Kelly Clarkson’s ALL I EVER WANTED: My First Listen

Since the day I first heard her sing back in 2002 on American Idol, I have been in love with the voice of Kelly Clarkson. The girl has pipes. And, more than that, she knows how to use them. Equal parts rock chick and pop princess, she delivers infectious hooks on nearly every track she puts out.

But, like any pop star, her albums never stand together quite as well as her singles stand alone. The second album, Breakaway, came close to pop perfection, but 2007’s My December was a step backward.

And so, I’ve been greatly anticipating the release of Kelly’s latest album, All I Ever Wanted. I’ve been dying to know if she would finally put the total package together. The first single, “My Life Would Suck Without You”, recalled the awesomeness of “Since U Been Gone,” so there was reason to hope. But how does it stand up? I listened to the whole thing via MTV.com’s The Leak, and here are my thoughts.

“My Life Would Suck Without You”
Great first song/single. Strikes a perfect chord between poppy 1st album and rocking 2nd album. Accessible, silly, and fun.

“I Do Not Hook Up”
Gives me great hope. Like the one-two punch of tracks 2 and 3 on 2nd album, this track, in combination with the previous one, continues the sort of upbeat-yet-angry theme. Makes me feel like the album is really going to cook.

“Cry”
No, no, no, Kelly. This is a paint-by-numbers ballad. It suits your voice, but it’s not your thing. And the worst thing is, given its placement near the front of the album, this is probably the second or third single, so we’re all going to have to hear it a lot.

“Don’t Let Me Stop You”
Jaded lover song with a catchy hook. Guaranteed to have disrespected girls singing along at the top of their lungs. Could make a great video.

“All I Ever Wanted”
Kind of a weird transition between verse and chorus, but catchy in its own way. Definitely a filler track, but a pretty good one.

“Already Gone”
Kelly does serviceable ballads, but has a hard time making them memorable. This is another example.

“If I Can’t Have You”
Starts with a great synth riff that only gets better throughout the intro. Kinda obsessive/stalker lyrics—“If I can’t have you, I don’t want anyone”—are creepy, yet fun. The song feels like something that’s going to be remixed and played at clubs (even though the existing version is already danceable).

“Save You”
Interesting instrumentation makes this ballad stand out a bit, but the weird piano bridge takes away from it.

“Whyyawannabringmedown”
I’m not sure what Kelly’s trying to do here. Is she trying to be tough? It almost works, but doesn’t. Then it kinda does.

“Long Shot”
My favorite song at like ten seconds in. It’ll probably be used over some sports montage during the final event of a season, or the final, recap scenes of some MTV reality competition show. But I like it anyway.

“Impossible”
Use of piano as the main verse hook, then bringing synths and guitars in on the chorus = Chris love. Together with “Long Shot”, this one gives second half of the album some weight. Good track.

“Ready”
Good up-tempo pop filler.

“I Want You”
Less good pop filler Still fun, but…

“If No One Will Listen”
Don’t close with a slow, sad song… unless your Nine Inch Nails. It leaves the listener feeling sad, and not wanting to return (again, unless your NIN).

Overall Grade: B