Stronger (Album Review) – Kelly Clarkson

I’ve been a Kelly Clarkson fan since her Breakaway days. It’s probably her success that introduced me to American Idol – and ultimately my favorite artist Carrie Underwood.

Stronger is Kelly Clarkson’s fifth studio album and the follow up to All I Ever Wanted, which she released in 2009. Two years later, she is on the music scene again: promos, singles on radios and the rest of the shenanigans. But things drastically changed since 2009. Radio is obviously not as receptive anymore even though –  granted – her debut single “Mr. Know It All” was drastically different than the pop jam “My Life Would Suck Without You,” which I prefer.

Does Stronger live up to the hype set up for it by Kelly’s fans, numerous leaks over the course of several months and Kelly herself who stated this is her “strongest” album yet? The answer is a succinct no.

Stronger starts with Mr. Know It All – a song about a guy who thought he knew everything there is to know about the girl but she’s telling him otherwise. As I said in my review of the song, it’s not necessarily a bad song. It’s not what I would have envisioned as a strong debut single and its performance on the charts and iTunes, compared to Kelly’s previous lead single, proves my point so far.

The second song on the album, and the announced second single, is “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)“, the most obvious pop smash on the album. The Nietzsche-“inspired” single has Kelly belting out the chorus at full force: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller, doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone!”

Stronger then delivers one of its better songs with “Dark Side,” a solemn song about a girl professing to the guy and asking him if he could love her even though she had a dark side: “Everybody’s got a dark side. Do you love me? Can you love mine?”

Honestly” is another of the album’s better songs – and one of its highlight ballads. You can feel the anguish on the song as Kelly sings: “Would you face me, make me listen to the truth even it breaks me? You can judge me, love me. If you’re hating me, do it honestly.” It’s a song about regret, about a love lost and you can feel the emotions on it. The transition from delicate to intense vocals on “Honestly” is captivating.

You Love Me” has a 80’s reminiscent beat going for it. It’s Kelly’s reply to a guy who thought she wasn’t good enough for him. “You didn’t let me down. You didn’t tear me apart. You just opened my eyes while breaking my heart. You didn’t do it for me; I’m not as dumb as you think, you just made me cry by claiming that you love me, you love me, you love me.”

Einstein” is a song with an interesting concept and catchy beat. But ultimately, it comes out as a little silly. It’s basically a giant mathematical equation where Kelly is telling the guy that she “may not be Einstein but I know dumb + dumb = you.”

Standing In Front of You” has an ethereal feel to it. It’s a ballad that is not as strong as “Honestly.” I found myself enjoying the melody and the tone of the verses much more than the chorus, which has a very subdued feel to it, making the song definitely skippable.

I Forgive You” is another uptempo. However, unlike the catchy “What Doesn’t Kill You,” I cannot wrap my head around this and it’s not catchy enough for it to stick without me wanting it to. The lyrics are a mess as well. “I forgive you, I forgive me. Now when do I start to feel again? Cause the lights are on but I’m never home. But I’ll be back with a brand new attitude, cause I forgive you.”

The album then proceeds with a “Hello,” a song where the lyrics are quite dark but the melody is a happy uptempo. It’s a song about loneliness – even among people. “Hello, is anybody listening?” Kelly asks. “It’s everyone that’s calling me. Won’t somebody show me that I’m not alone?

On “The War Is Over,” Kelly is facing the guy who doesn’t deserve him telling him that the war between them is over. It’s the perfect song to tell anyone they don’t deserve you. “All I have to say is you don’t deserve me. I’m finally walking away cause you’ll only hurt me,” she sings. “And I won’t let you pull me in because I know you’re gonna win. The war is over, the war is over…”

Let Me Down” is another highlight of the song for me. Sure, it’s a typical pop song. But it’s insanely catchy. It sticks halfway through your first listen of the chorus and stays there. “You’re only gonna let down. When it counts, you countdown,” Kelly fiercely sings. “You’re only gonna me turn me out. As I burn, you burn out. You’re only gonna make me feel so crazy but when I think we can be something, you go ahead and let me down.”

You Can’t Win” is about a girl who can’t win when it comes to men, about how everything she does comes back to bite her. It’s a clever little song with an interesting drum-based beat behind it. The cleverest line? “If you’re straight, why aren’t you married yet? If you’re gay, why aren’t you waving a flag?”

