Forgive me: It’s taken a while to roll this one out, and for absolutely no particular reason at all (aside from my ambiguous stance on the entire album).
Seeing as the release date is in just two days, I took to locking myself in a small room to immerse myself within the sights and sounds of Kelly Clarkson once more. Though nearly impoverished and slightly broken on the inside, the review is finally complete. And still somewhat ambiguous. Oh, well!
Read on, Muusers!
You’ve got to hand it to Clive Davis–the man knows how to stick it to his detractors. After caving in from a rather public disagreement and allowing Kelly Clarkson to release her moderately successful self-scribed ‘expression’ piece My December, he finds himself back in the producer’s chair–and you can bet he’s chuckling himself to tears. Just look at the album cover he’s chosen: A tight-lipped, teeth-clenched Clarkson–retouched to near Mariah proportions and photographed against a schlocky, candy-coated backdrop of color–paired with a blinged-out glittery font featuring what will surely go down as one of the most loaded album titles in some time: All I Ever Wanted.
Now that’s one hell of a way to say “I told you so.”
After once openly scoffing at the notion of covering unused Lindsay Lohan session tracks for her last album, Clarkson now finds herself waist deep in Katy Perry rejects with All I Ever Wanted. Examples include the moderately appealing upcoming second single, “I Do Not Hook Up,” a hook-heavy ode to anti-promiscuity that–when released–may very well fashion Clarkson as the next Pat Benatar for the Promise Ring generation.
If not a Perry castaway, most of the album’s tracks still ooze with a Top 40 familiarity–which is neither a compliment, nor a particularly stinging criticism, given the genre in question. The up-tempo electro-rocker “If I Can’t Have You” wedges nicely between Rihanna‘s “Disturbia” and the crunchier elements of Miley Cyrus‘ “Fly On The Wall,” while “Already Gone” proves unsurprisingly identical to Beyonce‘s “Halo” (both tracks overseen by the same producer, Ryan Tedder). But the most obvious of all is the album’s flagrant shift in the direction of P!nk-friendly pop-rock–Give one listen to the chorus of “Don’t Let Me Stop You” with both eyes closed and tell me that couldn’t be a single straight off of Funhouse.
Similarly, many of the other album’s squeaky clean confections, including “Long Shot” and the unfortunately titled “Whyyawannabringmedown,” deliver a hearty punch of driving guitar and raging drums rivaling the raucousness of 2007’s rebellion piece, My December–only this time relying upon a heavy dose of overly-produced instrumentation.
As a result, Clarkson teeters dangerously close to the limit of her vocal capabilities from time to time (“All I Ever Wanted”), featuring no less than three toe-curling instances of power notes that threaten to snap her vocal cords like a piano wire under high tension. Fear not, as they’re still intact–though a light touch of rasp now graces the singer’s lower register after years of abuse.
Power ballads including “Cry” and “Impossible” provide the album’s highest points artistically, featuring sluggish drum pacing and concert-ready power vocals sure to be met with the glow of a thousand swinging cell phones lifted on high during the next tour. “Ready” is another success; transforming the already catchy acoustic rendition that leaked last year into an encouraging electro-flourish of swaying guitar and uplifting vocals.
Make no mistake–despite enough “guilty pleasure” cheese lyrics and clever production techniques to qualify for the Disney Radio queue, Clarkson’s latest is in many ways an aural smash, delivering a solid collection of slap-happy pop bangers and arena-lite ballads guaranteed to provide the soundtrack to many a lip-synch sessions on long road trips and rainy days.
Sure, it’s far from all I ever wanted to see coming from the Clarkson. After all, if I had my way, she’d be strapping on a guitar at this very minute, growing out her hair to grungy proportions, roughing up the drunks at the local dive bar, and trailblazing the revival of Lillith Fair.
But until then, I suppose I’ll keep dreaming.