Kelly Clarkson's new album has been playing constantly, both in my car cd player and on my iTunes, since its release on June 26, 2007. My neighbors from across the hallway are tired of hearing it on repeat while we hangout. I am officially obsessed with the album. Yep, I love it.
Ever since Stevie Nick's late nineties rendition of "Silver Springs" changed my life, obsessing about music has been a big part of my personality. This particular obsession is peculiar because it is based on the negative press the album received before it was released. As strange as it may seem, I knew I loved "My December" before it ever hit the shelves or, more aptly these days, the iTunes screen.
One week before the album was due to be released, I fell into my annual summer depression. The summer depression seems to be a ritual for students, probably graduate student in particular. As my mother would say, "Normal people don't think of their lives in terms of the school year." Sadly as a graduate student the academic calendar takes precedence over the Gregorian Calendar. Thus leaving this massive hole of unstructured time when work should be happening but no external direction to make it happen is in place. Instead of working on the incorporation papers for the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance Education Fund or the multicultural education publication that I have in-progress, I have been spending this unstructured time and its accompanying depression by becoming obsessed with Kelly Clarkson.
I didn't watch the original American Idol that she eventually won. I didn't fall in love with her first album, even though I bought it. Like everyone else, I loved "Since You Been Gone" so I bought the second album. However, it didn't have a profound impact on my life. Don't get me wrong, it was good as evidenced by its long stay at the top of the Pop Billboard Charts. Tony, a good friend and past Bilerico contributor, took me to see her in concert at Purdue. I enjoyed the concert and the company but still didn't love her post-concert like I do today.
A post over on G-Spot Magazine about Clarkson canceling her tour led me to click on a link that led to another link that led to another. Eventually, I was addicted to checking Google news for updates about her new cd, her tour and the very public drama surrounding her career. In a very short period of time Clarkson had a public fight with Clive Davis, fired her management, saw "Never Again" be not as successful as the hits from her previous album, was criticized by the media for her fluctuating waist line and had to cancel her summer tour due to low pre-sale numbers. Kelly, much like myself, was clearly having a hard time.
"Never Again" her first single from the new album is a drastic change from her first single, "A Moment Like This." Reviewers have compared it to "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette, both lyrically and in regards to its passionate delivery. By opening the first song of the album as well as the first single with the lyrics,
"I hope that the ring that you gave to her turns her finger green. I hope when you're in bed with her you think of me. I would never wish bad things but I don't wish you well. Could you tell by the flames that burned your words? I never read your letter 'cause I knew what you'd say."
Clarkson makes it clear to her listeners that she is recovering from a bad breakup, not just singing about one. Although the single did fairly well on the charts people are citing it as a failure because its success hasn't matched the success of her hits from "Breakaway." For the life of me, I don't think Clarkson cares.
Well this review has gotten long and I realize that you (my readers) are probably not as obsessed with Clarkson as I am and may have lost interest a little while ago. I feel compelled to leave you with the observation that when successful male artists are daring and innovative in their artistry we applaud them. Clarkson stood her ground by creating the album that she needed to release for herself. And in its first week it ranked second on the Billboard pop charts. This is the highest release showing of her career so far. A pop musician who insists on writing and singing about her life and the emotions that she is experiencing while living it is rare. Let's applaud her and ask for more.
Most listeners are probably not like me and will be scared off by the bad press instead of being attracted to it. Don't let the roar of the fight with Clive Davis and the other negative publicity affect your willingness or ability to hear the album. Clarkson had something to say and I think she says it pretty well on "My December". Then again, what do I know? I am in the middle of my summer depression.