Release Date: 04.14.03
Record label: RCA
Shouldn't This Have Been a Big Deal?
by: bill aicher
After taking nearly a year since the end of American Idol's first season to craft and perfect her debut album, the initial buzz on Kelly Clarkson began to wane as interest in Idol's first winner fell off. The release of her double A-side single all the way back in September was a distant memory, as neither song really had the staying power to stick around in casual pop fans' minds. So, it was with a considerably less bombastic manner than was expected that Clarkson's full-length debut came to light.
Perhaps the major culprit in this less than exciting release is the relative dullness of Thankful's first single, "Miss Independent." Co-written by Christina Aguilera, and sounding quite similar to Aguilera's "dirrty" pop, the track's mediocrity did little to help spur excitement for Thankful. And this, unfortunately, tends to be the case throughout the album.
Rather than pigeonhole Clarkson into one specific genre (Clarkson's initial title for the album was Pigeonhole This), Thankful covers a fairly wide array of the musical map; country-crossover on "Just Missed the Train," Gospel / R&B on "The Trouble With Love Is," and pop-piano balladry on "Anytime." A wise decision marketing-wise, this variety will undoubtedly give Clarkson plenty of audience to work with before its decided what her particular "expertise" will be. The problem however, is that by covering such a wide area, Thankful becomes more a convoluted amalgamation of songs rather than a coherent single work.
What's more, each of the songs tends to keep as close to "safe" as possible. Songs tend to gravitate toward love, heartbreak, and the embrace of feminity - all pretty standard fare in pop music in 2003. Production is also unbelievably predictable, which in turn pushes Clarkson's vocals more to the forefront than would otherwise be the case. But then again, Clarkson's vocals are what most fans are likely looking forward to after seeing her evolution through American Idol's first season.
Still, what's most disappointing about Thankful is the fact there's nothing extraordinary here, even vocally. Clarkson was voted as one of the top upcoming talents by both Idol's judges and the American Idol viewing audience (who, if ratings are any indication, are a numerous lot), and one would have hoped for something with a bit more of that "jaw-dropping" appeal we expect from the best. Instead what we get is another pop singer who, as talented as she may be, pales in comparison to her more established peers and would likely not have enjoyed half the attention she has received if she were not a star before even releasing an album. 16-Apr-2003 3:45 PM