Release Date: Oct 24, 2011
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop, Adult Contemporary, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock
Kelly Clarkson's fifth studio album is based on a simple formula: 1) Put Clarkson in a room with a microphone; 2) Give her a solid pop song to sing; 3) Get the hell out of the way. It's a sound strategy. From the walloping breakup anthem "Mr. Know-It-All" to the closing roof-raiser, "Breaking Your Own Heart," Stronger is as deft as any Clarkson album, with 13 catchy songs that hover between pop rock, R&B and Nashville – all of them showcases for one of music's most remarkable voices.
No longer needing to reassure her label and fickle fans in the wake of her wild detour My December, Kelly Clarkson settles into her skin on Stronger. Using 2009’s All I Ever Wanted as a rough template, Clarkson is nevertheless willing to dip back to the beginning of her career for skyscraping, crowd-pleasing power ballads, but she’s assuredly not retreating. Kelly lives in the modern world, and quite cannily so, at times co-opting Rihanna and Katy Perry while also making room for a duet with country hunk Jason Aldean, all the while never seeming as if she’s desperately chasing different demographics.
Kelly Clarkson will turn 30 next year. By then, Idol‘s favorite ex-waitress will have grown from America’s sweetheart (see: 2004’s Breakaway) to a slightly goth brooder (2007’s My December) to pop’s resident angry grrrl (2009’s All I Ever Wanted) right before the proud eyes of Mom and Dad — or as we call them, Paula and Simon. In 2011, she’s still young enough to pull off gleefully bratty kiss-offs like ”Einstein,” on which she does the math for a no-good boyfriend: ”Dumb plus dumb equals you.” But it may not be long before she can’t get away with writing songs with ”suck” in the title.
If she's going to keep audiences waiting for her long-rumored Nashville album, Kelly Clarkson needs to make sure that her pop releases justify all the procrastination. And as enticing as the prospect of Clarkson using her phenomenal pipes to record studio versions of her live Patty Griffin and Marc Broussard covers might be, Stronger is a solid collection of contemporary pop that gives the singer ample opportunity to shred her vocal cords. There's a newfound grittiness to Clarkson's performances that suggests she's capable of singing far more than the type of straightforward pop found here, but, in the moment, Stronger makes for a vibrant and doggedly likable album.
Of all the pop stars peddling self-empowerment radio anthems these days, Kelly Clarkson is the most believable. Unlike her peers, the 29-year-old doesn't undermine her sisterly authority by invoking gossip fodder - real or concocted - to sell records, and on her fifth album she mercifully avoids the monotonous dance-pop trend in favour of a timeless pop-rock sound that occasionally flirts with the dance floor. Seven years after Since U Been Gone, Clarkson's primary concern is still that proverbial "you" - a familiar musical foil but one that works for her.
Review Summary: Ms. Clarkson breaks away into maturity mode only to find out that it isn’t all she ever wanted.It seems like Kelly Clarkson has followed a bad-good-bad pattern throughout her career: Thankful (bad), Breakaway (good), My December (bad), All I Ever Wanted (good)…and now, Stronger. It doesn’t take a coding analyst to figure out what the next output in the sequence would be, but just to humor ourselves let’s take a closer look at why this is the case.
KELLY CLARKSON “Stronger” (RCA). When Kelly Clarkson is aggrieved, all’s right with the world. That dates to her 2004 album, “Breakaway,” one of the most significant shape-shifts in recent pop memory, taking Ms. Clarkson from well-meaning “American Idol” winner to voice of the ….