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An album that doesn't live up to its title
on February 7, 2012
Kelly Clarkson is one of the very few American Idol artists to have a long and meaningful career (Carrie Underwood being the other exception). She has managed to carve herself a place in the music business, thanks to a loyal fanbase, an in-your-face attitude and, most of all, a powerful set of pipes. Her albums, however, have often been a hit-or-miss affair; some were great ("All I ever wanted", "Breakaway") and some were not (her debut, "My December"). Unfortunately, "Stronger" falls in the latter category.
The album opens on a powerful sequence : "Mr Know It All" is a formidable midtempo rocker featuring a rougher vocal performance than what we've come to expect from Clarkson, "What doesn't kill you (stronger)" which is easily the album's most obvious hit, and "Dark side" which sports the album's strongest melody and lyrics. Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from then on, since most of the other songs are generic and almost mutually undistinguishable. It doesn't help that most songs go through the same storyline (apparently, she is prone to falling in love with jerks who can only let her down); they make Clarkson sound like a one-dimensional, predictable artist portraying herself as some kind of eternally pissed-off victim. Worst of all, Clarkson treats almost every song with the same vocal approach; although she definitely has the pipes to belt out songs, her subdued performance on "Standing in front of you" comes as a relief. Sometimes, less IS more...
Oddly enough, some the album's best songs are on the deluxe edition. "Don't you wanna stay" (a great hit single on the country charts), "The sun will rise" and "Don't be a girl about it" feature stronger melodies, powerful vocal performances and better lyrics. Perhaps she should have left out some of the album's many formulaic songs ("Honestly", "You love me", "The war is over", "Hello", "Einstein") to include those instead. Let's hope she eventually returns with a little more diversity (vocally, musically and lyrically), because this album certainly doesn't live up to its ambitious title. She is certainly capable of much more than this one.