Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted

January 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Kelly Clarkson | Leave a comment
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  1. My Life Would Suck Without You
  2. I Do Not Hook Up
  3. Cry
  4. Don’t Let Me Stop You
  5. All I Ever Wanted
  6. Already Gone
  7. If I Can’t Have You
  8. Save You
  9. Whyyawannabringmedown
  10. Long Shot
  11. Impossible
  12. Ready
  13. I Want You
  14. If No One Will Listen
  15. Tip Of My Tongue
  16. The Day We Fell Apart
  17. Can We Go Back

Kelly Clarkson made a deal that after she released My December she would go back to a commercial sound for her fourth album. I had mixed feelings because I loved her third album and wanted her to continue in that direction. When I heard the lead single my hopes were shattered. I didn’t dislike it but it wasn’t the direction I wanted her to pursue. However, I decided to withhold my full judgment until I heard the album. When I did, my feelings were still conflicted. It was so commercial compared to anything she did before and it was so pop. I was upset by how it turned out and felt like it was a step back. Kelly went from penning all the tracks on her last album to penning only seven on this one. Furthermore, some of the songs were demos from other singers, like Katy Perry, so it was a bit disheartening to see her lose involvement. Eventually, I went back into it with a different mindset and ended up falling for it. What started to grow on me was that the album wasn’t angst and instead showed off a different side to her. After two moody albums, it’s great to see her changing it up.

My Life Would Suck Without You took a while to grow on me because I was hoping for something different but it’s extremely catchy and it’s refreshing to see such a bubbly love song from her. You notice the difference immediately as bright drums, guitars and synths barge in. Her voice is sparkling with a new life that’s rarely heard from her, “I know that I’ve got issues/but you’re pretty messed up too/either way I found out/I’m nothing without you.” It’s a cute, feel-good love anthem that’s a total 180 from her previous eras. A dance-pop flavour is intertwined with the rock beats in the chorus and her upbeat vocals wrap it all together in a beautiful way. It’s full of life and excitement. The synth arrangement brings the energy in a way that the rock elements alone couldn’t have. She rarely incorporates synths into her music so it’s a great twist to her usual pop rock sound. I Do Not Hook Up continues the fun and offers a great message for the youth of today, “oh no I do not hook up, up/I go slow/so if you want me/I don’t come cheap/keep your hand in my hand/and your heart on your sleeve.” Her vocals are on-point and they carry on the liveliness of the first song but she adds some sassiness to them. The blaring guitars are infectious and they’re even catchier during the chorus when they’re combined with a barrage of drums. The fun never ends due to the engaging instrumentation and her belts in the bridge are amazing. This has “hit” written all over it and it’s no surprise it ended up being a single. It has great vocals, energy and a much-needed message. Girl power dominates this track and it’s a success because of it.

The album takes a breather with Cry, a gorgeous power ballad. With sweeping strings and a strumming guitar, it’s your typical ballad but that’s never been a bad thing as long as it’s good and this is a great song. As it approaches the chorus, it gets a louder and grander rock arrangement before it finally explodes as she belts with breathtaking vocals, “is it over yet/can I open my eyes/is this as hard as it gets/is this what it feels like to really cry.” This is how you make a rock ballad and Kelly nails it vocally. The strings take on a new sound during the bridge. Their tempo is increased to give it just that little extra kick and her killer note at the end is flawless. Emotions run wild with the engrossing instrumental and her incredible vocals. Don’t Let Me Stop You packs a massive and hard rock melody that instantly grabs you and sucks you in. It settles down for the verses but it quickly picks up again in the pre-chorus, my favourite part of the song. Her melodic vocals take over and the flow is exquisite, “this is gonna sound kind of silly/but I couldn’t help but notice/the last time you kissed me/you kept both eyes open.” It’s so damn catchy and the hard beats reappear in the chorus to match her aggressive vocals. Kelly does not tone down her vocals one bit and they shine throughout, especially her ad-libs in the final chorus. She’s relentless as she tears down her so-called lover and the power circulating in this song is contagious.

