Kelly Clarkson – My December

December 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Posted in Kelly Clarkson | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

  1. Never Again
  2. One Minute
  3. Hole
  4. Sober
  5. Don’t Waste Your Time
  6. Judas
  7. Haunted
  8. Be Still
  9. Maybe
  10. How I Feel
  11. Yeah
  12. Can I Have A Kiss
  13. Irvine
  14. Dirty Little Secret
  15. Not Today
  16. Fading

After the success of Breakaway and while on tour, Kelly Clarkson fell into what she has said to be the lowest point in her life. As a result, she began to write new material for her third album, My December, which she said was therapeutic for her. She penned all the songs, making this her most personal and involved album. She started getting personal on her sophomore record but not to this extent. The album is a reflection of all the lows that she experienced so it’s extremely dark. The angst, anger, bitterness and rock sound that laced Breakaway are amplified. She sought out to prove her artistry and take control of her music even if it meant losing sales. Sadly, her record label wasn’t on the same page. Rumours surfaced claiming that the label wanted to make significant alterations or delete the entire project and she later confirmed they were true. They believed the album was too dark and negative which would prevent it from reaching the success of her previous album. Despite all the negativity surrounding the album, she stuck to her beliefs and refused to make any changes

There’s no other song that could have opened the album like Never Again does. It takes all the sounds that Kelly was experimenting with on Breakaway and makes them harder, louder and darker. “I hope the ring you gave to her turns her finger green/I hope when you’re in bed with her, you think of me,” she sings coldly and this sets the tone for this vengeful rock anthem. The guitar riff that aids her is melodic and phenomenal. There are a few spurts from another guitar that creates a slight tension. It’s clever how the instrumental becomes more aggressive as her voice crescendos to angrier tones. When she increases her vocals strength in the pre-chorus, the percussion kicks in and adds a new layer to the track. The rock instruments explode in the chorus while Kelly displays just how cruel she can be, “does it hurt to know I’ll never be there?/bet it sucks, to see my face everywhere/it was you, who chose to end it like you did.” I love the angst atmosphere from her sophomore record but this takes it up a notch and it’s much edgier. In the bridge, things die down briefly for a short drum section but shortly after the guitars start breaking through as she belts “never again will I kiss you/never again will I want to/never again will I love you.” The vocals and melody are so full of energy and excitement, making this one of my all-time favourite Kelly songs. One Minute is introduced by spastic guitars and drums. It has the most interesting rock composition due to its hectic nature which actually ends up being extremely fun. It’s not dark like the previous song because there’s a light vibe to the melody but it’s still very much hard rock with depressing lyrics. Her high backing vocals are infectious and I love how they bounce around the melody. “One minute you laugh/the next minute you’re slowly sinking into something black/I get the feeling that lately nothing ever really lasts,” she exclaims as a rush of beats take over in the chorus. The energy is relentless and the constant grazing of the guitar just locks you in a barrage of infectious sounds. Kelly fills the bridge with her soft vocalizing before the final chorus takes over. This took a while to sink in but once it did I was hooked.

Hole is another hit and boasts the most intense rock performance on the album. At first, a gritty and somewhat typical guitar riff starts it off but then a drumline comes with a groovy guitar riff. The instrumental packs a huge punch and it’s so delicious. The verses have Kelly singing in a calm manner, “tired/of everything around me I smile/but I don’t feel a thing/no,” which contrast the busy beat but she starts to add the intensity to her voice during the pre-chorus and fully integrates it in the chorus. Everything sounds louder and stronger in the chorus as her pain-ridden vocals take over and blend with the amazing guitars, “there’s a hole/inside of me/it’s so cold/slowly killing me.” The bridge is my favourite part and she tones down the vocals at the start but once the main guitars come back she screams “something’s gone/I can feel it/it’s all wrong/I’m so sick of this.” This track is so infectious and there are so many great things about it. The aggression, the attitude and the power that comes pouring out of it is incredible. Sober is a gorgeous ballad, an album highlight for sure. Consisting of an acoustic-based guitar melody, it’s simplicity at its finest. Her vocal delivery is raw, full of emotion, and it’s one of her best songs to date, “and I don’t know/I could crash and burn but maybe/at the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me.” Her soft voice is wonderful. The pain lying beneath her words seeps out and brings a haunting air to the melody. It’s simple but so magical, especially in the chorus when it opens up and becomes just a bit more emotional, “three months and I’m still sober/picked all my weeds but kept the flowers/but I know it’s never really over.” The song hits its climax during the bridge in a big way and it’s breathtaking. Her voice heightens into a delicious high register as she cries “wake up” and it leads to a sequence of choruses that get a rockier arrangement. Her cry continues to echo in the background and her vocals get stronger with each chorus she performs. After this massive build-up, an electric guitar riff comes in mimicking the melody and Kelly finishes with her soft last words. It’s a beauty from start to end and it’s sad that it wasn’t well received because it was one of the best songs released that year.

