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Snap Judgment: Kelly Clarkson's 'My Life Would Suck Without You'


File this one under "predictable": Kelly Clarkson has returned from her Persephone-like journey across the pop-goth River Styx on the excellent but commercially disappointing album "My December" with a shiny, streamlined new cut meant to break the speed limit up the charts. Hear it for yourself on her YouTube page

There's no reason this song won't be huge. "My Life Would Suck Without You," co-written and produced by absolute hit makers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, zooms forward from its guitar-plucky intro toward a cymbal-crashing climax without ever slowing down. There's no time to question the empty calories delivered within those compressed, subtly Auto-Tuned vocals, which ride some sneakily accelerating high-fructose beats.

You will be singing this song by your third listen, and that third listen will be unavoidable, because without a bridge or even one blue note, it's perfectly suited to the formats that support 21st century pop -- especially YouTube parodies and singing toothbrushes.

But is Kelly in there, amid the syn-drums and keyboard bleeps? To paraphrase Bill Clinton, that depends on the meaning of "in."

She didn't write the lyrics, but they're so applicable to her recent history that one can't help but think she must have dictated them to her corporate mentors. Or else they're just being really, really mean.

When Clarkson belts, "You've got a piece of me," it's impossible to avoid thoughts of her relationship with Clive Davis, the legendary music-biz Svengali who publicly condemned her for trying to take creative control on "My December," only to welcome her back once she apologized and dumped her management, her band and her muse.

Tapping into the theme of unavoidable love that's inspired artists as diverse as Willie Dixon, Smokey Robinson and Brooks & Dunn, "My Life" is different than your typical blues, presenting resignation as a positive emotion. Clarkson's delivery is where her soul lives. She sings through gritted teeth, and her tone is sharper than it was on her greatest hit so far, "Since U Been Gone," which starts with similar guitar tones but in a darker key. That song blended morning-after sultriness with the kick of a cold shower; this one offers the vocal equivalent of a clenched fist.

I'm hoping that the anger in Clarkson's voice is her signal that though she'll play the Photoshopped star for dollars, she's hanging on to her soul for future use.

Some pundits have compared "My Life" to yet another Luke-Martin product, Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." But it's nothing like that song, which is fake vampy instead of fake cathartic. Instead, let's recall another recent entry in the category of happy songs about bad situations -- Miley Cyrus' underrated "7 Things," which captures the giddiness as well as the pain of going for the wrong guy.

Unlike the oddly pent-up "My Life," "7 Things" actually offers release at its end point. Plus, the Cyrus video is adorably cute, with all those stuffed-animal-clutching, scenery-ripping teen girls. Clarkson might get to trash some furniture in the video for "My Life," but you know they're also going to make her suck a lollipop.

Unlike Cyrus, Clarkson is already too battered by adulthood to find joy in her own entrapment, romantic or otherwise. Here's what I hope: that this song does well, because she deserves it for being a trouper, but that she follows it up with a bruising, truthful ballad along the lines of "Because of You," and that it causes a wave of raised cellphones and girl-fan tears, putting her back on her feet for good.

-- Ann Powers

Photo credit: RCA Records

Comments () | Archives (36)

I love this song.

Does anyone else think she looks exactly like Carrie Underwood in this picture?

I didn't really like the song at first but it grew on me. It's not great but hey it's still Kelly. =] And My December was awesome, the whole album was jampacked with raw emotion, i loved it. Too bad it didnt do very well in the US, but it was great over seas. I'm pretty sure there are gonna be alot of songs on this album that a prefer over My Life. Or at least i hope so. I don't want to be let down like i was with David Archuleta's album, which i don't think was all that good, but whatever she's working with Ryan Tedder and i think i heard somewhere that she teamed up with Chris Daughtry so that should be interesting.

her hair looks like carrie's but that's it, other then that the look nothing alike

The song is definitely Since You been Gone part 2. Her voice has also been way over processed or does her voice need help now? She now sounds just like any other "Artist" on the radio.

This may be a chart topper but it doesnt make it predictable. And even if it were, can you blame her? With all of the criticism from her last album for trying to take the reigns and stray from the cookie cutters, she had to cancel her tour! She found a compromise and though its sad she probably had to give more than the label, it'll be great to see her back on top!

I expected more from Kelly, but it's an okay song.

These lyrics are horrible! I feel as if she got them from a 12 year old's diary. ugh.

I'm SO sick of reading peoples comments that My December was not a good album. I actually liked the album. What I find interesting is that no one is complimenting her on singing an upbeat song that has a happy meaning! I like My Life but don't think it's Kelly. Lets face it Clive is old and she will probably have a better shot of doing it her way in the near future!

Kelly Clarkson is very talented: she is indeed a trooper and should be praised for her hard work and persistence. She should be praised for not falling into the Hollywood trap where anyone who acts proper and is a bit more conservative is deemed untalented. She has risen above so much criticism and has come up with a surely smash hit song. Also, when she did try to create an album more "with depth" she was criticized for My December. Let her make her music, she is the most talented American Idol winner and one of the most talented by the industry. Go Kelly! :)

I don't mind the new song, mainly because even though her voice is over-processed - it doesn't need it, I heard her live 2 months ago and she is very powerful - the song will shoot to the top. This will get Kelly the visibility she deserves and make Clive happy, having proved only that he can control the market by trashing support for the wonderful My December. For those who think Kelly is selling herself out, keep in mind that she is under contract to RCA as a result of her AI obligation, and apparently when RCA agreed to release My December, she agreed to do the next album they wanted. I'd also wager that My Life Would Suck was the first single because it will capture the market Clive wants, but that there will be other tracks from the album that are not so poppy and show Kelly's maturity. We'll see what happens with her music when her RCA deal is over.
She is a great musician with electic tastes. I think she'll manage a long career true to herself just fine.

OK...I have bee a Kelly Clarkson fan ever since she won Idol...but there are people who said she sucked and My December was all crap...THOSE people need to shutup because all I have to say is:


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