June 19, 2007

Glenn Sez: Kelly Clarkson

If you go out and purchase Kelly Clarkson's new CD My December (released in July by the way. And what makes December so depressing? IT HAS CHRISTMAS!) you may end up with some contorted look on your face like a character from Ringu or some other Japanese horror movie. You may be asking yourself, much like me, "What happened?" Well, the answer is simple:


This frequent phenomenon happens to an artist who becomes famous or prominant on the back of pop music who then decides to trot out that common phrase "creative control". You see, these artists got famous by making pop music. They got famous because their music was predominantly upbeat and flashy. And then when they have a hit album they think they can dump the style that made them famous and try the music "they always wanted to make" or the music "they have always had in themselves" or whatever stupid thing they wanna say to justify, essentially, flipping their fans off and making a load of self-indulgent awfully misguided claptrap.

Case in point - Kelly Clarkson and her new CD My December (again, what's she got against December?)

In reviewing Kelly's new CD I thought I would go through each track and recommend a better song, because, quite frankly, it's not hard.

"Never Again"

Instead of listening to this sort of dull lead single (that's still one of the better songs on the album) listen to The Veronicas' "When It All Falls Apart". They're both about fucked up relationships, but the latter features the lyric "I should've kicked your ass in bed" and not "I hope the ring you gave to her
Turns her finger green".

"One Minute"

Actually, this song is enjoyable. This is what her Breakaway album was sort of like. Fun and peppy with a rock edge. Still, once the chorus kicks in the song never really takes off. So, instead, listen to Kelly's "Since U Been Gone" and remember how she used to be able to mix it up and be fabulous.


The album really starts to murder my ears at about this point. "Hole" is the moment when any possibility of the album not sucking into oblivion disappears up Kelly's pretenscious rock chick arse. Listen instead to anything by the artist formerly known as Hole (Courtney Love's band). Not only to they mine similar territory, but they do it without the intention of making an album for 13-year-old girls. How about "Miss World". Or "She Walks on Me". Or whatever. Anything. If you do see Kelly on the street give her a hug though. Girl is depressed.


And if "Hole" was where the wheels started to majorly fall off, "Sober" is where they explode and implode at the same time, opening up a parallel universe vortex in which anything that is good and just in the world gets sucked into it and all that is left is this retched minimalistic ballad to remain as master of the universe, reeking havoc from planet to planet by sending anybody able of listening to it into a deep coma from which they will never awake. In an effort to stop said catastrophic event just go listen to Evanescence's "My Immortal" for another thousand times. It may be depressing, but it's not "Sober" and Amy Lee's vocals have feeling and passion. Clarkson's have levels of Enyacity that are off the mothafuckin' charts.

"Don't Waste Your Time"

Oh look! More loud guitars. Clarkson puts a bit more effort into this song, but her voice is actually kind of grating when she has to single against all this loud music. On Breakaway she didn't sound like she had a sore throat from trying to be louder than the guitars. So go and listen to "Behind These Hazel Eyes". If Clarkson wanted to make a rock album why not model songs like that one? Instead they're just filled with guitars, guitars and more guitars.


Oh goodo. Another track about how someone stabbed her in the back. If you want that how about giving spins to Jamelia's "Thank You" or Christina Aguilera's "Fighter". They're both about people fucked over, but how they came through the other side better people. Not only are they great songs, but they have a point other than to point the finger. Kelly needs to go see a therapist or something. This shit is tired.


Shockingly, this song starts off really great, but then after, like, five seconds it's back to the same ol' same ol', guitars and more guitars singing about how she's "dying inside". Jesus Christ, listen up! I'm all for emotional soul-revealing lyrics, but if Kelly continues to want to market herself to young teenybopper American Idol voting girls she needs to get some catchy hooks (I haven't heard one single hook on the entire album! Shocking!) and interesting tunes (just having multiple guitars rocking out in the background doesn't equal a tune!) and if you are going to continue to plow the depths of your soul don't do it in a "The birds in the sky/They fly so high" kind of way. Go listen to Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky". At least that will make your feel better. You should be so lucky that I'm listening to My December and not you.

"Be Still"

See, now this is kind of nice. It never really takes flight in the chorus like it should, but as My December goes, it's probably my favourite track. Clarkson's vocals are nice and the production is the polar opposite of every other track on here - elegant. It's not a knock out of the park, and it doesn't make me forgive her for the monstrosities on the rest of the album, but... yeah, it's nice.


And then we're back to the shit. At least she admits she "make(s) plenty of mistakes"! That was nice of her. For an alternate track listen to "X-Static Process" from Madonna's (incredibly misunderstood) American Life album. They both follow the same minimal blueprint, but for Madonna, the casual earnestness thing works because of not only her vocal delivery (which is also simple, opposed to Clarkson's unnecessarily forceful), but also it's place within the scheme of the entire album. On "Maybe" it just sounds like another dull ballad to offset the rock tracks. Of course, half way through the track even Clarkson gets bored and decides to throw in a bunch of guitars just for the sake of it.

