Kelly Clarkson My December

Kelly Clarkson My December
When you win American Idol and go on to sell 11 million copies of your second album, you should certainly have some leverage to develop as an artist. While Clay Aiken will likely remain a singer fed other people’s music, Kelly Clarkson is hungry to become not only a top pop singer but also songwriter. Breakaway allowed Clarkson to dip her feet into the songwriting pool (though smash hit "Since U Been Gone” wasn't hers) but with My December, her third album, Kelly has jumped into the deep end, co-writing all 13 tracks. A lot has been said about this bold statement and lyrically, Clarkson has come out with guns blazing. First single "Never Again” exemplifies her mood throughout the album’s first half: she’s pissed off, hurt and wants the asshole to know it. But the hard rock crunch of the song hardly reaches the bar she set with "Since U Been Gone.” Frankly, if she wants to challenge Evanescence (she actually uses Ben Moody a number of times) I’m no longer interested. And at times, like the riff-ravaged "Haunted,” it seems like she does. She tries her hand at a few different styles in the second half that work but feel a little too late, as if she’s grasping at straws. "Can I Have A Kiss” sounds like early ’90s alt-rock, with its deep bass and nice balance of acoustic and grungy guitars, while "How I Feel” is a bubbly kiss-off, which given some help, could have become a strong single. The album ends on its highest note with "Irvine,” where Clarkson mirrors Feist — a move she should consider more often — but by then there’s an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Kelly Clarkson’s new album has been written about frequently in the music press, for its triumphant artistic statement and the disapproval of label boss Clive Davis. As disappointing as it is to agree with a dinosaur like Davis, he’s actually spot on. This may mark a brave new chapter in Clarkson the songwriter’s career but as a recording artist she’s faltered with a record that’s just a little too ambitious for her current abilities. Call me crazy but My December has me missing the million-selling guarantees of polished turds by pop fabricators like Max Martin and Dr. Luke. They may cheapen music but they would have helped to take the edge off of Clarkson’s mood swings due to their gifts for writing good hooks — a skill Clarkson hasn’t learned yet. (When your audience is largely made up of tweens and teens, karaoke potential is a must.) There’s absolutely no reason to write Kelly Clarkson off but next time around, she’d be smart to listen to her boss once in a while. Yep, it feels slimy to admit that. (RCA)