BY ALYSSA FISHER
As she matures, making music seems to be getting easier for Kelly Clarkson. Her newest album, Stronger, lives up to it’s title, trumping not only the current pop-diva competition, but also all of her previous albums.
Lyrically, the songs deal heavily with relationships and empowerment, two subjects that have been highlighted in her work throughout the years. Stronger is for fans that like angry Kelly. Clarkson gets a lot of benefit from her blameless rage. The sassy post-breakup ripostes begin with “Mr. Know It All” and continue throughout the album, especially with the likely second single “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger),” a dance track in which Clarkson declares she will rise above, better than ever.
Stronger truly gets stronger as it goes on. “Dark Side” cleverly reinforces the idea that Miss American Idol has one, with a spooky music-box melody that cuts in every time the big beat and gothic, melodramatic lyrics cut out. By contrast, “I Forgive You,” “You Love Me,” and “Let Me Down” are pure pop fun and made for dancing.
Along with her booming vocals, Clarkson gets co-writing credit on six of the album’s songs. Her creative and playful lyrics are obvious in the rocker “Einstein,” which sounds like it could have been written for Pink. Against guitar squalls and live drums, she does the romantic math (“Our love was divided by the square root of pride…It was heavy when I finally figured it out”) and concludes that “dumb plus dumb equals you,” a formula that many women can relate to.
Two albums ago, on the underrated My December, Clarkson seemed to be channeling the dark complexity of Evanescence lead singer Amy Lee. She brings that intensity back with brilliant vengeance on the emotional “Honestly.”
The best is saved for end. “You Can’t Win” followed by “Alone” and “Don’t Be A Girl About It” are Stronger’s highlights. They are all guitar-driven with sharp verses that make light of stressful and tiring relationships.
Songs like those are what were missing from Clarkson’s last album, All I Ever Wanted. Stronger proves she has moved on and is ready to make music her way, mixing pop and feisty lyrics with the brooding dark side that’s always longing to come out. Ending the deluxe 17-song album with the beautiful “The Sun Will Rise,” it is clear she has grown up and will not let anyone or anything knock her down again.
Stronger marries pure ear-candy to Clarkson’s effortlessly fluid soul-rock vocals. By embedding vividly conjured emotions in up-tempo tunes, it became a personal diary, showcasing the true idol she is.