Category: Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson's 'All I Ever Wanted': 3.5 stars [UPDATE]

Kelly_clarkson_getty___ The former 'American Idol' star is in her purest form on the new album.

The fourth album from pop's most sympathetic rebel girl, Kelly Clarkson, has nearly as many mandates attached to it as a certain economic stimulus plan.

The record label execs who objected to the emotionally loaded, tough-sell hard rock of 2007's "My December" are hoping for a massive, industry-saving hit. The critics who love her spunk but question her sensibility desire artful pop with a little bit of red meat. The "Idol" watchers and Top 40 listeners who made her a star in the first place want the perfect blend of sincerity and catchiness to lift their spirits during a year when nobody needs another breakup album.

Clarkson, ever the overachiever, has delivered on all counts. "All I Ever Wanted" is a masterful rapprochement with the mainstream, full of cheerfully ear-snagging tunes, inventive production, exhilarating vocals and enough inherent Kelly-ness to put aside fears that her label bosses implanted blond electrodes in her brain to make her behave.

"All I Ever Wanted" -- due March 10 but leaked online -- also fulfills the one requirement that makes Clarkson a top-shelf pop star worth loving: It provides her faithful female fans with a solid group of anthems and introspective moments expressing dignity, independence and emotional truthfulness.

The first single, the desperately radio-friendly "My Life Would Suck Without You," wasn't a good sign: Ripping off one's biggest previous hit isn't a path toward self-discovery. But that album opener simply announces a rousing, if slightly overloaded, collection of ballads and barn-burners well serving the needs of Kelly's girls for a big scream and a good cry.

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Kelly Clarkson's 'All I Ever Wanted' leaks early. Thanks, Apple?

Clarkson___

So much for that carefully orchestrated release plan.

Kelly Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted" has hit the Web in advance of its March 10 release date, and the culprit? Apple's iTunes store, according to this report in Rolling Stone.

The website for the magazine notes that it was the Norway division of Apple's iTunes music service. An Apple spokesperson has yet to respond, but Rolling Stone provided this screen grab of the Norwegian iTunes store as proof, and reported that the file was encoded via iTunes.

Once serviced to retailers, keeping an album under wraps is a near impossibility. While "All I Ever Wanted" is not yet available to preview via any U.S. retailers or officially sanctioned sites, Rolling Stone notes that the Norwegian site was hosting 30-second audio clips when fans realized the album could be purchased.

Idolator has already posted a one-listen verdict, noting: "It's a fun collection of pop tracks that's carried in large part by Clarkson's endlessly rootable personality and (slightly sweetened, but still undeniable) pipes." But the RIAA would be pleased to know that download restrictions here at Pop & Hiss HQ prevent the album from being obtained.

The leak comes near the end of what has been a drawn-out marketing plan, even by major label standards. Begining in late December, trinkets regarding "All I Ever Wanted" have been gradually making it out to the media. Over the next few weeks, the unveiling of Clarkson's single, title, art and lyrics were all treated as mini events.

If the iTunes leak is indeed true, it appears to be the second semi-legit leak of a major album this week. Earlier today, news spread that the leak of U2's "No Line on the Horizon" was the result of the Australian arm of the Universal Music Group.

Forbes posted a detailed story, and wondered if the move would ultimately be a "colossal blunder" or a "marketing ploy." The band took advantage of the Web chatter on the album and today made it officially available for streaming via MySpace. Look for Clarkson's "All I Ever Wanted" to appear on some sort of official channel soon.

-- Todd Martens

Photo credit: Getty Images

Clive's pre-Grammy party: Whitney Houston returns, Kelly Clarkson shows sass

Whitney_houston_kequs6nc_35 Suddenly there she was, after all this time.

Whitney Houston walked onstage at the end of Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday in a leopard-print corset dress and a coat that made her look a bit like a big cat -- her hair a nimbus of curls, her smile a tolerant mask.

She didn’t waste time warming up with a minor hit. The big band’s flourishes signaled the start of her signature ballad, “I Will Always Love You.”

Everyone -- the entertainment business moguls schmoozing their way through this Grammy weekend; the stars for whom this annual fete is a way of renewing their membership in the glamour club, including Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia and Jamie Foxx; and even the servers still filling wine and water glasses -- stopped to listen. But Houston did not milk the moment. She simply sang, strongly but without melodrama. And before the high notes could challenge her, she moved on, switching to her 1983 hit “I Believe in You and Me,” the scariest part of the night behind her.

The rumor that the singer would appear at Davis’ party had solidified during rehearsals for the event, when Davis himself confirmed it to MTV. It was the latest scene in the story of pop’s most famous Henry Higgins and his wayward protégée, a woman who’s struggled with drugs and a disastrous marriage to the singer Bobby Brown, but who is finally back and ready to fight for her spot at center stage.

Houston’s short set, which also included her hip-hop-flavored “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay” and “I’m Every Woman,” a cover song that’s been part of her repertoire forever, enraptured the crowd. Hudson and Fantasia hugged the stage, waving their arms in testifying fashion. Foxx caught the whole thing on his camcorder.

Was Houston’s appearance worthy of the crowd’s joyous reception? On one crucial level, yes, though the voice that once seemed able to topple mountains had grown more subdued, and the high notes just weren’t there.

Houston, who had grown disturbingly thin in recent years, looked healthy. Most of her recent performances have happened outside the U.S., and the press reports haven't always been kind. Last night, she hit her cues and delivered the songs with confidence. This felt like the beginning of something, not its climax: a tentative though friendly rapprochement with the diva role Houston once defined.

Now in her 40s, she may simply never regain the astonishing range and power of her youth. Onstage, she seemed to be working on ways  to sing distinctively though those natural gifts have slightly dimmed. The performance was enough to inspire hope that her next step won’t be disastrous.

Comebacks formed a defining arc within the long show.

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Kelly Clarkson's 'My Life' makes history

Clarkson_500

Never underestimate the power of "Idol." Or, more accurately, rarely underestimate the power of an "Idol" -- the show hasn't been a bounty of success on all of those who have touched its multi-platform powers.

But former "Idol" star Kelly Clarkson has made a powerful return to the charts. Billboard reports that her "My Life Would Suck Without You" will make history Thursday, bolting from No. 97 on the U.S. singles chart to the pole position. The song, according to the story, sold 280,000 digital downloads in its first week of release. Billboard reports that "My Life Would Suck Without You" is her seventh top-10 hit since 2005.

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

Kellyclarksonmylifecover500

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."

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