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Friday, February 22nd
The Critics Corner: Albums
School Boy Humor
Kelly Clarkson- All I Ever Wanted

Former Idol's talents get cut down by label in predictable effort
SBH Name: "All I Ever Wanted"
Label: RCA
Release Date: March 10, 2008
My rating: 2.1 out of 5

Review written by: Alan Ho
It was fun while it lasted I guess. After winning a protracted battle with 'My December' at the expense of her marketability (well the way Clive Davis' RCA Records wanted to) and ticket sales, it seems that Clive Davis and his people have won round 2 and one now wonders if this is the moment where Kelly Clarkson packs her bags and leaves Clive Davis in the dust to do her own thing. Yes, she was bred on 'American Idol' but given how the Idol winners have been since then (David Cook remains to be seen), Clarkson remains the only winner to stay true to her roots and 'My December' really showed off the person Kelly really is as opposed to her previous two release.

On her fourth release 'All I Ever Wanted', the album title itself is quite ironic considering that when you are done with the album, you have to wonder if that really is true since it appears Kelly had to check her personality at the front of the RCA Records building. By this juncture, you probably would like to put me over a bed of hot coals, but I am one who believes that marketability should not come before artistic creativity and freedom and 'Wanted' seems to be a desperate attempt by RCA to squeeze the last bit of the hundreds of millions out of Clarkson before she inevitably bolts . But hey, the Hail Mary pass succeeded right? The first single, the grossly overrated and electronica-heavy 'My Life Would Suck Without You' is no. 1 in the US and the UK and has been downloaded nearly 300,000 times in one week. But you know what, that is at the expense of her artistic ability and creativity, which until David Cook fully emerges remains superior to every other winner churned out by the reality competition.

What has this "reemerging" success cost her? First off the album is replete with the no. 1 pop music formula, have someone else write the songs for you. The album reunites her with Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who co-wrote her first real smash hit, 'Since U Been Gone', wastes Ryan Tedder's prodigious writing talents by wrapping his and Kelly's creations with predictable pop-dance beats shrouded by electric guitars, stuck Katy Perry and 'Idol' judge Kara DioGuardi on Clarkson and to top it all off, stripped Kelly of the right to co-produce and hand it off to Howard Benson, the man responsible for commercializing Papa Roach and had his hand in Daughtry. So in other words, the album overall is very predictable, holds no surprises, has Kelly shouting from start to end for the most part and finally, seems overdone in general when it comes to the music part.

Because of the sheer predictability, I won't waste my time critiquing all the individual tracks but theres only a handful of tracks that even come close to the magic she spun on 'My December' and even 'Breakaway'. If you can get past the overdone beginning part of the album, you might see some light with 'Cry' and 'Already Gone', which she co-penned with Ryan Tedder and might be one of the better tracks on the 13-track album. ABSOLUTELY skip 'Whyyawannabringmedown'; that might be one of the most overblown tracks I have heard in a long time. Joan Jett ought to slap Clive for allowing this abomination passed off as a girl-power 80's hair metal song. If this is what Clive and his people think of that genre that Jett dominated for a while, shame on them. The rest of the album falls back into pure predictability, starting with the formulaic arena rock shout-out 'Long Shot', which probably would have never made 'Breakaway' if it was presented to them at the time, then going into more electronica-infused pop/rock with 'Impossible', 'I Want You' and finally ending with the painful 'The Day We Fell Apart'. In between all that stuff was the best track in the album and ironically, it wasn't written by her. 'If No One Will Listen' is the only track that allows Kelly show truly one side of her personality, the emotive, pensive and soft side that we saw in 'My December' in tracks like 'Sober'.

In the end, 'All I Ever Wanted' is exactly what it is, an overdone, overblown, and probably overrated pop album and I won't even add the "/rock" part to it. It proves that pop radio remains about who can sing louder than the others for the girls and for the guys, who can make the girls melt faster than ice on an 80 degree day in Chicago. The sheer predictability and the overdone production makes you in the end want to turn down the volume on your speakers or iPod since for the most part, it's...just....too....loud. And to make a remark about the album cover...if the artist finds something wrong with the cover (in her case, it is photoshopped like theres no tomorrow), that means something is terribly wrong and in Kelly's case, at least she kept a good sense of humor about it.

If you prefer something that is more about the artist than the people who created it, 'Wanted' is something you definitely should stay away from. But if you like accessible sounds and are a sucker for pre-fab stuff, then go ahead and buy it but don't expect to hear this stuff anymore coming from someone as talented an artist as Kelly Clarkson. Kelly deserves a lot better than this; the album has almost zero of her charm and magic. Seriously.

Cristina CarrazzaAlan Ho is the chief head at Musiqtone.com. You can contact her at alanho@musiqtone.com or fill out this feedback form below.
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