Kelly? Kelly Clarkson? Is that you? For anyone who recalls her angsty, “I hate my (American Idol) life” emo-ish album My December, in which she catered to controversy with an oh-so-public battle with music legend Clive Davis (he thought it sucked/wouldn’t sell), we must ask: where did our aspiring Texan Alanis Morissette go? That was about two years ago. As for the Clarkson of late? Well, she’s licking lollipops and providing salary raises for photoshoppers.
Davis’ concerns were appropriate — despite Clarkson’s kick-ass pipes, My December just wasn’t that good, especially after she laughably compared her darker album to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska — easy there, girl. Even Rolling Stone couldn’t stomach the Idol getting all Amy Lee: “You just want to play ‘Since U Been Gone’ for her and cheer her up.”
Quips aside, Clarkson really believed in My December, albeit in an arrogant “I want it now” Veruca Salt sort of way. She described her controversial, personal “it’s an artist’s record” to ET in 2007: “No, it doesn’t say, ‘I’m happy, I’m with a boy and having so much fun.’ But it’s reality. I know it’s not going to do what Breakaway did, ’cause it’s not as mainstream. I get that. Some of the songs are not what 10-year-olds are probably going to listen to. But we all go through situations for certain reasons, and I think we should share that.”
And that seemed to be the problem-o: the American Idol audience want their cheery Southern belle to sing about boys and dreams coming true rather than errr, getting sober (“three months, and I’m still sober/picked the weeds but kept the flowers”). Her lyrics, while a little freshmen creative writing class, at least revealed a real person rather than a puppet. And that’s commendable. “This record is more intense, it’s more raw, it’s more emotional. But it’s not that different. It’s not Metallica,” Clarkson told ET in 2007. She’s right; it’s not like she completely abandoned her kiddie audience and got all the mamas in a tizzy by belly dancing on and donning a python around her neck a la Britney Spears.
If anything, Clarkson’s a good role model who can actually sing, looks like a real young woman, and sometimes writes songs about growing up and feeling sad. We get it: the music biz sucks and Clarkson probably should have taken more song writing classes before the release of My December (Note: Clarkson co-wrote massive hits “Because of You” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes”). But the apparent antidote, the prepackaged Kelly Clarkson of today, is boring and tooth achingly artificial — which makes that damn lollipop an appropriate choice. The message of her latest single, “My Life Would Suck Without You,” is a far cry from her My December girl power lead track, “Never Again.” In that one, Clarkson sang, “I hope the ring you gave her turns her finger green.” Now, in the recycled version of “Since U Been Gone” (note, both are Max Martin creations) she seems to be making a desperate plea to Clive Davis: “Please give me a number one? Please don’t send me to nowhere land with Avril Lavigne!”
Clarkson, who is 26, should not be singing this crap nor should she be photoshopped into some entirely different creature. Not that she minds. According to her blog, where she describes her new found love for Twilight (WTF?), it’s fine: “It’s very colorful and they have definitely photo-shopped the crap out of me but i don’t care haha! whoever she is, she looks great ha! i’ve had so much fun with this album i really hope y’all dig it woohooooooooooo!!!!” This doesn’t sound like the Clarkson a few years back who was desperate to be viewed as an “artist.” Before the release of My December, she told ET: “Even if it does tank — who cares? It’s one album! Out of a whole career of albums I’m going to have, you’re worried about one? I’m not worried about it! And I’m obviously not going to want to put out shit. I obviously don’t want to fail. I’m not an idiot.” Brainwashed would be the better word.
During that 2007 interview, ET was shocked by America’s first Idol. “Whoa. What happened to the original American Idol whose favorite catchphrases were ‘Score!’ ‘Sweet!’ and ‘Cool beans!’?” Well, at 26 years old and three albums later, she’s back. My December, we could forgive, but we might not be so kind when you’re covering Katy Perry. We’re rooting for you, Kelly. Be Miss Independent, and take your own advice — breakaway!