She’s Miss Independent. The girl who broke away from her hometown by learning how to fly. A strong woman who can’t be held down by breakups. The co-star of “From Justin to Kelly,” a pathetic yet heartwarming attempt to make pop stars into actors. Oh, and she’s the first “American Idol” winner, a small-town girl whose powerful voice started a nine-year entertainment tradition.
In other words, Kelly Clarkson is unstoppable.
Even with this long list of achievements, with songs like “Because of You” and “Since U Been Gone” winning Grammy nominations and national attention, she isn’t going to let her career — or her passionate music about the opposite sex — grow stale. The music superhero just released her fifth album, Stronger, a production packed with as many post-breakup ballads and songs about girl power as ever before. It’s an album that burns with self-revival and strength, proving no one can hold the pop princess down — especially not a man.
Though the twinkling piano keys and guitar strums of “Mr. Know It All” begin Stronger on a modest note, it doesn’t take Clarkson long to unleash the fiery feelings that ripple through the rest of the album. Her deep, husky voice breaks up the song’s softness within seconds, bringing it into edgier territory as she hurls defensive phrases like “you don’t know a thing about me” and “you only got yourself to blame” above the delicate instruments.
The female pride and bitterness erupt even more as the album continues. Tracks like “You Love Me” build Clarkson up into a fierce and independent woman by tearing down the guys that once stood in her way. The song isn’t revolutionary in sound or style, as its keyboard and guitar parts dully murmur in the background, but her confidence still makes the track sizzle. Clarkson’s bluntness is irresistible as she insults the men who have done her wrong, letting the heartless bastards know that while they ended things with her, they weren’t good enough for her anyway.
While it’s easy to nod along with Stronger’s quick tempo and raspy, soulful vocals, some of the lyrics make the album harder to swallow. Many of the tracks seethe with cringe-worthy lines, ranging from the description of a glittery “fire that burns like love” to the more redundant “Mr. Bring Me Down, you like to bring me down.” One song even compares a bad relationship to math equations, using the phrases “square root of pride” and “dumb plus dumb equals you” in the same embarrassing extended metaphor. Clarkson’s intention for moving and emotionally charged music is evident — it’s just difficult to take all of that seriously.
Still, it’s hard to get too down on Kelly Clarkson. Even with the questionable lyrics, her music shines with the same captivating vocals that won America’s heart nearly a decade ago. True, Stronger is melodramatic at times and some of the music isn’t that interesting, but she’s our American Idol and we’re now in this together. We have no choice but to pat her on the back and listen to her post-breakup feelings and self-discoveries, no matter how poorly written they may be.