Kelly Clarkson: Stronger

RCA Records/Courtesy
Two years since Kelly Clarkson last released new music, fans were thinking that the idol queen was beginning to fade into the dark abyss of pop star has-beens. But here she is, back with her fifth studio album, Stronger, a collection of 14 (18 on the deluxe version) stale, stuck-in-your-head tracks. Although a few numbers will inevitably find their way up the charts and onto pop radio playlists, her fans may have been onto something.With just a few exceptions, the music disappears into Clarkson’s existing repertoire. She uses the same catchy hooks and unimaginative lyrics replete with cheap rhymes and girl-power cliches. “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” rings eerily similar to the feel-good single “Since You Been Gone” and the belted-out ballad “Because of You” has been reincarnated into “Dark Side” and “Standing in Front of You.”

The electro-rock influences on the album, most obvious in “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger),” “Let Me Down” and “Einstein,” provide a refreshing departure from the generic pop accompaniments. Even with these brief twists, though, she fails to push very far beyond her earlier work.

Despite the album’s lack of originality, Clarkson still celebrates what made her a household name nearly ten years ago: her voice. The vocals on these new tracks are virtually untouched, highlighting its deep, soulful resonance. There is no denying that this girl can sing.

It’s not that her album is bad: Clarkson brings powerful vocals into catchy music. Although this was successful for her in the past, it’s just nothing new in the rapidly-changing landscape of popular music. Now, the persona and/or sound of an artist require some edgy, unique, provocative twist, which Clarkson fails to deliver on Stronger and is very possibly incapable of delivering in the future. Unless Clarkson can reinvent herself through some radical transformation, she will soon disappear into pop music obscurity. Girl-next-door pop is dying, and Kelly is being dragged down along with it.