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Music Review: Kelly Clarkson – My December

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If we are to believe everything we read, we are supposed to hate My December the third album from Kelly Clarkson, even though most of us have yet to even hear the darn thing. After all, it’s been publicly dissed by Clive Davis, head of Clarkson’s label, yielded a luke warm single, generated a plethora of tabloid headlines and subsequent firings of members of “Team Clarkson.”

This sort of public flogging is the usual response when a female artist branches out in a new direction. Christina Aguilera’s Stripped received a similar reaction when it was first released. Each time Madonna dons a new hat the press lines up to take shots at her. So Kelly must have known this was coming.  The hubbub surrounding the album has erased the big question on everybody’s mind – “Is it any good?”

It’s better than good. In fact, it’s Clarkson’s most consistent and adult release to date. Is it jam packed with upbeat, catchy ditties filled with hooks? No, but I’ll get to that in a moment. The main complaint from Clive & Co. has been that My December has no singles.

Hogwash.

Despite the abrasive first single “Never Again,” My December has tangible radio-friendly songs. “One Minute” is a rocking, Garbage-esque ode to a fellow who can’t make up his mind, and that seems like a natural hit. “How I Feel” is an infectious, upbeat, new wave-infused ditty that fondly recalls the days of Pat Benatar and Patty Smyth, without feeling stale. And any teen drama worth it’s salt would snatch up “Don’t Waste Your Time” or the heart-wrenching “Be Still” for the dramatic montage of the week.

The second single “Sober” delivers Clarkson’s first non-adult contemporary ballad and does so brilliantly. The sappy production values that weighed Breakaway down have been ditched for a sparse, raw sound. Producer David Kahne, no stranger to rocker chicks having produced songs for Stevie Nicks, Regina Spektor, and The Bangles, among others, seems well matched with Kelly’s powerful voice.

Thematically, nearly every song represents the classic “girl scorned” lyrics that any graduate from “Alanis University” can churn out. Somebody has hurt our little Idol and she’s pissed. The only problem is her writing tends to repeat the same sentiment. She’s passed on lyrics from hit makers like Max Martin in favor of going at it alone. While her ambition is risky and admirable it doesn’t always produce great songs.

For example, “Hole” and “Judas” are two extremely ticked off laments that are too similar in lyrical content, bogging down the diversity of the record. Also, some of her journal-like lyrics, although confessional, aren’t exactly the thing you’ll find yourself humming in the shower. This is a minor complaint, however.

The main achievement of My December is that listeners are finally given an honest peak into the life of the singer once crowned American Idol. The album’s final track “Irvine” is a revelation. Sang in a higher register, the song paints a beautiful and heartbreaking picture of a girl who feels isolated and alone. It’s a showstopper and proof positive that this is an artist who is evolving.

he world fell in love with Clarkson because of her what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality and her amazing voice. So it’s ironic that we would expect her to just smile, look pretty, and sing pop songs. My December is a testament to standing ones ground, staying strong in the face of adversity, and being honest, consequences be damned. Which, to me, makes for a compelling listen from a fascinating artist who’s only just begun ruffling feathers.

8 out of 10

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About Sean Paul Mahoney

  • Angela

    I couldn’t agree with you more!!! I am single and recently divorced, so I probably relate to the album a little more than your typical “happy in love carefree” types…but I still think even if I were in a different place, there is no denying that artistically this album is greatness.

  • Jak

    Loved your sentiments. I couldn’t agree with you more. Clarkson is a marvel and Clive Davis needs to retire NOW.

  • The Theory

    I enjoy the album. I don’t think it will have the over-n-over lasting power that Breakaway had, but it is certainly not a shameful follow up.

  • THE DIVA

    I AGREE TO A CERTIAN EXTENT ON THIS ALBUM I ABSOLUTELY LOVE EVERY SONG WITH OUT A QUESTION I FEEL IT WILL DO BETTER THAN BREAKAWAY NOT MANY ARTIST ARE PRODUCING SONGS WITH FEELING THESE DAYS THATS WHAT MAKES KELLY SO AWESOME SHE IS DOING THE COMPETE OPPOSITE

  • Di

    Sean, I love a man that know’s what he is talking about, when it come’s to music! “My December” is IMO Kelly’s best album to date. You don’t find to many artist’s today that put theirselves out there so personally for the world to hear. I so look forward to all the greatness that is yet to come from Kelly.

  • Elaine

    I’m absolutely love this album!!! Maybe it’s because I’m around Clarkson’s age, but virtually every track is saying something I wish I could get out!! Listening to My December is like visiting a psychiatrist, by the end all the pent-up issues you never knew were bothering you have come tumbling out . Cheapest therapy EVER!!!

  • Chris W.