"How I Feel"

Hey! Breakaway is back! She's still singing about the exact same stuff as before but at least "How I Feel" has a bit of spunk. Still, if you want spunk in teenage girl oriented rock then there's a reason why Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" has been #1 all over the world. Again, this is another track that never really gets of the land, but it at least feels like they were trying.


I love the bit where she says the long-sustained "Yeah!" but the rest is tosh. Am I imagining hearing a bit of Peter Gabriel's classic "Sledge Hammer" in there? Whether I'm imagining better music in my mind or not, you should all go listen to Gabriel's Us album - you've probably forgotten how amazing it is.

"Can I Have A Kiss"

Again, am I imagining another song in here? There is one moment in the song that is continuously repeated and it sounds exactly like a bit from Soundgarden's amazing "Blackhole Sun". "Can I Have A Kiss" is much better during the chorus (which actually does lift the song for a change). It's probably the closest to a memorable hook as I'm likely to find on this album. Still, "Blackhole Sun" is amazing, but you probably already know that don't you? Cause you should. That is how you build a song.


As opposed to ending on a high note, Clarkson decides to end the album with a ripoff of Christina Aguilera's "I'm Okay". Not only in music production (whispery vocals, strumming guitars) but also in lyrical context - "I'm Okay" is about an abusive parent, "Irvine" seems to be about, just a guess here, dying slowly and wanting somebody to save her (shock of shocks!). I guess this song isn't that bad as these things go, but it's not as good as "I'm Okay" which gets most of it's power from Aguilera's undeniably amazing vocals whereas Clarkson seems to think that sounding hoarse (like a lot of the album) was a good way to get emotion out of it. It's not.

There's also a hidden track called "Chivas" attached to the end of "Irvine", but there's a reason why it's hidden and not on the actual track listing. Needless to say it's another bare minimum ballad about a guy who just wasn't worth all the hassle he put her through.

In conclusion, she should've taken up Clive Davis' offer of $10mil to record a new album, cause this one is terrible. There's no getting around it. There's no great single choices here, there's only two types of tracks. Excessive guitar-lead rock tracks or minimalistic ballads. Every song pretty much deals with the same topic over and over again. Kelly needs to take some prozac or something and get with the program. I don't care about whether she's clinically depressed. And if she's hellbent on making sure I know then do it in an interesting fashion. But My December is filled with depressingly maukish songs, barely any of which are memorable in the slightest and most of which should have been B-Sides at best.

Move along folks, "Since U Been Gone" is so far away from this station that it's painful. How one pop star could fall so far from musical grace is unfathomable. Breakaway = quite good with some great singles. My December = quite crap with no great singles.

Buy it if you like listening to tuneless music about being depressed or want to know about all the terrible shit that's happened to her. Come to think of it. If you liked Babel you'll probably love My December.

I still wanna know what she has against December. Did her puppy die in December? WHAT?!? I need to know. Still, the album cover is great.


adam k. said...

My puppy died two decembers ago, actually...

J.D. said...

Well, "December" is a metaphor for your final days, like I'm probably in February/March (I HOPE), so My December means she's going to die. It's all very Evanescence, isn't it?

Kamikaze Camel said...

Adam, that's sad. But you haven't gone and made a self-indulgent album about it. Puppies dying in any month is sad though.

JD, right. She could've at least used the phrase in one of her songs perhaps.

Sid said...

I don't think this albums is any better or worse than Breakaway (which I really liked) -- and definitely nowehere near the level of "suckiness" you mentioned.

For one, I think "Sober" and "Irvine" are seriously brilliant and the others, not so much. It suffers from the fact that a lot of songs sound far too similar but overall this is a pretty solid record. The two reviews I've read so far (Slant and Blender) seem to agree.

PoliVamp said...

Honestly, 'Never Again' is my favorite Kelly song so far, and I'm incredibly excited to buy the album, bad reviews be damned. I think it's nice that she's trying to be more than just dance/soft rock/whatever the hell you use to describe this genre of music (I refuse to use the term pop, because pop means popular, which means Eminem, Evanescance, and Hanson were all pop at some point)

Barry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry said...

Sober is a good song. You have no idea what you're talking about in your description of the song.

While Breakaway is an excellent album, it is very "poppy" and sweet. I think its good that she is taking a more decisive tone with My December.

Kelly will always have a good voice no matter how and what she sings.

Kamikaze Camel said...

As I've said, I have no care in the world if she decided to dump the more catchier side of her career and go darker, but songs - as an idea from the getgo - need tunes and none of these songs, for the most part, have any. They're just loud (or in the case of songs like "Sober" really really quiet) music with lyrics yelled over them.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best, most underrated albums! I would respect your oppinnion if it wasn't so ignorant. Do your research. The melodies are rich and minor, and haunting. This was the album that was an important turn in the pop industry. Not all music is poppy and sappy, especially after her fiance of two years cheated on her and married another woman a month later....