Kelly Clarkson shares the meaning of life with her 8th full-length album and we are listening. The Nashville-based star has traded her electric rock-pop sound for a more confident soul-pop/ R&B demeanor. She channels a number of inspirational artists including Beyoncé, Adele, and Maria Carey. While, managing to pay her dues to her classic jazz idol Aretha Franklin.
Clarkson successfully completed her RCA contract this year, but instead of resigning, she jumped ship and partnered with Atlantic Records. However, she didn’t just change labels, she changed her sound. Her first release with Atlantic Records Meaning of Life, is an expression of her artistic credibility. It displays her freedom as an artist, her liberation as a women and her confidence as both.
The Texas – born artist’s first single “Love So Soft” ignites the spark of curiosity ( is this really Kelly Clarkson?) Well ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed her. The song gives us all the Aretha Franklin R-E-S-P-E-C-T feels. It also perfectly highlights her new direction or at least her return to soul-pop. Please tell us you haven’t forgotten about her 2003 debut album Thankful?
The multi Grammy- winning singer cranks the temperature up with “Heat,” while she reveals the secret to living a happy life in “Meaning of Life.” The second single “Move You” does just that, her vocals give us chills. We make a pit stop to the 90’s with the Mariah Carey inspired “Emotions” tune “Medicine.” Clarkson turns on the sass in “Whole Lotta Women” which features the legendary Earth, Wind & Fire. The confident tune has a Beyoncé Lemonade vibe. “I’m a strong, bad-ass chick with classic confidence, yeah.” Who would challenge this statement? Perhaps, the body shamers’? Nah, she’s certainly put them in their place with this song.
We rewind to 2004 when her sophomore release Breakaway produced the hit single “Since U Been Gone.” “Didn’t I” is a similar tune, but it is a more mature version of the catchy post-breakup anthem. “Didn’t I give you everything?/ I gave you everything, baby (baby, baby)/ Didn’t I?/ Didn’t I give you everything?/ You got the best of / me, baby (baby, baby)/ Didn’t I/ Hear you cryin’ on my shoulder?/ Beggin’ hold me ’til it’s over?/ When you’re lonely, just remember/ I gave you everything/ D-d-didn’t I?”
She channels Adele in “Would You Call That Love,” a powerful pop track that touches upon heartbreak and the aftermath. “We can’t go back, we can’t undo what’s done/ A place to rest your head, I hope you find one/ I forgive as you forget too much/ When you look back on us, would you call that love?”
Co-written by Clarkson and Greg Kurstin “I Don’t Think About You” is a beautiful emotionally charged balled. “I feel freedom where I stand now/ And I feel proud of who I am now /Yeah, I learned a lot along the way/ I love the woman that I became.” She has us swaying with “Slow Dance” and “Don’t You Pretend.” Clarkson doesn’t dominate the songs, instead she takes a step back and allows the background band to carry the tune like a classic jazz artist. We love the classiness of “Go High,” which has the potential to possibly become the next hit single.
Kelly Clarkson has come a long way from her American Idol days, but she proves that it’s imperative to go back to your roots. Meaning Of Life draws on her influences, while managing to keep her sound contemporary. It has taken her 15 years, but she has done it, she has finally found her voice. It is clear that Meaning Of Life is the album that Clarkson has always wanted to release and the artist that she strived to become.
4.5 out of 5 stars