Kelly Clarkson: Piece by Piece

Posted March 6, 2015 by in Pop



3/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , ,
Label: ,
Genre: Pop, rock
Producer: Greg Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Jason Halbert, Eric Olson, Chris DeStefano
Label: RCA, 19
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 50:31
Release Date: 27 February 2015
Spin This: "Run Run Run," "Stronger"


Clarkson focuses on big dramatic ballads and future sounding productions; "Run Run Run" is a definite classic


Missing that big uptempo joint ; voice oddly suppressed from reaching the big soulful dynamic she's known for

Clarkson’s latest set of pop pieces show futuristic maturity, midtempo grace

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Clarkson’s latest set of pop pieces show futuristic maturity, midtempo grace

As the first crowned winner in the American Idol franchise, Kelly Clarkson proved to the masses that reality-TV could produce music superstars. She isn’t the biggest in the AI constellation, but definitely stands out as one of the most consistent. Although Clarkson has been unfortunately pegged a singles’ artist due to her albums feeling spotty and uneven, she always seems to rise to the top  with the right amount of shiny singles. Those singles, produced by an array of versatile producers, have been able to keep Clarkson steady on the radio. To her credit, she’s already cranked out a “greatest hits” compilation, becoming one of the first Idol graduates to do so.

Now on album number seven, the country girl living in a Barbie world – a Texas native – isn’t breaking away from what works from her. She reunites with a few of the producers from 2011’s Stronger, particularly the ones that casted favorable ditties into the pop stratosphere. The Bird and the Bee’s Greg Kurstin, co-writer and producer of “What Does’t Kill You (Stronger),” a No. 1 hit and a Grammy contender, amasses much of the homework, even assembling the pieces of “Heartbeat Song.” Inside this initial single for Piece By Piece, you can hear the careful blend of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” with Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” It’s a teaser song with light thrills of pop-rock fantasy. That regimen is carried into the next batch of songs, particularly the Sia-penned “Stronger.” Lyrically it sounds like a follow-up to “Stronger” (“I was hiding from the world/I was so afraid, I felt so unsure/Now I am invincible, another perfect storm”). Still this is a totally different song, featuring much of the dark thunder heard on Sia’s more poignant cuts and relies heavily on a midtempo percussion-heavy swagger. Clarkson sends forth some of her best belting, turning the rock-anchored track into a Guitar Hero power ballad.

Kurstin’s productions are usually a sweet blend of ‘80s synths, hallow echoes and futuristic breezes. Those elements make the best of “Someone” and “Let Your Tears Fall.” Complementary to that sound is the giant duet collaboration with John Legend on the Jason Halbert-produced “Run Run Run.” The Legend/Clarkson pairing, the only duet tucked into the album, rises to the mind-boggling status of P!nk/Nate Reuss’s “Give Me a Reason.” Even though light piano chords filters through the opening measures of it, Legend is transported away from his familiar lounge soul comfort zone as the song explodes with intense melodrama and, much later, big harmonies and accented strings. It’s possibly the most engaging moment of the album. The back of the album seems to be just as rewarding: Clarkson’s co-penned “Tightrope” is classy AC and features a cloudburst of passionate romance (“I can’t bring myself to leave/Cause I’ve looked and I ain’t seen nothin’ like you”). “Warpaint” uses Flashdance adrenaline and finds a clever way to address teamwork while driving attention to the ugliness of one-on-one war (“We  could be beautiful without the mistake of our war paint”).

It’s obvious on this round that Clarkson has almost abandoned entirely the synthpop that flared throughout much of her career. She’s also a song or two short of uptempos, leaving the disc to sound like Clarkson in slow motion.  Thankfully “Dance With Me” and “Nostalgic” is there, but they aren’t all that memorable. Even if the disc isn’t stacked with the number of producers and personnel of Stronger, this is a far better album. Most of the songs climb to a level of transcendence that’s often not represented in pop music. She seems to be unafraid of jumping back in the valley of rock, something that hasn’t really been heard since the disappointing My December. Thankfully this one isn’t as deep and as dark as that effort, but is a sweet blend of rock pop and progressive electronica and carefully pushes her in a trajectory that’s slightly above what dominates modern pop now.

There’s also a deluxe edition that expands the original disc to sixteen tracks, and even stretches Clarkson’s artistry a little. “Bad Reputation” has her sounding like a Mary J Blige protégé.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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