If any pop album of 2007 seemed like a sure thing, it was Kelly Clarkson's third record, My December. Kelly definitively shook off the stigma of American Idol with her second album, Breakaway, and, in particular, its smash hit "Since U Been Gone," an anthem so irresistible it was inescapable, beloved by teenage girls and hipsters alike (it even inspired a pretty good cover from oak-hearted indie hero Ted Leo). Kelly had it all: hits and some burgeoning cred, so it seemed that there was no way to screw up the next album, ...
If any pop album of 2007 seemed like a sure thing, it was Kelly Clarkson's third record, My December. Kelly definitively shook off the stigma of American Idol with her second album, Breakaway, and, in particular, its smash hit "Since U Been Gone," an anthem so irresistible it was inescapable, beloved by teenage girls and hipsters alike (it even inspired a pretty good cover from oak-hearted indie hero Ted Leo). Kelly had it all: hits and some burgeoning cred, so it seemed that there was no way to screw up the next album, the one that would cement her as a rock & roll queen. Turns out, that was a large part of the problem: Clarkson wanted to be a rocker, while her benefactor, the legendary record mogul Clive Davis, wanted her to stick as a pop star, setting the stage for a massive battle that spilled over into the tabloids and blogs. Kelly wrote and recorded her album as a rock record -- getting much mileage out of PR shots of her mugging with Minuteman Mike Watt, which also helped strengthen her legitimacy as a rocker (even though all the accompanying articles suggested she didn't really know fIREHOSE from Firehouse, but to be fair, how many people do?) -- but when it came time to release it, Davis balked, allegedly claiming there were no hit singles on the record at a label conference (then playing a few cuts as proof) and then taking several not-so-veiled swipes at her during the 2007 American Idol finale. Clarkson held her ground, insisting that My December come out the way she intended, firing her management team after the fight with Davis (afterward, her first headlining arena tour was canceled, only increasing her bad press), but eventually getting the album in the stores in late June 2007.My December proves that both camps were correct: Davis is correct that there are no big crossover hits here, yet it's also true that this is an artistic move that Clarkson needed to make. If left up to Davis, she would simply be another vocalist singing professional product -- the kind of singer AmIdol was designed to find. But Clarkson is young and moderately hip -- at least hip enough to know that she wants to sound fresher, younger than American Idol , so she needed to shake loose the shackles of the pop machine. That, combined with real-life heartbreak (her guy left her, a situation she doesn't shy away from on the album's lyrics), gave her the fuel to turn her third album into an statement of purpose. Unfortunately, what she wants to be is Evanescence -- gothic and operatic, filled with roiling emotions but few hooks. She tempers this with a few rock moves learned from P!nk, but the end result is that My December is more sound than song, which is nevertheless kind of modern: although this sound is starting to show its age as Hot Topic stores are starting to shutter, it nevertheless is a very contemporary sound and suits those girls who are growing up with Kelly, following her from Idol , through college, into an uneasy adulthood. It's a soundtrack to their lives, and perhaps even more so than before, since this awkward record is the sound of Kelly negotiating adulthood, unafraid of making mistakes. Even if it's not heavy on strong songs, it ironically is the most sonically unified record Kelly has made to date: it follows through on Clarkson's vision of being a modern rocker, cutting away all the stultifying adult contemporary and replacing it with emotional acoustic ballads but relying on surging rockers. It's what Kelly wanted to do, so on that level it's a success and one that listeners who share her viewpoint (and quite likely her age) will respond to, but for everybody else, My December is a disappointment. To those like Davis, who always viewed her as nothing more than a singer -- expecting Kelly to be a pop version of Carrie Underwood and singing whatever pretty song is put in front of her -- it's a crushing disappointment because it is deliberately not a pop record. Not that...
Kelly Clarkson proved to us that her voice is very versatile. Her first album showed us her strong vocals and her second album gave us an idea of who she is, not only as an artist, by as an individual.
Her third album, My December, shows us her independent side. She wrote all the songs herself this time... too bad it had to be when she was feeling sad. Quoting from her: "I just broke. ... It was the lowest point of my life and my career."
However, she made the best of those songs by giving us catchy tunes. She shows us a third time that she has an amazing voice.
I rated this album four stars because I believe the songs have a nice sound to them. I don't think about song lyrics so much, so I don't really care if they have a sad side to them. I think it's still worth listening to!