Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kelly Clarkson - My December

Kelly Clarkson
My December
19 Recordings 2007

I am 26 going on 13.

Any time I read about an artist who ‘pushes boundaries’ and ‘writes a dark album’ and gives the big F-U to their record label, I’m all over it. (Maybe it’s all those years that I spent as an adolescent listening to The Cure in the dark.) This is what Kelly Clarkson has done with her new album My December. I am not heartbroken or unhappy. I am not angry about how a man did me wrong and left me for someone else. In general, I’m quite a happy person. But this doesn’t stop me from absolutely adoring this album.

I’m fully aware that this instantly makes me lose my indie credibility. Maybe you have even stopped reading this, but hear me out: My December is a pop album with a rock underbelly. It’s aggressive for such a heavily marketed woman. Imagine if you took Avril Lavigne out of the mall and off her skateboard, added a few years to her, and gave her some talent.

Kelly Clarkson has one of the best voices I’ve heard in a very long time. There’s grit to it, which only emphasises her edgy pop-anthems all the more. I guess this album is this decade’s Jagged Little Pill. Just because she happened to win American Idol, and her first album was full of a terrible mish-mash of songs with absolutely no direction doesn’t really matter. That was an album written by old men who get paid entirely too much money for writing forgettable songs.

She started moving towards a much different direction with her 2004 album Breakaway. On My December, there are songs with an almost metal feel. (Of course, if metal had melody, keyboards, and a pretty, well dressed brunette singing.) The guitars are loud, the drums are heavy, and she absolutely wails. The opening track ‘Never Again’ is the formula that made her an International success with Breakaway. I’d say it’s like a follow up to ‘Since U Been Gone’. I’ll admit that a couple of the songs are hit and miss, and I could definitely do without tracks like ‘One Minute’ and ‘Yeah’... It’s a bit too Joss Stone for my liking. The thing that surprises me the most are the acoustic tracks. ‘Irvine’ is a song that, if you didn’t know any better, you would assume it was someone like Marissa Nadler or Cat Power (if she was sane). Following this is the hidden track ‘Chivas’ which carries on in the same vein and sounds like a tour bus jam.

I’m not naïve enough to say that this album is anything more than a severe case of guilty pleasure. But that’s not to say that it’s not worthy of getting a proper review, because it is. Kelly Clarkson isn’t just a puppet on a string anymore. She values her music, she values what she does as an artist, and she co-wrote every song on the album. Just because they are pop songs and she won a reality TV contest a few years back doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any weight or merit for fans of ‘Real Music’. I say good on her, for pissing off Clive Davis, and wanting to take control of the music that she’s putting out there. It might be mostly marketed towards girls in their late teens, but if you look a little deeper, you’ll uncover a lot more to the MTV-laden hit singles. These are solid songs, they have a point, and I am a fan. Sue me.

-Tiffany Fosberry

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