Kelly Clarkson’s 7th studio album has hit the web in all of its glory. Preceded by the egregious “Heartbeat Song”, does the follow up to her 2012 Grammy-winning Stronger meet expectations?
Heartbeat Song: Clarkson and her promotional team have both admitted that Heartbeat Song was birthed in order to re-introduce Clarkson to pop radio after Catch My Breath, but even then “Heartbeat” is a big disappointment. Solid verses, but the chorus and bridge are abysmal. This single had to be stuck on the album, but an opening position is deceitful as to what the rest of the album has to offer.
Invincible: A soaring power ballad, albeit, with bland lyrics. The album is quickly back on track.
Someone: A melody that sounds strikingly similar to this Kesha song. It’s an uneventful song, but it still feels worthy enough to be on the album. It’s somber enough to attract some fans
Take You High: A sea of synths propels Clarkson to her most legitimate EDM sound yet. Crescendoing drums in the pre-chorus lead to disconnected syllables flying high above synths and accented downbeats. Unfortunately, though, it feels slightly unfinished.
Piece By Piece: Piece By Piece definitely deserves to name Clarkson’s 7th studio album. Beautiful sentiment, harmonies, and phrasing along with a strong drum line create a powerful Because of You sibling. Clarkson takes stabs at her father while praising her husband’s love towards herself and her daughter. Clarkson sounds proud and restored and heartbroken all at once. It’s a fascinating track that commands the attention of the listener. One of the highlights of Clarkson’s songwriting career.
Run Run Run (feat. John Legend): A somber piano introduces a rather interesting opening line for Clarkson: “I wonder how your body tastes.” Well. That’s an unusual line from America’s sweetheart. Clarkson and Legend sound great together, with their airy and beautiful vibratos matching perfectly. They share the same ideas in terms of phrasing and delivery, which makes Run Run Run an even more beautiful song. The final chorus brings a stormy drum and guitar line into the mix, leading to a dark and stunning finale.
I Had a Dream: Clarkson sounds like a rebellious leader here: “I had a dream that we were born a generation to behold.” This deep in the album, it’s either standout or be filler, but Dream fits somewhere in the middle of those categories. It’s far different from any other sounds on the album, and it’s definitely good, but it’s not the magnum opus either.
Let Your Tears Fall: Clarkson sounds forgiving, an unusual sound for a woman who has taken a lot of pride in being “Miss Independent.” This Sia penned track sounds distinctly Clarkson, with an addictive Coldplay-Esque post-chorus.
Tightrope: A piano and string song brings a halt to the pace of the album. The theme begs for a beautiful music video with a tightrope and all, but Tightrope seems to fall off slowly and dramatically, especially compared to the rest of the album so far.
War Paint: A title like war paint just screams “standout track,” but War Paint is anything but that. It sounds unfinished, with gaps in the production creating a lackluster dance track. Props for the idea and theme, but other than that “Paint” brings no new colors to the album.
Dance With Me: The first truly successful dance-pop track of the album. Dance With Me could have easily found its way on to Taylor Swift’s 1989 with its pulsing synths and catchy couplet “When the music starts and the lights go down / We will all be found.” The calls of “Come on and dance with me” are cute enough to be used at high school proms across the globe. Potential single right here, but it will likely be overlooked.
Nostalgic: Funnily enough, Nostalgic brings in some genuine 80’s nostalgia. The melody at points sounds dangerously close to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but that fantastic chorus convinces you to overlook this flaw. “Nostalgic” will probably remain safe as an album track, but an album highlight regardless.
Good Goes the Bye: The lyrics are pretty cheesy with its lines like “drip goes the sink.” Good Goes the Bye simply lacks the muster to effectively close the standard edition of the album. This slow burner just screams filler.
Bad Reputation: The plucky synthesizers that litter the album are thrown out for this jazzy bonus track. Reputation sounds genuine, Clarkson finally makes a return to her sassy past, delivering some of the best vocals of the album with growls and signature upper belts.
In the Blue: Clarkson’s falsetto is front and center here, leaving In the Blue to be a dreamy and addictive synth track. This would have made a much better closer than Good Goes the Bye.
Second Wind: A chanting chorus sends off the deluxe edition of the album. This is a decent closer that fits Clarkson’s growing catalog of anthems but doesn’t blow any of them out of the water. A sure-fire sing-along for Clarkson fans, but a non-event for those just listening through.
Clarkson has long been accused of riding a generic pop-rock train throughout her career, but Piece by Piece shows her taking the first stop off. There’s a staggering lack of gritty electric guitars on her past records and a large number of wavy synths. From the sassy funk of “Bad Reputation,” the orchestral “Invincible” and the 80s dance-pop “Nostalgic,” Piece by Piece doesn’t sit still, it’s too busy bursting with curiosity and energy. At this point in her career though, Clarkson has seemed to master the art of reigning in this curiosity, learning where to let her ideas roam and where to hold them tight.
Piece by Piece isn’t flawless, but it shows tremendous artistic growth and understanding from an artist who has often been criticized for her high quantities of filler. “Piece by Piece” shows a more mature Clarkson, one who is learning how to control an incredibly diverse mind and pair it with her incredible voice.