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Kelly Clarkson: Breakaway

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Dear Reader,

It is my job duty privilege to inform and educate you in this letter about about certain misconceptions. It seems to be the opinion of most music listeners that you can’t listen to pop music because there is something unethical about it. Maybe because some pop singers don’t write their own songs or perhaps because they don’t play guitar. Or maybe because they put on make-up for publicity shots. Perhaps you hate how much money and fame they have for simply having a pretty face and charismatic personality.

So it is an odd twist of irony that the biggest critics of pop, who say that the music is bad, completely focus on the outer details, like image and money, and the behind the scene details, like who actually wrote the song and performed the instruments. They completely miss the fact that there is actually a song there composed by someone and sung by someone and produced by someone and made into a final product.

A bloody fine song should be a bloody fine song, regardless of whether a singer is singing a song she didn’t write. And a terrible song is a terrible song, whether performed by Brittney Spears or your favorite band. Music is just an expression of notes by different mediums.

The first winner of American Idol was Kelly Clarkson and her new CD is Breakaway. The question, then, to ask is not how much money Clarkson is making from the CD or how cute her face is on the cover. Nor is the question how many songs she wrote. The question to ask is how the landscape of notes presented on the album holds up.

The answer reveals itself after a few listens. There are, as with many albums a handful of really strong songs, a few bad songs, then a good percentage of average songs. Most of the songs don’t grate as much as most pop today, and this is due to the strength of Clarkson’s voice. The best songs unleash that voice and allow it to power choruses and soar to spine-tingling heights. The bad songs have her lay back to try and croon through the track.

The best track, “Since U Been Gone,” was not written by Clarkson. She didn’t perform any instruments. All she did was learn the song, get in the recording studio and sing it. It’s her best vocal performance on the CD and the backing song does just that… backs her up. There’s a vibrant life to the song that goes beyond the trite issues that scars pop music. And that’s what makes the song good.

While none of the other songs quite reach that height, there are four or five other tracks that are pretty good. And the greatness of “Since U Been Gone” reaches out to the whole CD and makes the whole thing listenable. The same way a football team has individual players of varying degrees of skill, one player can come onto the team and be the difference maker that makes every other player around him stronger.

I will understand if you disagree. I will understand if you can’t stand the CD. I will even let you make fun of me. But I’ll always defend my right to enjoy something that isn’t made the way you think music should be.

Love,
The Theory

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About The Theory

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    Before I begin excoriating you I will concede… you make valid points. Good music is good music whether or not the perpetrator of said music has ‘credibility’ or ‘stature’ or whatever. It is wrong to dismiss someone out of hand… a song or artist should be listened to and judged on merits. Which brings us to Kelly Clarkson…

    Wow… shocking.

    She absolutely has no sense of subtlety in her vocal delivery. She oversings nearly everthing and nearly every song follows the same tried and true formula: overwrought verse, soaring chorus. In other words, she and Jessica Simpson mine the same terrain. One can argue which of these two is better. I don’t like either of them, so there’s that.

    At any rate… I do admire you for breaking with the elitist reviewers and defending something when so many others are trashing it. I disagree with you, but respect your defense.

  • http://plainavy.blogger.com Plainavy

    I respect the defense too; in fact, the defense could have been made better–pointing out the sheer strength of Clarkson’s vocals. I agree that Clarkson can yell her notes or runs, but to compare her to Jessica Simpson doesn’t seem right.

    Simpson would not win American Idol. Note either of the Simpsons when they perform “live”–they are a mess to watch. Ashlee of course had her SNL debacle, but anyone who has had the displeasure of watching Jessica “sing” live (on TV even) has my sympathy. She wretches the song, if that’s possible–think of the possibilities in that verb.

    Anyway, I like DJRadiohead’s articulation (“disagree, but respect the defense”). It’s a defense I’ve made for other traditional pop singers who’ve got pipes and great artistry in delivering a song–you can’t hold the genre against the singer (as some folks at ratethemusic.com too often do). You judge pop by the standards of good pop (not hip-hop or punk, etc.). Did Sinatra or Elvis write all their stuff? What about established singer/”songwriters” who take co-writing credits just because they changed a word or two or added a little riff? Of course the actual songwriter is more than happy to comply and share credit because he or she wants a song out there, published.

    In short, there are reasons to be disgruntled with the elitist take on pop and to find in that take a gargantuan dyspepsia known primarily as snobbism but indistinquishable from rank arrogance and stupidity.

    Plainavy

  • http://www.templestark.com/blog Temple Stark

    TT,

    Way to make some points intertwined with a review.

    Perfect. Kelly has a great voice and she’s a pleasure to listen, too. And she’s not a snobby rich-bitch (of which I include the male gender).