All I Ever Wanted is groovy, intense, and straight-up amazing. A funky beat is brought on by the guitars and I love how addicting the “every day, every day, every minute” parts sound. At first, it gives of the appearance that it’s a simple mid-tempo but the second it enters the chorus it switches to a power anthem with Kelly belting out like no one else, “all I ever wanted/all I ever wanted/was a simple way to get over you.” The chorus is packed to the brim with emotion from both the instrumental and the vocals. The bridge is a total shift from the rest of the song because all the beats mellow out and some great backing vocals are thrown in. At first, it sounds slightly awkward but it’s grown on me and it acts as a strong transition into the powerful final chorus which is amazing thanks to all the different tones she uses for her ad-libs. This is a standout and should not be missed. The song that captured me instantly and is now one of my favourite songs is the phenomenal ballad Already Gone. This is, hands down, the biggest and most amazing ballad in her discography. It effortlessly blends a slew of emotions together. It’s tragic but not completely because it’s beautiful and there’s so much love in it. The emotions are conflicting and it really comes out in the lyrics, “it never would have worked out right, yeah/we were never meant for do or die/I didn’t want us to burn out/I didn’t come here to hurt you now I can’t stop.” A soaring piano and set of strings lead as an intense drum beat holds it all together. There’s a classical aspect to the instrumental that elevates it beyond a standard ballad. Her determined and vulnerable vocals lead you through a heartfelt story of friendship and love. “I want you to know/that it doesn’t matter/where we take this road/but someone’s gotta go/and I want you to know/you couldn’t have loved me better/but I want you to move on/so I’m already gone,” she cries in the chorus which is one of the saddest and most beautiful hooks I’ve ever heard. The bridge takes it to another level as the backing vocals create a euphoric state while she laments over them, “you can’t make it feel right/when you know that it’s wrong.” It’s an atmospheric and breathtaking moment that is simply stunning. This is pure gold and it will go down as one of her greatest songs.

If I Can’t Have You is unexpected coming from her because it’s a massive dance song. She’s never really ventured into dance music but she does it exceptionally well here. What I love about it is that it still contains her signature sound as the rock instruments are blended with infectious synths. The beat alone will get you moving but with her vocals you get more than a generic dance tune. She turns into a vixen as he sings with sexual, aggressive and wanting vocals, “hearts break too fast when they’re sentimental/won’t stay, won’t last when it’s love at first sight/so why are my convictions blinded by your spotlight?” The lyrics are clever and the rock elements make the synths more intense. This is a delicious hybrid and it only gets crazier when it erupts in the chorus. Kelly’s voice is vocoded slightly in the bridge as it slows down but a drumline comes stampeding through and makes it go back into dance mode. The song is ended by her frantically repeating the title until she finally sings “think of all the love that you will lose/if I can’t have you.” Kelly went outside of her comfort zone and she killed it. A sweet piano and guitar lead the way for the next ballad, Save You. Unlike the previous ones, it’s very bright and peaceful. Her vocals are strong and the harmonies during the pre-chorus are insane, “where were my senses?/I left them all behind/why did I turn away?” The backing vocals blend with her main vocals and it’s so beautiful. The chorus gets an unexpected aid from some synths that compliment the organic instruments. They sound very rich together and I love how it crescendos with an electric guitar as she sings “it’s gonna be alright.” The second chorus isn’t as empty because the percussion kicks in during it and follows into the second chorus. The piano and string breakdown and the flow of her vocals are lush. It’s a nice change to the melody and the song ends on a high as she throws in some amazing ad-libs.

Whyyawannabringmedown is short but it’s jam packed with a fury that has yet to be seen in Kelly. The guitars attack persistently with the pounding drums and the way she performs is so playful. She accentuates every syllable and it’s contagious, “this situation if it gets any deeper could be critical/I’m not your love monkey so be takin’ back all of the lies you sold.” In the chorus, everything becomes hyper as the instruments and vocals become fast-paced. Hearing her shout “so what’s your evil attitude?/when you got me spendin’ my time pleasing you/why must you keep me underground?/tell me tell me whyyawannabringmedown?” with such anger is a delight. After the bridge, a gritty guitar riff is utilized and makes the beat even harder. She kills yet another new sound and it’s easily the most playful track in her discography. The strings and haunting vocalizing in the introduction of Long Shot is misleading because in a few short seconds they’re replaced by a blazing guitar. The verses are incredibly strong and catchy, making them the highlight. They have a dramatic flair to them and the way she pauses every so often emphasizes this, “I felt it/the wire touched my neck/and then someone pulled it tighter/I never saw it coming.” Slowly, drums are added and it starts to fizzle out of the dramatic melody into a more fluid one. This is where the song loses its spark because it turns into a typical pop rock anthem. The chorus lacks the edge of the verses and it sounds a little too generic. The last chorus is the best of the three because her ad-libs and the layering of her vocals over each other make it sound richer.

Impossible is another favourite of mine. The first verse utilizes a decadent piano melody whereas the second verse is quite barren. There’s an a capella moment and she’s just supported by drums until the guitar joins. The two different sounds of the verses are equally great and they contain an inspiring message, “ain’t no need to dry my eyes I haven’t cried in quite some time/every day I fight it/you know it’s possible.” In contrast to the verses, the chorus has a busier instrumentation due to all the synths, rippling guitar riffs and deep bass beats. There’s a lot of power in it and its very addicting, “can’t rise above this place/won’t change your mind so I pray/breakin’ down the walls/do the impossible.” All the vocal harmonies and layers in the final chorus make for a strong conclusion. Ready begins with the cutest synth riff so far. A set of drums come in and the melody takes on a breezy summer feel and it even has a slight country twang to it. Her voice flutters in and dances around the vibrant beats, “I fly like stones in my heart/drowning in doubt, for what reason?/I sit so patiently/drenched in what you want me to be.” This song is adorable and its feel-good melody is addicting. As it goes on the beats get louder and quirkier, getting one final boost for the chorus. Her exciting shrills dominate the chorus and the repetitive lines stick to you like glue. The “ohs” are heavenly and I love the way she plays with her voice.