The last song on the album’s standard version is another ballad titled “Breaking Your Own Heart” and it has the crystal clear Kelly vocals with her head voice moments that I love. The problem with this song as an album closer is that it goes nowhere and doesn’t serve as a really strong closer. I prefer the verses to the chorus. “Too many tears, too many falls,” she sings, “it’s easier here behind these walls. But you don’t have to walk in the shadows when life is so hard. Breaking your own heart, taking it too far down the lonely road…”

The Deluxe version of the album has four extra songs, one of which being Kelly’s country duet with Jason Aldean: “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” the best song out of bunch – and not really hers. In fact, the closing song on the deluxe version, “The Sun Will Rise” should have replaced “Breaking Your Own Heart” as the closing song on the regular edition of the album.

It could be that I think Kelly’s talent is too great for her to make such an album but I’m definitely disappointed by “Stronger.” The lyrics are more often than not cliched and the melodies too familiar. It could be that after the Adele invasion of US pop radio, I thought someone with Kelly’s vocal chops would make an album of the level of epicness that is in 21 – one that represents her life as it is. But alas, Stronger falls to the same issue with almost every other pop artist today: making an album that is catchy enough while staying artistically relevant. In Kelly’s case, the album has its shining moments here and there. But on the overall, it falls short from expectations, especially after having such high expectations from an artist that I cannot but respect especially after giving the world songs like the epic “Already Gone,” “Because of You,” etc…

While the marketing strategy has not been all over the place as it was with her previous two albums: she is actively promoting it, going on TV shows, countering the leaks with song uploads to YouTube, etc… I hope this album does well on the charts for Kelly because I truly want to see her succeed. Hopefully for her next album, she’ll have enough room to maneuver around the tight boundaries set by her label and make an album that truly represents her artistically – one that isn’t coloring by numbers to get a radio hit here or a cool video concept there. I also have hope that Texan Kelly Clarkson would fuse more country music in her upcoming albums because that is a genre where she can truly shine, as was obvious on her duet with Jason Aldean.

Should you buy Stronger when it comes out on October 24th? It’s not a bad album per se, but if you’re a casual Kelly Clarkson fan more into her “Already Gone“s than her “Since You Been Gone“s, you will find little solace on “Stronger.” For many, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But when you see her cover songs like Carrie Underwood’s “I Know You Won’t” and make a great job at it, it’s tough to see such talent wasted on songs like many of the ones on “Stronger,” an album I’ve had for a few days now and don’t find myself interested in listening to in its entirety. Now many people will feel the same – and that is a bad thing.

Songs to download: What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger), Dark Side, Let Me Down, Honestly.

38 thoughts on “Stronger (Album Review) – Kelly Clarkson

  1. I’m sorry but there’s no way in hell this album isn’t a good album. Kelly is the best vocalist to come out of American Idol. Bar none!

    Like

    Reply
  2. I respect your opinion, but i respectfully and completely disagree. This album has a different vibe than her old ones, which is necessary in this business. I know you’ll post some comment after you read mine about how it’s a matter of opinion and how you disagree with me, but I feel like I should point out that just because this album isn’t what you expected from her doesn’t mean it’s a let-down or a bad album. It wasn’t what I expected either, but you can’t compare apples to oranges. You expected an apple and got an orange. Both are equally as delicious.

    And now cue the response where you say you disagree, because I totally didn’t already know that based off the review you wrote.

    Like

    Reply
    • Those comments were for the ridiculous comments before you. To me, the album is very subpar. A song like Einstein where the line Dumb plus Dumb equals you should not be present on an album. Many of the songs are forgettable (some have very weak hooks or choruses). Some will like this but many, many other people won’t. I’m not comparing apples and oranges. Expecting something and getting something else can be a pleasant surprise. In this case, it was not.

      Like

      Reply
  3. If the sunlight that is Ms. Clarkson is too brilliant for your eyes (and ears), who am I to force you out of the Cave if you’re not ready. The reality is that “Stronger” is one of the best sounding and cohesive albums to be released this year. I am overjoyed with the pared down production because it allows the vocals and expressive quality of one of the most gifted, natural singers of this author’s generation to shine. In an industry that focuses on spectacle (as if cirque du soleil is the standard for every performance) and audio manipulating under the pretense of adding sonic effect, when it is to obfuscate mediocre talent, Clarkson’s album and her live performances are a breath of fresh air and reminds us that music should be about the music. The album doesn’t have the smash hits of Breakaway, you say? That judgement is premature since it hasn’t been officially released at least in the U.S. As I recall, Breakaway was not highly touted when it first came out and took a good six months to build it’s steam-roller momentum that is now one for the music history books. In any case, whether a song is a hit is not is necessarily proof of superior quality. Unfortunately, for Ms. Clarkson, however, the New Yorker rightly describes the Pop genre as a “primarily recorded form (that) doesn’t reward the most gifted players”. So, as satisfying as I think the album is, I do concede that none of her albums has yet to do her prodigious talent justice.

