Review - Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
Everybody’s favorite American Idol is back for her fifth serving of pure pop pleasure, ‘Stronger’. In writing this review, I am rather torn. In my head, I keep going back and forth thinking “is this good or isn’t it?”.
As an overall, the album is very listenable. There is a comfort in the tunes that Ms. Clarkson puts out every few years that are extremely poppy, yet still pack a bit of a tough rocker chick punch. No one does that scene better than Kelly, let’s all agree on that. Well, this new album is full of them yet again, which says great things for her continuity, but bad things for ingenuity.
‘Stronger’ is a lot like her last effort, ‘All I Ever Wanted’ but without all the diversity in tracks. Where we got the best of Kelly’s pop moments (“My Life Would Suck Without You”), her more rock thoughts (“I Do Not Hook Up”), and a few other ideas thrown into the mix (“All I Ever Wanted” ‘s funky bass line verse really got to me, and it was one of my favorite tracks on the CD), ‘Stronger’ is pretty much just full of “My Life Would…” type songs, only without all the hooks. Definitely not a bad thing, but it just depends on what you are looking for.
Kelly plays it safe on this album, using tried-and-true songwriting methods (Clarkson co-writes 7 of the deluxe edition’s 17 tracks – respectable for someone in her position [isn’t that right, Britney Spears?]), which isn’t necessarily a bad choice for her.
Not only does she play it safe with songwriting structure (even harkening back to the dark ages of pop songwriting – the late 1990’s and early 2000’s on tracks like “Einstein [“dumb + dumb = u”]) - but with her feelings. I don’t know who keeps hurting Kelly Clarkson, but you people need to stop it. We have, over the years been treated to “Since U Been Gone”, “Because Of You”, “Walk Away”, everything on that middle album we don’t like to talk about, and “Already Gone”, amongst a host of album tracks. This new album is a collection of songs about being hurt, not needing that aforementioned person who just hurt you, and being better without that same exact person. Sadly, while these songs can be seen as empowering, almost none of them have the same radio-friendly feelings that those listed singles did.
Thankfully though, there are a few spots on ‘Stronger’ that shine through the rest. The title track is probably the best cut available. The chorus smacks you in the face with the old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, which is perfect for Clarkson.
‘Stronger’ sounds like it could have started out as a guitar-fronted pop album (akin to ‘Breakaway’ – “Since U Been Gone”, etc.), but the production took over and smoothed everything and gave it a dancier, powerpop feel. Again, not a bad thing, it just depends on what you are looking for.
Let’s put it this way: ‘Stronger’ is not Clarkson’s strongest album, but worse things have been added to the lexicon of pop records.
Listen to: “Stronger”, “Standing In Front Of You”, “Don’t Be A Girl About It”, and “The Sun Will Rise” (the last two are only available on the deluxe edition, however).