Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born on April 24, 1982 in Fort Worth, Texas. She won the inaugural season of ‘American Idol’ in 2002. Her first four albums were: THANKFUL (2003), BREAKAWAY (2004), MY DECEMBER (2007), and ALL I EVER WANTED (2009). Here, I will be reviewing her fifth studio album, STRONGER (2011, RCA-19). It peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and won a Grammy for ‘Best Pop Vocal Album’. In the liner notes Kelly quotes Leo Tolstoy: “If a man lives, then he must live for something”. She adds: “I live for love and music”.
‘Mr. Know It All’ was the album’s first song and lead single. It was written by Brian Seals, Ester Dean, Brett James, and Dante Jones. It hit #1 on the US Billboard Adult Top 40. This light pop song puts a guy in his place: “You ain’t got the right to tell me when and where to go/No right to tell me, acting like you own me lately/Yeah, baby/You don’t know a thing about/You don’t know a thing about me/Mr. Play your games/Only got yourself to blame/When you want me back again/But I ain’t falling back again/Cause I’m living my truth without your lies”. ‘What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)’ was the album’s second single. It garnered three Grammy nominations. It was a #1 hit on several charts including the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 and the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. It also hit #1 in Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Denmark. These lyrics from it are ones of inner strength: “Think you left me broken down/Think that I’d come running back/Baby, you don’t know me, cause you’re dead wrong/What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger/Stand a little taller/Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone/What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter/Footsteps even lighter/Doesn’t mean I’m over cause you’re gone/What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger/Just me, myself, and I”. ‘Dark Side’ was the album’s third and last single. It was penned by busbee and Alexander Geringas. It also hit #1 on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. It’s about wanting to be accepted where one is at: “Everybody’s got a dark side/Do you love me?/Can you love mine?/Nobody’s a picture perfect/But we’re worth it/You know that we’re worth it/Will you love me?/Even with my dark side?.../So, don’t give up on me/Please remind me who I really am”.
‘Honestly’ includes these interesting lyrics: “All I see are Stepford-like lives/Needles and knives/Beautiful lies/Bringing out the green in your eyes/A perfect disguise for envy and pride/Face me/Make me listen to the truth/Even if it breaks me/You can judge me, love me/If you’re hating me, do it honestly”. On ‘You Love Me’ Kelly is straight up with a guy: “You say/I’m not good enough (2X)/But what you really mean is/You’re not good enough (2X)/You can’t deliver/So you turn it around”. It’s a great dance song.
Toby Gad, Bridget Kelly, James Fauntleroy, and Kelly wrote ‘Einstein’, a great rock song that tells a guy off: “Didn’t get it the first time/But don’t think I’ve been so blind/And I may not be Einstein/But I know/Dumb plus dumb equals you (3X)/Even had the nerve to flirt with her in front of my face/Here’s your keys, your bags, your clothes and now get out of my place/You say I’m crazy and that we’re happy/Is that supposed to comfort me?” ‘Standing in Front of You’ is a nice ballad featuring The Love Sponge String Quartet. Chris Rodriguez, Aben Eubanks, and Jerry McPherson play guitars. It includes these words of encouragement: “Take a breath and listen/Open up, stop wishin’/All that you’ve been missin’/Standing in front of you/Everything you’re fearin’/All the walls you’re buildin’/Take a chance/Your reason?/Standing in front of you.../And they won’t break us and they can’t get through/Cause I’m gonna be here/Standing in front of you”.
Rodney Jerkins, Andre Lindal, and Lauren Christy wrote ‘I Forgive You’, a pop/rocker about letting go of grudges: “I forgive you/We were just a couple of kids/Trying to figure out how to live/Doing it our way/No shame, no blame/Cause the damage is done/And I forgive you/I forgive you/We were busy living the dream/Never noticed the glass ceiling falling on us/No shame, no blame/Cause the damage is done/And I forgive you”. ‘Hello’ is about loneliness: “Sentimental feelings never get me anywhere/My heart continues beating/Is there anybody, anybody?/Hello, hello/Is anybody listening?/Let go!/As everyone lets go of me/Oh, oh/Won’t somebody show me that I’m not alone, not alone”.
Toby Gad and Olivia Waithe wrote the adult contemporary number ‘The War is Over’. Kelly is very confident on this one: “All I have to say is/You don’t deserve me (2X)/I’m finally walking away/Cause you don’t deserve me and you’re not worthy/And I won’t let you pull me in/Because I know you’re gonna win/But the war is over/And I won’t fight you anymore/I’ve never been so sure/Cause the war is over.../I’m finally walking away/Cause you’ll only hurt me”. ‘Let Me Down’ finds Kelly and Chris DeStefano on backing vocals. It’s about disappointment: “You’re only gonna let me down/When it counts, you countdown/You’re only gonna turn me out/As I burn, you burn out/You’re only gonna make me feel so crazy/But when I think we could be something/You go and let me down, let me down, oh”.
‘You Can’t Win’ is an energetic pop/rocker with down to earth words: “If you go, they’ll say you’re following/If you don’t, then you’re too good for them.../If you’re thin, call it a walkin’ disease/If you’re not, they’re all screamin’ obese.../If you speak, you’ll only piss them off/If you don’t, you’re another robot.../You can’t win, no”. Last up is the Jennifer Hanson/Michael Logen penned ‘Breaking Your Own Heart’. Strings are arranged by Deborah Lurie, Phil X plays guitar, and Dann Huff provides a guitar solo. The song offers these thoughts: “Too many tears, too many falls/It’s easier here behind these walls/But you don’t have to walk in the shadows/When life is so hard/You’re breaking your own heart/Taking it too far down a lonely road”.
Kelly Clarkson is one of the best female vocalists in mainstream music today. STRONGER is an album many teen girls and young adult ladies will be able to connect with. Several of the songs speak about guys not willing to invest in or commit wholeheartedly to a romantic relationship. Girls and women longing for a man to love them completely will enjoy these songs. There’s also a couple songs of encouragement and one about forgiveness. I wouldn’t say Kelly comes across as bitter, just realistic, on this pop/rock/dance album, which I’m rating 94%. For more info connect with Kelly on twitter or facebook.