Monday, May 18, 2015

Kelly Clarkson "Piece By Piece" : Album Review

It is with a hint of trepidation & caution that I listen to the latest offering from an artist who I really like & admire. I just don’t like being disappointed with new music (well, who does?), especially when it takes time between each release. So, I am happy to report that I’m feeling far from disappointed in any way, shape or form with Kelly Clarkson’s new album, “Piece by Piece”. It’s a huge track list, spanning sixteen songs on the deluxe version, which is sadly, quite uncommon. Usually we are lucky to see a track list hit double digits (that’s 10 or more, for those playing along at home). Aside from the volume of content, it’s even more exciting when those songs are inspired, thoughtful, self reflective, mature, socially responsible, emotionally driven & just really enjoyable tracks. There is one really obvious change noticed in Ms Clarkson this time around: when it comes to the substance of her new music, she’s really matured & stepped away from her years as a ‘twenty-something’ who is searching for an identity. It’s quite evident that she has found it.

There is a definitely familiarity with the style & exceptional production quality. As I had this album on repeat this week, I was actually playing it back to back with her 2009 album, “All I Ever Wanted”. So, as one album played straight into the next, you could hear the continuity quite clearly. The main difference for me was the lyrical content, subject matter & how a handful of tracks from “Piece By Piece” pay homage to earlier styles of music that we can assume Kelly grew up listening too, such as 80s pop-sensation, Pat Benatar: check out track 12, “Nostalgic”. There are a few tracks co-written with Australia’s own powerhouse, Sia, & it seems her midas touch has definitely rubbed off. “Take You High” has a smattering of EDM & dub-step found within, and is probably the only track that doesn’t quite gel with the rest of them. It’s not a genre that marries so well with Kelly’s style, but I still enjoyed listening to it. Of course, she has included several amazing power ballads, and one of my favourites would have to be “Run Run Run” featuring the exceptionally talented, John Legend. Kelly Clarkson’s voice is so impressive & strong, but she also clearly demonstrates just how beautiful it sounds when she uses restraint in the track “Tightrope”, a stunning pop-ballad with beautiful flowing strings & piano. Kelly has always been known for her big voice, but here we see a different side to her versatility, as her confidence replaces the need to sing as loudly as possible: she proves you don’t need to sing ‘full-pelt’ to show strength. 

Aside from becoming a mother recently to her beautiful daughter, River, Kelly has stepped away from her past & really planted her feet firmly & assuredly on the ground as a woman. There is so much insight into who Kelly Clarkson ‘really is’ in her new album. I found myself noticing so much thought & depth to the lyrics, that it made me quite self-reflective about choices I’ve made in my life. I have to tell you that I am so sick & tired of listening to young female artists presenting themselves as vapid sexual objects, who can’t sing anything more intellectually stimulating than “ooh baby, baby” & similar nonsense: it really shits me to tears because a woman can be so much more than that. My favourite type of songs are all performed by confident, strong women with big, impressive voices: the kind that make the hair stand on the back of your neck. With that in mind, I’m cheering for Kelly Clarkson as I’m singing along: in my head of course. I’m inspired & really moved by her mature storytelling & I’m learning more about Kelly from the stories she so willingly shares with us. 

We’ve really witnessed a progression of change with not just her music, but with Kelly as a blossoming woman. She’s no longer that flippant, cheeky young woman chasing boys, chasing love, telling us all how her “life would suck without you”. Now, she’s a far more mature & confident woman, who no longer relies on the approval of others. Kelly has directed her focus as a storyteller & someone all young women could learn from. Many people spend their teens praying for confidence. In their twenties, they’re too busy announcing to the world just how confident they think they can be & it’s all about them. In their thirties, they learn restraint & respect for others, realising they don’t need to blow their own trumpet so loudly to be noticed: this is where we find Kelly at this point in her career. I’ve never been more impressed by her, than I am now: not that Kelly Clarkson requires an ounce of validation from me, far from it. But it is so rewarding to see an artist evolve & mature into something you always hoped she could be. And there you have it...

Review By: Bryan Vitellaro 
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