Clarkson Redeems her ‘Idol’ Status with ‘Stronger’

By on October 25, 2011

Life would suck without Kelly Clarkson.

It’s been almost a decade since Clarkson won “American Idol” and the 29-year-old singer just released her fifth studio album, “Stronger.”

After years of battling record executives, Clarkson is releasing her most cohesive album to date. “Stronger” is an eclectic mix of rhythmic pop-rock filled with ‘80s influences. Clarkson’s voice sounds more natural than ever. Much of the auto-tune on past records, especially present on “All I Ever Wanted,” is gone.

While Clarkson lacks showy theatrics in both appearance and music, she more than makes up for it with her killer voice. In a music industry filled with performers sporting outrageous wigs, costumes and meat dresses, Clarkson hasn’t veered far from the simple sensibilities that made her a success.

Rather than work with past collaborators Max Martin and Dr. Luke (“Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You”) and Ryan Tedder (“Already Gone”) again, Clarkson teamed up with Toby Gad (Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper”) and Rodney Jerkins (the Black Eyed Peas’ “Just Can’t Get Enough”), among several other songwriters for the album.

“What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger),” “Dark Side” and “Honestly” are Clarkson’s strongest string of songs in a row since the one-two-three punch of “Since U Been Gone,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes” and “Because of You” off 2004’s “Breakaway.” It’s no coincidence that Greg Kurstin (Foster the People’s “Torches” and Sia’s “We Are Born”) produced all three songs.

The album’s ‘80s influence is all but evident on a few songs, including “You Love Me” and “Standing In Front of You,” as well as “Alone,” one of the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of the album.

The intro to “You Love Me” is vaguely reminiscent of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and a mash-up between the songs is almost inevitable.

The ethereal tranquility of “Standing In Front of You” is a refreshing ballad that sounds similar to an old Annie Lennox track. The optimistic lyrics offer a ray of light amid the darker songs on the record (“And they won’t break us / And they can’t get through / ‘Cause I’m gonna be here / Standing in front of you”).

Despite its catchy melody and sassy vocals, Clarkson’s “Einstein” is one of the more inept songs in her five-album catalogue (“Yeah I may not be Einstein, but I know dumb plus dumb equals you”). Also, the Darkchild produced “I Forgive You” is a fun pop track, but this one sounds like a retread of past songs.

“Stronger” closes beautifully with the gorgeously crafted tune, “Breaking Your Own Heart.” The song is the most traditional ballad on the album and written with a tinge of country influence.

iTunes offers a track special to their store, “Why Don’t You Try.” Clarkson covers Eric Hutchinson in one of the bluesiest songs she’s ever recorded. It’s a shame most won’t hear one of Clarkson’s finest vocal performances on record.

It’s no wonder America voted Clarkson its first idol after one listen.

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About Matt Busekroos

Matt Busekroos
Email: publisher@quchronicle.com
Twitter: @mattybooz
Year: 2012
Major: Print journalism
Hometown: Shrewsbury, Mass.
Dream Job: Writer for an entertainment trade magazine