    I have posted your review to Advance.net, which collectively is read by hundreds of thousands per week. The link there is just to the Cleveland site.

    Thanks. Temple Stark

  • Nicole

    I love this this album it is so good and Kelly Clarkson is so cool. I ‘m her fan.

  • SFC SKI

    You make some valid points, but neglect one of the biggest charges levelled against pop music, especially today; Pop has far too many formulaic tunes based on unremarkable music backing a faceless singer undistinguishable from so many other pop singers. Not to say pop music was any deeper or better over the last 35 years, but you can often distinguish the bands or singers in the Top 10 Pop Charts of any given year from 1970 to 1990. It has been downhill snce then, in my opinion.

  • Vlad

    She’s the greatest artis. This pop rock blend is so great. I LOVE her!

  • Leo

    What criticsd have been trashing Ms. Clarkson? I have not seen but one bad review. She wrote on half the album, and most definetly does not over-sing the songs on this Cd. Maybe it is becuase we live in a world where most singers don’t even sing live, let alone posses amazing vocal ability, that you would come to that so horrible wrong conclusion.
    Breakaway reminds me of Jagged little pill, but Kelly’s vocal ability makes it even more phenominal. Kellys talented as a writer, preformer and singer truly shines through in this album.

  • Dominique

    all i can say is,

    KELLY CLARKSON ROCKS!!!!!

  • CBH

    DJRadiohead, since you don’t like Kelly Clarkson so much… she has never lip sang in her life, she has had 2 SOLD OUT tours, been in the Superbowl pregame show sang the NA twice for the nba playoffs, performed at the Orange Bowl, has been to Asia twice to perform, and Europe. Has radio records out the ass right now, has made appearances after appearances and this is all just this year. Imagine what she has to come in the future if you don’t like her at least respect her and what she has done this year for the music business. Not to mention the her album is absolutely amazing and can reach to anyone (except your hard headed ass)she is truly talented does not ask for much but the chance to perform in front of thousands of fans everynight. You never see her getting in to any trouble she’s not on the front cover of EVERY magazine and none the less she sings her heart out every night and deserves a little more respect than she is getting.

  • Becky

    Kelly is awesome and she was a star before she was a star!

  • Laney

    I just want to defend Kelly Clarkson’s vocal prowess. Although I completely accept other peoples’ point of views, I must harshly object to DJ Radiohead placing Kelly in the same category as Jessica Simpson! Not only does Jessica sing through her nose on most of her records (the most recent being Take My Breath Away) she also murdered ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams at some awards show I’d rather forget. Yes, Kelly does have a tendency to roar, but how the hell else do you expect her to belt out the notes she hits? As for her songwriting abilities, can I just point out that the best songs on the album Breakaway are the ones she had a hand in writing. Because Of You is possibly the most amazing and powerful song I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s even better sung live. Download the live vh1 recording on kckellyville.com, it’s friggin’ fantastic! And no, it’s not a shouty number, it’s just excellent.

  • Bethany

    Kelly Clarkson is so cool

  • chris

    i never once believed she wrote “since u been gone”. it’s a great song anyway. reminds me a great deal of something any one of the big three ’80’s songwriters(Desmond Child, Bob Halligan, Diane Warren) would’ve penned. that’s part of why i like it. doesn’t hurt that Kelly’s hot AND talented, too.

  • http://whatithinkaboutthesongs catherine

    all the songs by kelly are great i new she was going to win amarican idol because she was great over the top. i love the songs in both cds like “miss independent, breakaway, a moment like this, since u been gone, because of you” and all of the the other songs are so fun to litsen toall of my friends agree kelly is such a good singer so don’t stop singing kelly

  • http://hey kaylea

    OMG KELLY CLARKSON IS MY IDOl! SHE IS LIKE TH EBEST SINGER I’VE EVER HEARD AND OMG SHE IS SO PRETTY I LOVE HERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! YOU ARE AWESOMEEE!!!!YOU HAVE SUCH A GOOD ATTUDIE AND LIKE ARE AKLWAYS HAVING FUN! YOU ROCK!!!

  • Stephanie and emily

    you rock

  • CaThY-

    kElLy,,, YoU rOcK…
    “sInCe U bEeN gOnE”

    **ShE iS mY iDoL**

  • amber carver

    hey girl [Personal contact info deleted] love your songs amber

  • nick

    KELLY IS THE SEXIEST PERSON I HAVE EVER HEARD OF THE BEST SONG IS SOBER

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Kelly Clarkson is sexy? Whatever floats your boat, I suppose. . .

  • http://11-30-075;51pm sydney

    dear kelly

    you rock. i love breakaway is that you best song you have done because i thint it is.you are so prety.

    sydney