I Want You takes on a summer vibe too but it combines both a sexy and cute Kelly. It’s reminiscent of 70s/80s beach music with bubbly synths, drums and guitars.  Her cool voice occasionally works its way into sexy tones, “kiss me, like when I first saw you/you figured out I couldn’t be without you,” and the way she stutters “I want you” is adorable and infectious. The background “yeahs” sound like they’re straight out of the jazz era. A lot of changes occur in the instrumental and it goes between high and deep beats. It switches tempo at the end and settles down into a soothing percussion and guitar beat. The final ballad, If No One Will Listen, doesn’t disappoint and surprisingly enough it’s the first track she’s produced. For her first time, she does an extraordinary job because it doesn’t sound any less impressive than the other tracks. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful pieces. Thanks to the stripped-down melody, her vocals are allowed to breathe and take the stage, “maybe no one told you/there is strength in your tears/and so you fight to keep from pouring out.” Her vulnerable, breathless voice is stunning and she works her high register a lot throughout this ballad. The strings in the chorus bring an elegant atmosphere and a more depressing tone to the song. I wasn’t expecting it to pick up but in the second half the arrangement contains drums and the rest of the instruments don’t sound as tragic. The song brightens, most noticeably in the final chorus, and a sense of hope floods it, “if no one wants to look at you/for what you really are/I will be here still.” Her voice will definitely have ears locked on to this tune.

Tip Of My Tongue is one of her most memorable tunes and it finds her dabbing into R&B. A clapping drum beat and eerie synth riff paves the way for her tough, attitude-filled vocals, “never saw ‘I love you’ as a trend/‘cause I don’t really work like that/I mean what I say when it leaves my lips, oh.” The instrumental remains steady in the pre-chorus but she uses her high register to lure you in. In the chorus, the percussion is intensified, an electric guitar makes a sporadic mark, and her voice is much more dramatic, “‘cause goodbye’s on the tip of my tongue/tell me there’s a reason to stay/‘cause I’m about to get up and run.” Her backing vocals add to the atmosphere and her ad-libs in the post-chorus are so melodic. A dreamy atmosphere invades the bridge as a piano is thrown into the mix. It’s quite a shock to see the melody change so suddenly but it’s a nice surprise. I was ecstatic when I heard The Day We Fell Apart because it’s the only song that comes close to sounding like anything on My December. It’s hardcore, loud, in-your-face and she takes on a dark, seductive persona, “what happened to the man who used to take me/straight into misery?/I want you back and now I must admit it shames me/how could this be?” The bombardment of drums and angry guitar riffs is twisted and delicious. It’s the catchiest beat on the album and one of her best vocal performances. The chorus is intoxicating with her high energy vocals, “‘cause once I ran away/I loved you since the day/the day I broke your heart,” and the way she stutters “heart” and “apart” is amazing. In the post-chorus, she gets in some fantastic notes and it just blows me away every time I hear it. The energy never stops and it pumps you up like crazy. In the following choruses, backing vocals support her and they make it sound even better. Then the bridge comes in with a sinister grasp and Kelly’s voice is drowned underneath it. This is my favourite Kelly song ever and it’s the best on the album. Can We Go Back closes the album with a bang. The guitars are violent and carry a heavy sound while Kelly sings aggressively to it. The chorus elevates into heavy rock and she makes it all about her vocals, “can we go back to the way we used to be?/back to the butterflies/staring deep in your eyes?” The electric guitar in the bridge is sick and she still manages to leave me speechless with her voice. Her voice never falters and she throws out crazy belts. It’s fantastic that she ends the album in wild way and with the biggest rock song no less.

Conclusion: All I Ever Wanted may have struck a wrong note with me at first but after getting over my initial disappointment I ended up loving it. What it lacks compared to My December it makes up for it in other ways. It’s the most fun album she has and she sounds so happy. Of course, it has its fair share of depressing tunes but Kelly has never sounded so playful and wild. The album’s variety is another strong point and it doesn’t end up sounding all over the place. Everything is well placed and constructed. You’re never bored because she constantly switches it up and offers surprise after surprise. She plays with genres like dance and R&B, showing once again how versatile she is. It’s her fourth album but she’s still trying new things and constantly nails them. All I Ever Wanted is as pop as you can get but that’s not a bad thing when it sounds this good.

Recommended Tracks: The Day We Fell Apart, Already Gone, If I Can’t Have You, Tip Of My Tongue, All I Ever Wanted, Impossible, If No One Will Listen, Whyyawannabringmedown and Can We Go Back

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