Whoever said the album didn’t have any catchy hooks obviously didn’t listen to Don’t Waste Your Time, one of the poppiest songs on the album. Still carrying intense rock elements and mournful lyrics, it switches the angst atmosphere for a slightly bright and carefree one. I was surprised when I heard it because the label made such a big deal about the album lacking radio-friendly tracks but then this comes along providing a hook that’s just as catchy as anything on Breakaway. “Don’t waste your time trying to fix/what I want to erase/what I need to forget/don’t waste your time on me my friend/friend, what does that even mean,” she sings in the boisterous pop rock chorus. There’s more focus on the drums in the bridge and I really like that because it goes well with her strong vocals. This song is certainly infectious and the arrangement is so fun, a must-listen. The song that I was anticipating the most by title alone was Judas. It’s a title that is hardly used so I was ecstatic to see how it would turn out. As expected, it’s chock-full of biblical references and she immediately begins by singing “the only one who took you in/the only one who held your hand/defended you against the others,” backed up by a light drumline. It doesn’t take long for it to expand into a rock medley with stronger vocals. The chorus packs a massive punch as the guitars blast to her screaming vocals, “I didn’t know, I didn’t know/I couldn’t see, I couldn’t see/never thought you’d forget me.” The atmosphere is tense and infused with her anger. It’s energetic and so catchy. The belting at the end is an excellent addition and Kelly really gets her message across.

She shifts to the darkest moment on the album with Haunted, a song about the suicide of a friend. A screechy and horrific guitar riff starts it off but then clock-like guitar plucking and percussion takes over. Her singing is relaxed; however, the dreary tone that she employs reflects the dark atmosphere, “now you’re gone/and I’m still crying/shocked, broken/I’m dying inside.” Her backing vocals sneak in and lead to the chorus where she laments, “where are you?/I need you/don’t leave me here on my own.” Similarly to the other songs, the chorus features a heavy guitar riff and it’s not as engaging but I like how tormented she sounds. The second verse has a fuller arrangement and she’s livelier, getting angrier as it goes on. Kelly throws in a great belt during the bridge and the end overlaps the chorus under the post-chorus. For the finale, the screechy guitars return and she repeats “you were smiling” which is the most unsettling line in the whole song. It’s so creepy and you’re left with this horrible feeling. Kelly strips everything away once again for the second ballad, Be Still. It’s a touching ballad with beautiful lyrics, “foolish one with the smile/you don’t have to be brave/I’ll gladly climb your walls/if you’ll meet me halfway,” and a delectable melody. A relaxing acoustic arrangement flows throughout and guides you on a gorgeous listening experience. The instrumental never tries to be big. It stays as peaceful as possible and it’s a breath of fresh air from the angst songs that are thrown at you. Her voice is like silk. The sultry tones that she uses are jaw-dropping and she delivers a very controlled performance. There are no belts or powerful moments. It’s smooth to the end with the vocals, elegant guitar, piano and strings.

The ballads continue with Maybe and it’s also a stunner. The acoustics aren’t as airy as the last ballad and Kelly’s singing, while calm, is stronger. I love the lyrics, they’re about acceptance and admitting your faults, “I’m strong/but I break/I’m stubborn/and I make plenty of mistakes.” The song comes to life after the second chorus due to the drum beats and her delivery changes to an intense style. She puts so much passion and beauty into her vocals, “yeah I’m gonna try to give you every little part of me/every single detail you missed with your eyes.” There are occasional blasts of synths and everything eventually dies down to a piano which is the first time you hear one so clearly on the album. Her soulful voice takes over and the rest of the instruments come back but the acoustic guitar is changed to an electric one. There are so many changes to the vocals, instruments and structure. There’s a lot of detail put into it which elevates its beauty.  The second pop-infused song, How I Feel, comes in to wash away the emotional aftertaste of the ballads. This is the most addicting piece and its melody is fire. The guitar has a groovy bounce and she throws away the bitter tones for a fun and feminine vocal approach, “this fire is getting hot again/but I touch the flame ’cause I’m a curious cat.” The way her voice heightens throughout the verses makes them a delight. Her vocals in the chorus are killer and the way she screams out “oh” in a piercing high register is so awesome. I can’t get over how infectious she sounds, “I’m getting tired of believing/even sicker of pretending/that it’s not so bad, just wait it out.” It’s so refreshing to hear this tone and the fist-pumping guitar melody accompanying it is a blast of fun.

