Single Review: Kelly Clarkson – ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’

“It’s loud, it’s boisterous; it’s camper than a row of pink tents”

4 STARS

Digital Release: February 3, 2012

Physical Release: March 6, 2012

Kelly Clarkson and her music have always consigned themselves neatly somewhere between the full-throated rock-pop chic of P!nk and the stroppy teenaged-antics of Avril Lavigne, though never quite mastering the devilish wittiness of the former nor (thankfully) ever fully-assuming quite the same level of brattiness as the latter. She’s never got complacent about her position either, as shown by her latest album effort, the aptly-named ‘Stronger’, which saw her experiment with red-hot musical trends and spin them off with a wry smile, knowing that very rarely does she dabble with the flow of popularity and ever give the impression she’s breathless trying to keep up with competition.

Though for a while (that “while” being ‘Mr. Know It All’s promotional phase) it did seem like Clarkson and her “maturer” new album were going to end up something like Lavigne’s ill-fated ‘Goodbye Lullaby’ effort only, instead of apparently regressing in it’s lyrical and musical content, Clarkson appeared slightly bleached of both character and incentive. She looked destined to follow same path and fall down the same hole that swallowed up the careers of the high and mighty Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears with such a lackadaisical come-back. Her saving grace was probably the fact that ‘Mr. Know It All’ actually connected to it’s audience whereas Aguilera’s bondage fetish on ‘Not Myself Tonight’ and Spears’ mannequin seductiveness on ‘Hold It Against Me’ were dropped like hot potatoes.

‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ is the kind of song that doesn’t know shame. It’s loud, it’s boisterous; it’s camper than a row of pink tents and after a while it’s sugar-coated message of rising up against adversary will become cloying. Though Clarkson’s voice does well to tie the whole erratic thing down and keep it on the home straight. Shying away from the temptation to try out a thousand new production ideas whereupon it would begin to sound ridiculous, it’s nice to see someone whose able to stick to the prescribed recipe for a riotous pop song and pull it off without appearing incapable of straying too far from their niche.

Contrary to many popstars attempting to re-ignite their music careers by turning desperately to the Dr. Lukes, the RedOnes and the J. R. Rotems of American music and sitting satisfied with banal, ten-a-penny pop tunes, Clarkson roped in the help of understated producer Greg Kurstin for ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’, and whilst the basic premise of the song features a tired cliché at it’s heart, Clarkson’s powerhouse cries for empowerment and Kurstin’s tumultuous synth assembly more than compensate.

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