All I Ever Wanted by Kelly Clarkson

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Kelly Clarkson: The Pop Star You Wanna Have a Sleepover With

Jul 28, 2009 (Updated Jul 28, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:the voice is still superb, a lot of fun, hooks for days, Whyyouwannabringmedown

Cons:sometimes feels a little disingenuous, overproduction at times, Ready, Long Shot is too Katy Perry

The Bottom Line: We've not yet scratched the surface of what Kelly Clarkson can do. Til then, this is cool.


I really don't like pop stars. I know, I write a lot about pop music and admittedly I watch my fair share of reality/celeb-centric shows but underneath it all, I have a disdain for pop stars. I don't have any issue with "artistic credibility" or the whole svengali thing; I just think that most pop stars, whether they be male or female, don't seem like the type of people you would see on a regular basis. I don't necessarily require everyone to be extremely nice, gracious, and warm to their fans, but I'm much more likely to support you if you seem like you're a good person. With the rise of social networking sites like Twitter, for example, I've had to reconsider my views on a vast majority of celebrities, whether it be a growing appreciation or an eroding support. Nonetheless, my wallet thanks the founders of Twitter, if only for the less music I've had to purchase these days.

One of the biggest popstars in America, Kelly Clarkson is someone I will always support. Since her days on Idol, she's proven to be a very genuine person and someone who hasn't let the fame go to her head, which is something that can't be said for a vast majority of this country's biggest sellers. You get the sense that Kelly Clarkson in 2009 is the same Kelly Clarkson from 2002, except for the fact that 2009 Kelly is a multi-platinum seller, a two-time Grammy winner, and an artist who has been garnering respect for her voice (as well as her willingness to stand up for herself and budding artistry). She released her fourth studio album All I Ever Wanted to a number one debut in March, with sales nearing three-quarter of a million.

I have mixed feelings about record breaking lead single My Life Would Suck Without You, the song that led radio to embrace Clarkson with open arms after a 3 year or so shunning. While all signs point to this being a re-write of Since U Been Gone, it's one of the most irresistible pieces of ear candy you'll hear this year. The exploding chorus begs to be screamed into a hairbrush, surrounded by fuzzy synths, bounding drums, and muted guitars. This is the type of song that is just three and a half minutes of fun, a celebration of pop music's goodness that eschews the genres recent turns to blandness (Leona Lewis) or crassness (Katy Perry). Second single I Do Not Hook Up is the closest Clarkson will ever come to having a "message song", I'm guessing, but it is a romp of a pop/rock let's-take-it-slow anthem. It's not as lenient on production as the last song, though the tempos are similar. It's a straightforward drums-and-guitars behemoth of a single, a solidly written shout-a-long thumper that takes something that could have been extremely preachy and makes it into a simply cool listen. The first big ballad of the set is Cry, said to be one of Clarkson's favorite songs on the record and with good reason. It's extremely regretful and full of sorrow but it never crosses into the territory of being overwrought or glum; you feel like you get a lot of insight into Clarkson the person (this is one of the six songs she co-writes), which gives the soaring vocal performance a lot more weight behind it. It sounds like a compromise in sound, as well. Like the rest of the record, it's a very slick, pop-friendly piece of music, but there are moments that suggest the Kelly Clarkson that is dying to get out there, the same Kelly Clarkson that was hinted at on My December.

Don't Let Me Stop You and All I Ever Wanted pick up the pace a bit more on this uptempo-lenient disc. The first finds Kelly Clarkson in gruff, ready-to-pounce mode, sounding a hell of a lot like Pink on this kiss-off rocker. With crashing guitars, solid drums, and a hook that screams radio play, it's a song that could be a good springboard for the next record, its aggression and smoldering angst a weapon in Clarkson's vocal arsenal. The second plays like part two of the previous song, as this finds Clarkson picking up the pieces and needing some peace of mind. It's a lot more yearning and one of the more tormented listens on the record, almost playing like an internal conversation. The bassline is very sly, appropriately moody and nice dressing for the understated verses. Current single Already Gone immediately became one of my favorites on the record, though the Ryan Tedder schtick is wearing thin by now. It's a gorgeous piece of music, a haunting ballad that will be one of the songs to stick to the ribs, so to speak. For a sound model, imagine a more pop/rock leaning Halo with a melody that's a bit more dramatic, a bit more evocative. It's a very bittersweet listen, a gentle last message told from a very interesting perspective. If I Can't Have You sounds very The-Killers-in-2004-esque, a dance-rock kaleidoscope with a shimmering melody and solid production. Sonically, it's one of the greatest listens on the record; it's got a nice texture to it, that kind of pulsating thump that makes it just dance-y enough and just rock-y enough to work well.