Yeah is so different compared to everything else so it really stands out. It’s unique to the album due to the fact that it displays a retro, almost jazz beat. It’s the shortest track and I wish it was a little longer because it’s great. Her vocals are powerful but there’s a flirty, aggressive and confident flavour to them that’s very sexy. The chorus is pure ear candy as she performs with shrilling vocals, “yeah/let me know, let me know.” Her vocals are just insane and the spurts of horns bring it to another level. This brings sex appeal like no other Kelly track and the bridge dives deeper into it as she whispers to a seductive percussion sequence. I wasn’t expecting this type of song so it’s a wonderful surprise and I adore the jazz influence. Once again, the album goes in a new direction and this time it’s for the adorable Can I Have A Kiss. It’s not a total shift in the instrumental department because it’s composed of an acoustic guitar but it’s a nice change of pace lyrically, “excuse me for this/I just want a kiss/I just want to know what it feels like to touch/something so pure.” The melody picks up in the pre-chorus and it’s the cutest moment on the album. The lyrics have a feel-good nature to them and they just put a smile on your face, “don’t move/it’s only a breath or two between our lips.” It becomes brighter in the chorus and features a fast-paced delivery. There are synths laced underneath and they’re not dominant but they add a nice flair to the instrumental. This is such a bubbly tune that has just the right amount of sugar. It’s a breath of life for the album as it’s the only uplifting song.

Irvine is a beautiful and haunting prayer that she wrote after her Irvine show. Kelly has stated that it was the lowest point of her life and this song is what came out of it. “Are you there?/are you watching me?/as I lie here on this floor/they say you feel what I do,” she coos, joined by a somber acoustic guitar. There isn’t much of a structure in terms of verses and choruses because each stanza is different. Her voice is masked behind by what sounds like a vintage microphone and it gives it a transcendent feel. There are a lot of emotions running through and it’s certainly the most creative song she’s ever done. The haunting instrumental is perfectly tuned to her melancholic vocals. It’s depressing because you feel her helplessness, “why is it so hard?/why can’t you just take me?/I don’t have much to go /before I fade completely,” and it ends up being a lullaby of sadness. Hidden on this track is the country-like Chivas. Again, it sounds like a vintage microphone was used during the recording but it sounds much more retro. The crackling brings out the old school sound even more and her soulful voice is a great companion to the instrumentation, “guess I fell too fast/guess I learned my lesson/so much for true love/I’ll take this chivas instead.” There’s no change to the melody whatsoever but it works just like it did in the previous song. This is another unique track and it’s definitely a nice bonus.

Dirty Little Secret is the first of the iTunes bonuses and I didn’t get a chance to hear any of them until years after the album came out. It doesn’t share the lyrical themes as the others but it does share the pop rock sound. The instrumental isn’t totally dark. It’s more on the gritty and dirty side. She displays her high register frequently in the chorus which is the highlight. The flirty vibe to her voice is delicious and catchy, “oh (don’t wait too long)/I see it now/I know your dirty little secret.” The gritty nature of the guitars brings something new to the album and it all comes together in a very sexy way. Not Today opens with an optimistic guitar and drum beat. It’s not the greatest and there’s something off about it but it’s a decent listen. The chorus is the best part because the guitars blast life  into it and she sings with much more passion, “is anybody this weird/will someone ever get my twisted thoughts/my ways/I guess not today.” It has a really great beat to it that makes it mildly infectious so that’s a plus. I like how the instrumentation starts to get faster right before the end and then settles right back into its main melody. Fading, the Japanese bonus, suffers from the same issue. These last two tracks seem to be lacking the polish that the rest of the album has and it makes them sound like demos. Regardless, there are some very catchy moments. In the verses, her fast-paced singing is great and the pre-chorus, when the guitar hardens, is a delight as her voice is filled with angst, “amongst these faceless others/underneath the surface/everything’s so backwards/it’s all a lie.” The chorus is as energetic and her vocals drift along to the barrage of beats. In the end, I don’t necessarily dislike it but compared to the other songs, it’s not as great.

Conclusion: My December blew me away completely. I loved her sophomore effort but this is so much more amazing. The dark themes that she started to get into are expanded into angrier, feistier and more emotional material. Her record label is clearly clueless if they couldn’t see the brilliance of this album. Everything is catchier, stronger, more beautiful and just overall better than anything on Breakaway. This is my favourite album from Kelly and I don’t know if she’ll ever top it. It’s her most personal and involved album which shows in every single song. This album has it all from rock anthems to dreamy ballads to infectious pop hits and to soul-infused retro songs. Her voice is at its finest and she’s never sounded better. My Decemeber is a masterpiece and like most it has gone unnoticed and unappreciated.

Recommended Tracks: Never Again, Sober, Judas, Hole, Maybe, Yeah, Don’t Waste Your Time, How I Feel and Irvine

Rating

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: