Favorites: Invincible, Run, Run, Run, Tightrope, Nostalgic, Bad Reputation
Dislikes: Heartbeat Song, Someone
Overall: Powerful orchestral pop presents a euphoric, but still classic Clarkson
For whatever reason, despite being a proven songwriter and having new experiences to draw inspiration from (becoming a wife, mom & stepmother in a span of a year or 2), Kelly Clarkson's writing credits have drastically diminished with only 5/16 mentions on her new LP Piece by Piece. I don't know if that just happened or if it's the result record-label bull. I note this because it's the thing that really sticks in my claw about this album, but it's just on principle, as it still sufficiently captures Clarkson. There's this (80's pop & rock-inspired) musical euphoria that insists even over sullen lyrics; it's beautiful, sounds well-produced and I would unquestionably love it on another artist, but I begrudgingly like it with Clarkson because I prefer her emo and angsty. 1 reason she's a favorite of mine is because she creates songs that shake you. Songs like "Sober" (My December) & "Cry" (All I Ever Wanted) reach in with a death grip around the feelings you don't want anyone else to know about. "Tightrope" is easily the chosen track this go around, along with Tokio Hotel cover "Run, Run, Run" (Clarkson's live covers are usually epic & unique; she accepts fan suggestions on tour) featuring John Legend. "Run" and "Bad Reputation" are appetizers for the R&B/or soul album I so desperately want her to record. Velvet rust, her voice can't help but be sentient and bluesy. Between this and her love for the genre, I'm baffled that it hasn't happened yet. Anyhow, the intensity and disquiet I fancy is retained by the orchestral production. Commanding, marching and sometimes supplemented by choral backing, it's as if you're being hunted the entire time. It's power keeps any syrupy content and electro-pop in check, preventing Piece from being a big hunk of candy. It's especially great when coupled with lyrics of romantic unrest; I love the drama. Sia Furler, Shane McAnally, Cobra Starship's Ryland Blackinton, Sir Nolan (Nick Jonas "Jealous" co-writer) and others did such a good scribing job of giving the effect of Clarkson, that she seemed more connected to this material than she did on the preceding Stronger, where she had more contributions.
Is Piece by Piece heavier on Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" sweet-pop side? Yes. Could that make you wince if you're a bigger fan of her pop-rock or country side? Yes. However, this music demands your attention and has enough of our original American Idol in it that you can't say no.