‘Piece by Piece’
Kelly Clarkson’s seventh studio album, “Piece by Piece,” was released Tuesday. It should be her most developed work yet. Instead, it seems like Clarkson is devolving.
Thirteen years ago, Clarkson won “American Idol.” One of her first singles was “A Moment Like This,” a song with more lyrical depth than the entirety of “Piece by Piece.”
I think we all root for singers such as Clarkson, and why wouldn’t we? She is a wholesome artist who has delivered countless pop hits and upheld her all-American image. And maybe that’s the problem with “Piece by Piece.” It’s too safe.
The album is a marathon of cookie-cutter tracks with surface-level lyrics and bubblegum instrumentals. For a 32-year-old woman who seems happily married with a beautiful new daughter, Clarkson sure does like to talk about immature heartbreak a lot on the album.
“Heartbeat Song,” the first single of “Piece by Piece,” too quickly blends in with songs by Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, stars who are half Clarkson’s age and should not be comparable in terms of musical sophistication.
I feel disconnected from the stories being told through Clarkson’s lyrics on this album, and I think part of that stems from Clarkson’s own disconnection from the lyrics.
A majority of the tracks on the albums have a depressing, heartbroken lyrical theme. But in real life, Clarkson seems to have a happy marriage and family life. You can’t expect listeners to connect fully with these songs when the person singing them isn’t in that emotional place.
The shining moment on Clarkson’s album is the title track “Piece by Piece,” which appears to be a message to her father about how her husband has healed the emotional wounds her father left during her childhood. If listeners could hear more of this type of deep storytelling in other songs on the album, it would have much greater success.
Even the track “Run Run Run” featuring John Legend, who seems to turn every track to gold, falls flat in terms of lyrical substance and versatility. There are only so many times you can say the words “run run run” before listeners run, run, run to press the Next button.
In the final song on the deluxe version of the album, titled “Second Wind,” Clarkson sings, “Just when you think I’m at the end, any second I’mma catch my second wind,” but there is no point during this song when she actually makes me want to listen to the album again.
If Clarkson competed with this kind of repetitive baseline work 13 years ago, I’m not so sure the outcome would have been the same.