Posted at 3:37 PM Jan 15, 2009By Sharon Steel
Max Martin and Dr. Luke have attempted to bring Kelly Clarkson back from her dead-inside failure! "My Life Would Suck Without You," the first single off Kelly's forthcoming album, All I Ever Wanted (March 17) has all the ingredients for being a lollipop-rock chart-topper. I like it okay. I'd love it, though, if there was some kind of a catharsis exploding out from underneath the histrionics.
See what I mean? My initial reaction to "My Life" was that it was a complete reprise to the Breakaway days, filled with existential longing and a sub-textual, fuck-this-shit medicine Kelly knew just how to sneak into the sugar choruses. Clearly, Miss Independent had her proverbial tail between her legs this time, rightly choosing to take a bit of a break from the micro-managing "I'm a songwriter, just me, me, me, no help, kthxbai go away Clive Davis," that tanked her last album, My December. The beat-svengalis stepped in to clean up the mess! But have they, really? Ann Powers, over at the L.A. Times' Pop and Hiss, writes:
And yeah, this is pretty much exactly what I'm feeling by listen three, four, five, twenty. When "My Life" climaxes, it's too compressed, and emotionally, it's all wrong. Even if the hooks -- or lack thereof -- on My December left something to be desired, we were given a glimpse of Kelly's future possibilities in its last track. "Irvine" made her sound as if she could swing to the other side of the charts toward alt-country songstress, and write the sort of quiet torch song that might make Jenny Lewis furrow her brows, and everyone else forget, for a moment, that we like Kelly best when her throat opens wide to the grit and darkness.
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."
Of course, it's too soon to tell whether the rest of All I Ever Wanted will photocopy the plunging, short-lived high of "My Life." But forget the fact that everyone is freaking over the kitschy cover art; just look at actual lyrics: "Being with you is so dysfunctional/ I really shouldn't miss you, but I can't let go." It doesn't make me want to sing along, it makes me want to turn it down, and feel slightly ashamed of myself. Perhaps her apology to her label is what forced her to dump her muse. Why else would someone who could bellow "I've been free for the first time" in "Since U Been Gone" like she truly meant it agree to go back to, like, Facebook-stalking her ex and wondering if she should settle, Lori Gottlieb-style?
If All I Ever Wanted was the next step in Kelly's growth not just as an artist, but as a girl who got her heart busted open, she wouldn't try to win back the one that she kissed-off so eloquently and with so much dunzo passion throughout the finest cuts on Breakaway. That's why, to answer Powers' question, we don't think Kelly is in this, at least not yet.