Well by now, you should know the journey the third album from Kelly Clarkson has taken and if you haven't, better scour the internet. 'My December,' the junior effort from the former first 'Idol' was much maligned by her own label that Clive Davis offered her $10 million to take out a few tracks out and replace them with "radio-friendly" tracks of his choosing. Of course she rejected the offer. And here we have it, a diverse collection of 13 tracks (14 if you pre-order, which includes an exclusive track only for pre-orders) from someone who seems to know exactly where she wants to go musically. And a warning, this is not the Kelly Clarkson from American Idol anymore and if there were any traces of that in her second album, 'My December' shows no trace of the 'Idol' Clarkson.
'My December' starts with the definitely radio-friendly and very biting song 'Never Again,' a song about scorn and getting her revenge on a cheating man.
'One Minute' is a half-hearted attempt at catchy 80s-style dance-rock at best but the beat behind it is definitely catchy. 'Sober' is one of the best track on the album but is NOT the best overall. It's extremely poignant, touching, and definitely pierces the soul. The soft rollicking guitar roll punctuates Kelly's voice and the lyrics are amazing on the rather hynoptic track. She continues the soul piercing with another biting song 'Dont Waste Your Time,' which is quite self-explanatory; another shout-back to messy breakups and the guys that start them.
'Judas' is an extremely interesting song, which starts with a faux-story over how Judas betrayed Jesus Christ and paralleling that to a betrayal of a girl by what else? A cheating man. 'Haunted' is an attempt to master the goth-rock/pop of Evanescence's Amy Lee and while Clarkson has the lyrical sense down, the music itself was a bit underwhelming because the lyrics would have been better punctuated with a piano and a small string section, especially in the bridge of the song.
and 'Maybe' are one of the few softer tracks on the album although 'Maybe' is a bit more harder than the comparatively mellow 'Be Still.' But the guitar solo in the beginning of 'Maybe' gets you hooked before she sings a word, which is all about two people acting differently in a relationship, one being stubborn, the other trying too hard. And 'Be Still' is by far the lushest ballad Kelly has penned (or co-penned), markedly better than the powerful but painful 'Because of You' from 'Breakaway.' By the end of the song, definitely hands down the best track in the album and of her career, you should have some goosebumps on your arms. For those who think Kelly Clarkson can only be powerful when she shouts and screams, you are absolutely wrong. 'Be Still' proves she can be even be more powerful and poignant when she's soft.
'Yeah' is a somewhat fun and playful song but the screaming in the middle could be something done without; the song also has a little bit of funk and brass, perhaps foreshadowing something we may see next on the musical progression for her. 'Can I Have A Kiss' is the third-best-track on the album, where it talks about wanting a relationship and working on it, but in the end it get screwed up because the song subject is in fact the known screw-up. The album closes with the subtle biting song 'Irvine,' a song that probably will give music executives like Clive Davis a little pause. The song is quite resplendent with metaphors for how she feels her career has gone so far with lyrics like "Why can't you just take me?/I don't have much to go/Before I fade completely." The vocal delivery in 'Irvine' will shock you just a little bit.
Overall, 'My December' is definitely the best Kelly Clarkson has brought forward and by far one of the best albums of the year. However with the canceled tour, her fights with RCA, firing her management, it remains to be seen if the album will sell even higher than 'Breakaway.' But in the end, you must ignore all that.
'My December' should be considered another jumping-off point for Clarkson who at 25 has to be one of the brightest young female pop/rock talents right now in music today. There are a myriad of emotions and it fits into the rare musical motif, something very few solo acts can master before they reach 35 year of age. She sandwiches enough positive vibe in between the self-doubt, grrrl anger, and pain and peppers that positive in the right places, creating a darn good musical motif that makes you truly believe in her ability, notwithstanding what her people at RCA think. She also proves in the album that she can be extremely powerful when she isn't in loud shouting mode as evidenced in 'Be Still.' Finally the album shows what can happen when you assert control over direction, creation, commitment to the material at hand and delivery; a rare thing in the music business these days. Although Kelly Clarkson still has some ways to go with her current direction, 'My December' will leave you wanting to see what she does next for album no. 4, which most likely will either land her on another label, or on her own and once again proving doubters wrong like she did after releasing 'Breakaway.'
Name: My December
Label: 19 Recordings/RCA
Release Date: June 26, 2007
My rating: 4.8 out of 5 (highest rating of the year, ties the highest ever on Musiqtone)
Alan Ho is the chief head of Musiqtone. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org