    Like

    Reply
  4. I’ve read some rather negative reviews of “Stronger” elsewhere, and every time, fans post really mean-spirited comments about the author. Why do they take everything so personally?

    Anyway, thanks for your helpful review, eliefares. You sound pretty objective to me. So the album’s subpar, huh? That’s a shame. I suspected this wouldn’t be her “best album ever.” 😦 Thanks also for pointing out your 4 favorite songs on the album. I love “Let Me Down.” I think “Stronger” is good as well but a bit unoriginal. I’ll check out the other 2 songs you mentioned too.

    Like

    Reply
    • Oh, wanted to mention one more thing. It seems like Kelly always comes up with at least one great song on every album: “Miss Independent,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” “Hole,” “Already Gone,” and several others. If “Let Me Down” is as good as it gets on this album, I can at least live with that.

      Like

      Reply
    • Thank you for your comment 🙂
      Technically, whenever an artist is releasing a new album, they deem it their best album ever – to increase hype. For fans, this creates a standard that they know the album will meet, regardless if whether the album is actually at that standard or not.
      To me, her previous albums had more standout track. This one has its good tracks but on the overall it’s quite bland. I mean it has ballads but none come close to the gut-wrenching “Cry” or “Already Gone” or even “Save You.”
      Its groovy songs if you want are not as good as say long shot and its awesome “my heartbeat beats me senselessly” hook.

      “Let Me Down” is one of the better songs because it is such a jam. She brings so much energy to it that you can’t but like it.

      Like

      Reply
      • Oh, you’re right–artists say it’s their best album ever for good promo. Never really thought about that. 🙂 I mean, could you imagine her calling the album “Weaker”? LOL.

        Like

        Reply
        • Precisely :p every artist calls their new album: their best album. And then the next one would be just that :p It gets the fans way overexcited. The casual listener? Not so much.

          Like

          Reply
  5. I heard the songs on Stronger, and I don’t think it’s a bad album, I just think it is different than all her other ones (and that’s what I like about her, NOTHING is the same)
    Everyone has their own opinion and some people will think that this is not a good album, other people will think that this is amazing! and other people will say it’s ok, but I don’t like everything. I don’t like Let Me Down it sounds like a computer :\ only “You’re only gonna let down. When it counts, you countdown” sounds ‘normal” in the whole song 😦
    BUT I do think that the album is amazing! AND I think that it is ok, that everyone has their own opinion, everyone thinks different!

    Like

    Reply
      • on that point you’re right, let’s say My December was really different.. Now it’s more pop from these days.. That’s too bad because she did fight for My December but now all the songs are just…. And that’s what RCA records want.. Luckely are some of the lyrics still good..Long not all of them, But some of them has still messages into it!! (like: You don’t know a thing about me and What doesn’t kill you makes you taller and Why should I hate you? I breathe in and count to 10) Ofcorse it is not that deep anymore than My December.. and that’s what is not fun about All I Ever Wanted AND Stronger…

        Like

        Reply
        • My December was different. I also didn’t really like it 😛
          But yeah, the problem with labels such as RCA is that they don’t give much room for an artist to grow. And if that artist tries to do something (like Kelly in My December), they drop their support.

          Like

          Reply
  6. Clearly a very well-thought out review–I appreciate that you seemed to really pay attention to every track. I actually think your overall opinion of the album will grow on you–I was surprised reading the first half and second half of this review. They almost seem to come from two different people. While you’re not a huge fan of every track, your track-by-track review is really quite positive, yet your reflection of the album is less so. I think once this settles in with you, you’ll enjoy it more.

    Like

    Reply
    • Thank you 🙂
      It’s not two different views. They go hand in hand. The songs themselves are not terrible, just as I said the album isn’t. My view of most of the songs is that they’re just that – average, pointing out those that are so absurd I couldn’t listen to them without cringing :p
      But I’ve had this album for a few days now and I’ve listened to it many many times, especially leading up to writing this review to be as fair as possible. And it didn’t click. I find myself going back to listening to Lauren Alaina’s album more and more. That got a positive review from me if you’re interested.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Sorry but I disagree with you. You said this album is not different from other pop albums out there. That is wrong. This album is freaking amazing. It delivers so much emotion, amazing vocal, great instruments, good lyrics, raw talent and versatility. It has pop/ rock, dance songs, beautiful ballads, some souls, some country. It has some sad but also some fun songs. Every song can touch someone’s heart. She sang her heart out. Her voice, the tone, the range, the emotion in every song is exceptional. The album shows what Kelly is about, different sides of her. I’ve been playing the album on repeat non stop for 5 days and love it more and more. Can you name one album out there that can do such things?