Save You is built around the sweeping hook, a sort of shuffling ballad that Adult Contemporary radio would eat up. It has just enough emotion to be genuine but it never veers into sappy territory, a feat for songs in that style. Whyyouwannabringmedown allows Clarkson to roam free and explore her musical interests; this hyper aggressive, swaggering punk-influenced uptempo has the vocal with the most character on the record. It's very punctuated, clocking in at less than three minutes, a sonic boom of energy and adrenaline that works wonders. You feel how comfortable she is just letting her hair down and you see how in control she is over the thundering drums and razor sharp guitars. It makes you wonder how an album full of material like this would sound from her. One of the two Katy Perry demos present on the record, Long Shot is the lesser of the two, mostly because Clarkson sounds exactly like Perry and doesn't necessarily make it her own. The melody isn't the best that it could be (a little on the generic side) but the way the verses are structured and how she inflects on the song is too similar to the demo to fully enjoy. When Clarkson is given poor material, she usually sells it with her voice and makes it listenable but alas, this is not the case. Another collaboration with Tedder, Impossible is the dark horse track of the record. It's the song you won't immediately be drawn to or that you won't necessarily remember but with each additional listen, you start to see how beautiful of a song it is. The greatest parts are when Clarkson is just riffing, especially on the slightly down hook and some of the ad libs. It's led with a sterling piano, culminating in a slightly theatrical climax that plays completely to Clarkson's strengths.

Ready is an alright track, hampered by my least favorite hook on the record. Said hook just doesn't fit her voice (she's too raspy on it) and isn't remotely catchy; couple that with underwhelming verses that pass by unnoticed and this is one of the least interesting listens on the record. It actually has one of the most intriguing concepts (I get what she was going for) but is an example of unfulfilled potential. I Want You feels extremely retro with a quirky melody and cutely stuttering chorus. It's a refreshing stylistic change for a woman who has proven that she can sing r&b, pop, country, and rock extremely convincingly. It's not something I would have immediately pegged her doing but this smiley, almost dreamy love song is a pleasant album track with a lot of style.  Ending the record is a cover of Keri Noble's If No One Will Listen, a very stark listen that has slight country elements to it. I understand the reason why Clarkson wanted this song on the record, as it fits in well with the rest of the songs on here and almost feels as if she wrote it about the record label rift she had before the release of her last album. This is Kelly Clarkson crying out using another person's voice; I don't know if I would have ended the album with it, as it's slightly drippy and overdone (it would have been spectacular had it been just Kelly and the piano), but as with every song present, she sings the heck out of it.

If I were 12 years old, Kelly Clarkson would be my god. I know that sounds a bit much but hear me out. Unlike most popstars, she's not a gimmick, she's not unattainably gorgeous (though she's a beautiful girl), and she's not a snotty brat who can't give a decent interview. Kelly Clarkson is just a normal girl blessed with a tremendous voice and a taste for music that she's not "allowed" to make, thanks to her commercial reputation. The music she does make however is some extremely solid material. I feel for her in that sense but I know that with time, we'll get to see the type of music she's wanted to make all along. Once she finds her voice, she will be one of the greats. Now that I'm almost 22 years old, I'm less likely to look at Kelly Clarkson in god-like terms; I kind of just want to grab a burger with her.

Favorites: Impossible, Whyyouwannabringmedown, If I Can't Have You

Not So Much: Ready, Long Shot


Recommend this product? Yes


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