CD Review: Kelly Clarkson's My December

By Brendan Butler 2007-06-25 18:13:09
Kelly Clarkson is much too talented to make an awful record.

So when she veers off course, too far from the sidewalk and into uncharted territory in a 180-degree, schizoid turn, it’s forgivable and even encouraged--if only as a swift learning lesson in her blossoming career. My December is an album Miss Clarkson fought vehemently to make, both against the bloodthirsty record exec sharks and the sweet-toothed cravings of the bubble gum constituency.

The goal of this CD, her third, was for the star to venture out, to sing with her own band and to write the majority of the songs, which would all tie into a lover’s scorn type of theme. But note to Kelly: The depressoid act has been done before. And better.

In fact, many people have done it, several of whom are no longer with us or have learned to mellow out. It’s not that you have to do the same music and adhere to the same styles, but mix it up a bit, because My December plays like your reprisal of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, only without original flair. We all know you’re better than this material.

After listening to this new baby, it’s clear that it’s not the hit machine Breakaway was; its only radio-friendly melody is the microphone-melting “Never Again.” There’s no denying it’s a hot tune that would be better accompanied by tracks not trying to repeat its identical magic. “One Minute” and “Hole” fall flat on their face in that effort, to which her most hopeless lyrics appear: “I’m so far from where I need to be/I’ve given up on faith, on everything” and “There’s a hole inside of me/It’s so damn cold/It’s slowly killing me.” Come back into the light, Kelly!

“Sober” is next, a tranquil and haunting ballad about an imaginary addiction problem. Clarkson has said that her songwriting is not indicative of any real life tribulations, rather her attempt to tackle subjects she hasn’t written about or experienced before. That said, “Sober” does work as a dreary number that illuminates Clarkson’s luminous voice.

It should also be said that Clarkson does a better Evanescence impression than Evanescence itself, with “Judas” and “Haunted.” However, those are skip-over tracks in the truest sense of the term. (Amy Lee should be proud, if not enraged, at being shown up.)

One of the album’s highlights is the acoustic-driven “Can I Have A Kiss,” which would be best heard live in small coffee houses. The same is true for the (big surprise) melancholic “Irvine” and the hidden track following. It’s uncertain how those will come across in the bigger venues, or to her current fan base, for that matter.

With My December, Kelly Clarkson has proven she has the courage and the diversity to helm what is undoubtedly going to be a golden career. But whereas Breakaway was fresh and cheer inducing, this one comes off drab and one note. As mentioned earlier, she’s too talented and her voice is too hot to make a bad record, though she’s revealed in this round to not have the Midas touch.

Perhaps that is, after all, a good thing. Missteps are to be expected from musicians, so let’s chalk this one up to a learning curve and, for God’s sake, somebody please give this girl back her meds.


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