archways along the alternative country
pop acoustics. The cool guitar riff opening "Hole" has a
Three Doors Down froth in the decibels and the first single
from the album "Never Again" has the pop/rock propulsion
Clarkson's vocals have a similar in pitch to singers like Mandy Moore
and Jennifer Paige and has the versatility of Martina McBride
and Fall Out Boy's lead singer Patrick Stump. The rambunctious
horns on "Yeah" stoke the R&B embers in her vocals while
the folk pop acoustics on "Irvine" bring out the Patty
Griffin and Mindy Smith country roots textures in her chords.
Clarkson is from Burleson, Texas so some country in her pop/rock nuggets
makes for good fixings like mesquite spicing on potato chips.
Kelly Clarkson's pop/rock scores on her latest release is what audiences
have been waiting for from the multi-Grammy Award winner. It is ironic
that MTV News reported that when Clive Davis, the head of RCA
Records "played her first single at the (record label's) meetings
in Las Vegas, the posts claimed he asked the crowd, 'Does this sound
like a #1 single to you?'" As a music consumer, my answer to
that question is a resounding "Hell Yeah!!" His remark makes
one realization that the music industry isn't losing money because
of the public's access to free music downloads, but because of problems
with their own judgments about what people like. For Clarkson, the
third album is the charm.
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