    Well, after all the negative responses, I think we where suppose to think that this album would be HORRIBLE… but its NOT. It’s everything I thought it would be and MORE. Amazing lyrics and music, this album has a wide variety of style. Although… it does not sound like Clarkson delivered on her vocal this time around. Not a lot of “high notes” but beautiful lower register keys which help create the mood of the album. Yes! Most of the songs are about heartbreak and love but Clarkson’s style and creativity along with the co-song writers and producers make this album different from others and set Clarkson at the top of her genre. This album is a lot “heavier” is terms of music style from Clarkson’s first two albums; “Thankful” in 2003 and “Breakaway” in 2004. Breakaway went on to sell 11 million albums world wide. (5.8 million In the U.S. and hit 6X platinum stop in the U.S. and Canada. Breakaway set the way for Clarkson’s new age rock music without being “popish, girly pop rock music” Clarkson created a new style of pop-rock music which we all fell in love with. This gives Clarkson a trade mark sound and which sells amazingly.

    “Never Again” The first single off the album “My December” was released in April 2007 in the U.S. and May 2007 In Canada was a disappointment to most radio stations. The highest peak position so far for “Never Again” was # 5 on Australian charts. It peaked at number 8 in Canada, China and The U.S.
    Not long after the second single for the album was released in early June due to unsuccessful radio airplay and charting in some regions in U.S. unlike her 5 singles released from “Breakaway” between 2003 and 2004.

    But in an interview Kelly stated the reason why she released a second single so early is because she wanted to show the diversity of music in “My December.”

    My Review for My December

    1. Never Again 8/10
    I actually like this track very much, awesome drums, music beats, vocals and lyrics. So Catchy! Crazy storyline

    2. One Minute 4/10
    Not on of the best songs on the album but, it has a catchy chorus.

    3. Hole 10/10
    One of the better “harder rock” songs on this album, the chorus lyrics sounds a bit cheesy but this song rocks!

    4. Sober 10/10
    Intoxicating! One of the best songs on the album, her tone on this song is so relaxing and smooth. I think this song will blow up and create really good sales for the album.

    5. Don’t Waste Your Time 10/10
    One of the two fun and funky songs on this album. Kind of upbeat but the lyrics are totally opposite.

    6. Judas 6/10
    Good song, Kinds of electro – rock – pop vibe. Not my favorite but still catchy.

    7. Haunted 6/10
    Kelly’s lower register in this song shows off her awesome vulnerability in this song as well as in “Hole”

    8. Be Still 4/10
    It’s not bad… meh

    9. Maybe 10/10
    I Love This Song! Everything about It!

    10. How I Feel 10/10
    The fun and funky vibe is back! The second one on the album, upbeat and could possibly be single material. It reminds me of the same attitude “Walk Away” has.

    11. Yeah 4/10
    It’s Okay, but… the little “rap-like” part just before the end of the song is amazing. She almost whispers it and has a wicked tone in her voice

    12. Can I Have a Kiss 7/10
    Not a bad song I actually really like it. Catchy! Sounds like it could be a radio single.

    13. Irvine 4/10
    I don’t actually don’t like this song at all, but I like the tone and vulnerability in her voice. It really draws you in. This song is one of those songs that you cant stand but you’ll like later on.

    Chivas [Hidden Track] 10/10
    “Chivas” is a bonus/hidden track at the end of the last track. I think it should have been a single track moved up in the middle of the album. It’s actually really good song. It seams like a song that’s really fun to sing along with in concert. She baiscally tears up this guy the screws her over.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Congrats! This article has been forwarded to the Advance.net websites and Boston.com.

  • http://www.KellyClarksonRoks.com Dustin

    This album is RAW & TRUE & REAL & “I LOVE IT!!”

    I feel SO SORRY for people like a certain someone (including himself) who is tone death and cries to get something he wants. All I have to say is TAKE THAT *****! :)

  • chipmunkz

    i didn’t really like this album much, but it was ok… I preferred Breakaway, that’s her best album. However, there’s one particular song I totally love. That’s Irvine, the last track on her album. It moved me to tears. I think that’s her best song ever!

  • toxictwin

    Great review Sean! I agree whole heartedly.
    Clive’s lost it. He needs to go!

  • mara

    i think kelly’s new cd is great & people are going too hard on her it is full of great songs and some even to get up and dance too. my fav’s are hole, never again, sober, hole, judas, haunted, how i feel, yeah, and can i hav a kiss
    actually i like all of them i think she is great and has a great voice and people that criticize her are rude and dont hav a good taste of music

  • Jon Taft

    I LOVE this album!! and i was really upset when people were slating this album before it was even released!! They had no right whatsoever!! Very under rated and those who dont know whether to buy it or not… BUY IT!! It will be the best money youve spent in a long while!!!