    I love every song on Stronger, but my absolute favourites: What Doesn’t Kill You, The Sun Will Rise, Honestly, You Love Me, Dark Side, Hello, Breaking Your Own Heart, The War is Over, Why Don’t You Try, Alone. Oops did I just list the whole album Lol.

    Oh and if you don’t like My December or Since you been gone, you are never a true Kelly fan sorry.

    Like

    Reply
    • What does my preference regarding My December have to do with me being a fan or not? If I don’t like an album, then I don’t like an album. And regarding SUBG, it’s not my favorite Kelly song like many Kelly fans. I prefer Because of You and Behind These Hazel Eyes off the Breakaway album – by far.

      Regarding this album, lyrics? Really? Lots of the lyrics of the album are so corny I have no idea how she agreed to put them there. The ballads are weaker than the ones on her previous albums (yes, even the ones on My December were better). She delivers vocally but Kelly always delivers vocally. It’s what I expect her to do over and over again.

      Like

      Reply
  8. Well, I loved the album, and there are many songs like “Dark Side”, “The War is Over”, “You Love Me”, “Let Me Down”, “You can’t Win”, and the Best song (In my opinion), “Why Don’t You Try”, that I have found myself singing over and over. I think this album to me sounds like mixture of Breakaway, and My December and I happen to love it. I’ve been telling everyone about the album and so far not one person has had a negative thing to say about it. I actually think this album is going to do very well.

    Like

    Reply
  9. Oh, one more thing. Another album coming up soon probably worth reviewing is Kate Bush’s new one. Her single “Wild Man” is already out, and can be listened to on YouTube. I haven’t listened to it yet, because I don’t want to ruin the suspense :), but it’s getting pretty good feedback.

    Like

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Kelly Clarkson Endorses Ron Paul For US Presidency – Receives Twitter Backlash « A Separate State of Mind

  11. Pingback: Carrie Underwood Reveals New Single. And It’s Called… « A Separate State of Mind

  12. I think Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” album was one of the best Pop albums of 2011 with a perfect mixture of Country, Dance, Rock, and Soul to it. I bought the deluxe edition when it was released on October 24, 2011. The album did not only debuted at number 2 on “Billboard 200”, it had also been certified as Gold and it has now sold 568,000 copies over here in the United States of America as well. Kelly is one of my most favorite female Pop music artists and songwriters in the music industry, and I’m also one of her most biggest fans as well who really enjoys listening to her music. She as the most amazing singing voice that suits all types of genres.

    Like

    Reply
  13. I just wanted to say that I love Kelly Clarkson’s music with all my heart and I want to spend the rest of my life listening to it because her music has been the best thing that has ever happened to me ever since she was chosen to be the first winner on, “American” idol” during the summer of 2002. I would be lost forever if she ever decides to stop making music because making music is what she lives for. Kelly is one of my most favorite female Pop music artists and songwriters in the music industry, and I’m also on of her most biggest fans who was born and raised over here in the United States of America. I have the deluxe edition of her “Stronger” album and I’m pretty sure that the album will sell over 1 million copies over here in the United States of America and worldwide because she has a lot of fans all over the world who really enjoys listening to her music as much as I do. I also have all 4 of her previous albums as well. I don’t regret buying into her as a music artist or as a songwriter at all because not only that she has the most amazing singing voice that suits all types of genres and that she can make any kind of lyric feel and sound really important by putting a lot of emotions into them, also because she writes about her own personal life experiences. I will always guard and protect Kelly’s heart from all of those haters out there because I truly believe that it is my destiny to do so. I think that Kelly looks a lot more prettier than my wfe, Ashley and I wish that I was married to her instead because she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body like my wife does. If was married to Kelly I would make her the most happiest woman in the world by loving her with all my heart beause she deserves to have all of the love and happiness that life has to offer and her name would be, “Kelly Brianne Clarkson-Groves”. There isn’t a single thing that I dislike about her because she is a perfect the way she is, and she shouldn’t change for anybody except for herself. End of story.

    Like

    Reply
  14. Why did the writer feel the need to bring up his favorite Idol winner Carrie, Carrie does her thing and Kelly her’s thankfully the two women don’t feel the need to compete or compare there ____ sizes. I like both, but Kelly is my favorite, her down to earth attitude and seemingly same ole country girl she ever was impresses me the most. Something Carrie should take a lesson sure Carrie has the barbie looks but Kelly has the girl next door appeal and that for me is most important. Please next time you review any previous Idol winner STOP comparing them with other idol winner and base it on the music. Stronger is a hit!!

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply to KellyRocks Cancel 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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s