Monday, February 23, 2009

Album Review: Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted (4.5/5)

Since the mid 2000s, Kelly Clarkson has became one of the main staples in today's contemporary pop music, her second album, Breakaway, became stellar hit for the singer (selling up 13 million copies worldwide) spawning the back-to-back-to-back hits, the Max Martin produced "Since U Been Gone," "Behind the Hazel Eyes" and the tearjerker "Because of You." This was possibly why Clarkson's last album, My December, wasn't so well received --the album did tank in sales-- but was also accused of lacking any pop moments, while this wasn't necessarily true, the album did acquire a more angry and dark theme. This resulted in an feud between Clarkson and her record label, who were reportedly against the release of the body of work she had produce. I was a tad skeptical about that album at first, but I really liked it, it was a great album. The progressive ballad "Sober" and the revengeful single "Never Again" were awesome.

After the bleak reception of, My December, Clarkson has definitely learned her lesson: never go against your record label, especially when it's fueled by music mogul Clive Davis. Like a Frisbee returning to its thrower, on the new album Clarkson returns to contemporary pop, a more happy and lighhearted venture, although there a couple tracks that could ruin that take on the album. Bringing back in the help from Max Martin, also acquiring the producing and writing skills of new American Idiol judge, ironically, Kara DioGuardi and Ryan Tedder also lends his talents.

DioGuardi is the only producer from the last album to work on this one--she lends her producing skills on "I Do Not Hook Up" (which I hear was originally for Katy Perry) although it sounds like something Perry would sing, Clarkson fits the bill perfectly--backed with a jaunty electronic guitar and a cheerleader like chant on the chorus, this is a fantastic pop rock song. As it should be, All I Ever Wanted, is very pop/rock built (sorry for stating the obvious) leaving the darkening territories of, My December, behind.

Just among the best pop/rock numbers on the album is the lead single "My Life Would Suck Without You" produced by pop hitmaker Max Martin--who is arguably the best producer when it comes to pop music--almost everything the man touches turn to chart gold. Last year Martin produced P!nk's "So What" which became the singer's first US #1, so it shouldn't really come as a surprise that "Suck" has become Clarkson's most (chart-concerned) successful song ever. The song broke the record for biggest jump to #1 in the US and it made Clarkson the first American Idol winner to top the UK singles chart. Kicking off the album with bang, this breezy radio-friendly number, I'd say, has done pretty well in solidifying Clarkson as a powerful force in today's pop music.

Claude Kelly lends her writing talents on the rock-fronted "Don't Let Me Stop You." Kelly's also written for the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Britney Spears and Brandy. Solid verses and a fantastic chorus, this a terrific song. Clarkson's vocal is immaculate on here. It's as rock as most of the stuff on, My December, it does show some pop presensece but it is pretty rock styled. Another track which brings Clarkson's vocals to the forefront is the albums first ballad "Cry." It's your typical strings, drums and electornic guitar backed ballad but it's still pretty compelling especially on the chorus. The extended note on: ("It's this what it feels like to really cry") is heart churning. It's a pretty heartfelt piece. One of the best tracks on the album.

Ryan Tedder who produced Beyonce's "Halo" for her, I Am... Sasha Fierce, album, pops on "Already Gone" so it's no wonder they sound alike. If your familiar with "Halo" then "Already Gone" is no different, employing that same haunting element backed with distinctive drums and occasional piano to round out the song. Despite the similarity this is in fact a very good song--Tedder is responsible for being the brains behind this decades biggest pop songs. In 2007 he delivered to pop rock group, OneRepublic "Apologize" which became a worldwide hit and also in the same year he styled Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" which also became a worldwide smash. Maybe "Already Gone" could follow in their footsteps, really their shouldn't be any shades of doubt that this too could be a hit single. Tedder also shows up on the electronic styled (almost Muse reminiscent) "If I Can't Have You" which pounds with a catchy, slightly dark kinetic bassline--and do I spot signs of vocal tweaking. This isn't a favorite but I do like it, the chorus is a bit disappointing--there's no notable melody but it's not earth shatteringly lackluster, it sounds like it could've been included on My December.

Another great Tedder contribution is the 2 sided "Save You" which starts out a mellow composition between strings and vocal, which gradually ascends into strings, vocal and drums. Eventually aquiring a solid rock pop configuration. The middle of the song is a piano backed interlude, which is a nice surprise, then playing back into the rock pop composition--playing out with Clarkson's blended repetition of: ("It's gonna be alright... save you"). "Impossible" is a dark, piano, bass and synth backed number, it has a really nice chorus. The title track is among the albums remarkable moments, acquiring a nice rock venture--backed by electronic guitars which contribute to the fantastic thundering chorus. Which finds Clarkson's vocals using all it's power. The rock fronted "Long Shot" which finds writing credibility from Katy Perry is a great track--maybe not as good as "I Do Not Hook Up"--but I like it a lot.

I've come to accept that within every pop album by today's best pop artist contains at least a couple tracks that don't quite hit the mark. All I Ever Wanted, is unfortunately no exeption--although luckily there's only 2 so it could've been worse. The Metallica rock styled "Whyyouwannabringmedown" I initially thought was god awful, but then I decided it wasn't as terrible as I thought it was, but it is pretty lackluster--Clarkson's punk/rock venture is a bit of a failure. Clarkson recreated a '60's beach scene on "I Want You" which--again--doesn't quite hit the mark. It sounds like a revamp of Britney Spears's "Mmm Papi" from her latest, Circus, album. I think it could've been better.

The last couple tracks towards the end of the album aren't anything notable but good songs nontheless. "Ready" is a nice jaunty number, backed by mostly drums and strings--possibly the most lighthearted we've seen Clarkson in a long time. The closing number "If No One Will Listen" is an great empowering ballad which shows of Clarkson fantastic vocal range, as it should. Overall, All I Ever Wanted, is a fantastic pop album. Is it as good, Breakaway? probabaly not--that is a classic album, among the best pop albums ever created and, All I Ever Wanted, doesn't hit that mark, but it is a terrific album nontheless. Whilst, My December, wasn't a bad album--I liked it very much--I think this is an improvement.

Best: I Do Not Hook Up, My Life Would Suck Without You, Already Gone, Save You, Cry, Impossible, Don't Let Me Stop You, All I Ever Wanted


ww_adh said...

I'm jealous! I can't wait to listen to this. I'm glad you like it. I think Breakaway is fantastic.

J.Mensah said...

LOL - If I weren't already planning on buying it, I would feel sooo guilty for downloading it. and Breakaway is AMAZING! like seriously, like I would if I was stuck on an island and i was only allowed 1 album, kinda AMAZING!

Ken said...

I'm a little bit disappointed with this album. I just don't know why. I mean there are like 4 songs in the album that I actually can't stop listening to. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to sit down and write a review for this. Kinda lazy right now. LOL. Nice review!

J.Mensah said...

LOOL! thanks... and disappointed? really?... do you like "Cry", that's one i've got on repeat.