When it comes to pop music, if Britney Spears is the voice of unrefined sexuality and Taylor Swift is the voice of the demure girl next door, then Kelly Clarkson is the voice of fiery empowerment. Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, Stronger, holds true to its title, pumping out song after bass-thumping song, making it the ideal breakup playlist for girls who refuse to feel bad about themselves.
From the album’s first single, “Mr. Know It All,” to the catchy, “Don’t Be A Girl About It,” the songs deliver rock-infused pop beats perfectly crafted for car ride sing-alongs and impromptu dorm room dance-offs.
On “What Doesn’t Kill You,” Clarkson masters the post-breakup anthem, fit to empower not only with lyrics like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger/Stand a little taller/Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.” In the chorus, however, walloping dance beats compete with powerhouse vocals and mask Clarkson’s singing, which is well-designed for belting out words double-dipped in vengeance and angst. Some songs, based on formulaic crescendo-led choruses, prove that Clarkson sticks to what works for her. On “Alone,” her expected crescendos keep lyrics like, “You’re gonna miss me/So get ready/I’m about to tell you why,” tense and tight, just before the apex of volume and excitement. In the world according to Clarkson, it appears that a post-breakup comeback song isn’t complete without a crescendo.
The album shows Clarkson’s vocal versatility with the country-influenced ballad, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” where country artist Jason Aldean takes the lead, but Clarkson, no stranger to country music, keeps her signature vocal prowess, taking back the spotlight for the chorus and bridge. Though the track’s country twang is easy on the ears, it’s out of place, considering the overall pop vibe from the rest of the album.
However, Clarkson’s song, “The Sun Will Rise,” is a seamless blend of country and pop, as it promises that life post-breakup gets better with each day. The almost-bare verses feature simple but strong vocals that contrast the bouncy dance beats of the rest of the album. Clarkson showcases a vocal versatility that sets her apart from her female pop music peers, proving her to be more than a performer but a true musician.
“Hello,” is a sassy bubblegum pop track that practically begs for a performance with a microphone stand, multiple hair flips and bursts of confetti. With a punchy melody reminiscent of Clarkson’s 2004 hit “Since U Been Gone,” “Hello” proves that in the pop world, you don’t have to have good lyrics to get someone to sing along.
Lyrics also fall short on “Einstein,” where the 29-year-old pop star, sings “I may not be Einstein but I know/Dumb plus dumb equals you,” to a cheating ex-boyfriend. Though it would make a strut-worthy runway track, the song would be better suited for the album of a saccharine Disney tween queen instead.
Stronger solidifies Clarkson as the pop music authority when it comes to getting over love and getting even. Attention, heartbroken girls, it’s time to put down the ice cream.
Printed on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 as: Clarkson's latest teems with fiery empowerment