Damn, it’s good to have you back, girlfriend.


After an excruciating detour into a brand of angst-drenched filth that wouldn’t pass muster in a fourteen-year-old wallflower’s tear-stained journal, it pleases me no end to report that the divine Kelly Clarkson — the first and, Carrie notwithstanding, still the best American Idol — is back on top and better than ever with her spectacular fourth album, All I Ever Wanted. A blue million miles from the stem-to-stern maudlin misfire that was 2007’s My December, Wanted is a heady mix of fast fun and simmering slow burns which zips along at such a breakneck pace that you’ll scarcely have time to do anything but hit the repeat all button and dive in all over again.


Whereas December‘s prevailing tone was so angry and bitter that Clarkson — who did the lion’s share of that record’s songwriting — came off sounding like a sour old spinster, Wanted finds Miss Independent re-emerging in the arena she knows (and which suits her) best: good, strong sing-along pop. Getting some help from ace song doctors Glen Ballard, Max Martin and Kara DioGuardi (both of whom have previously shepherded Clarkson to spectacular successes) as well as the phenomenal Ryan Tedder, who wrote and produced five of this album’s sixteen tracks, including the deluxe edition’s sizzling stunner “Tip of My Tongue,” whose oddly funky texture is so astoundingly addictive that even stodgy ol’ A fell for it after much initial resistance. (The extraordinarily talented Tedder has taken a grossly unfair amount of heat from many of this album’s critics for the supposedly heavy-handed material that he contributed to this project, to which I can only respond thusly: 1. All five of his songs — particularly the aforementioned “Tongue” and the powerful “Save You” — are uniformly terrific; and 2. You can damn well bet that boy’s laughing all the way to the bank.)

Wanted also gets a surprise assist from white-hot Katy Perry, who, as a songwriter, proves herself to be as, ahem, hot and cold as the boys she sings about: who would have guessed that the very same gal who gave the world last year’s execrable piece of vile trash “I Kissed a Girl” would also be capable of a tune as dazzling and dynamite as “Long Shot”? Blown with full-throttle verve by a never-ever-better Clarkson, “Shot” towers above the rest as this album’s standout track. (Matter of fact, I’d have bet the bank on it being this record’s second single, an honor which instead went to another Perry offering — the middling “I Do Not Hook Up” — so expect a revolt at radio if Daddy Clive doesn’t make it single number three. And, incidentally, how ironic is it that my two least favorite songs on the album — leadoff smash “My Life Would Suck Without You” being the other — were the project’s first two singles? Is it all just a conspiracy to drive me crazy?)

As worried as I was that La Kelly had fallen into so deep an abyss of ridiculous tripe that she’d never be able to claw her way out, that’s how thrilled I am to discover that nothing could be farther from the truth. A bona-fide star in the sweetheart-next-door’s body, Wanted proves definitively that this girl is a major force to be reckoned with.

2 responses to “why’s everything gotta be so intense
(or: welcome back, kelly)”

  1. the buzz from Sherry Ann:

    I thought that My December had a few bright spots. I love the final track on the album Irvine, which I think sounds a lot like Beth Orton. Never Again encapsulates everything that I always wanted to say to the ex, but didn’t have the words. As for the first two singles from the new album, they are terrible. Who picks her singles? Why don’t they let you do it? I have put off buying it because I didn’t like the singles. If you say it is good, then I trust your judgement. (Most of the time!?!)

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    I’m not sure what to make of that Beth Orton comment, so I’m just gonna be charitable and leave it alone. However, having met and spent considerable time with your ex — time I’ll never get back — I can wholeheartedly understand how “Never Again” could engender that kind of emotional reaction within you, my darling.

    I quite dig your idea of letting me pick Kelly’s future singles — Clive, sir, I’m open for that job, and will provide a detailed resume and references upon request — and the good news is, they can throw out a minimum of six more hits off this album if they want to, starting with the incredible “Long Shot” and continuing through “Ready,” “Save You” and “Already Gone.”

    But, Beth Orton? Seriously?! As much as you love her, and as largely indifferent as you’ve been toward Kelly to here, I would never expect that kind of praise to fall from your lips. Ever!