"All I Ever Wanted" By Kelly Clarkson

March 12, 2009
By the standard of her second album, Kelly Clarkson's third effort was a commercial disappointment: "My December" has sold only a fraction of the copies that "Breakaway" did.

The fraction happens to be about one-fifth, which sounds bad until you consider that "Breakaway" was a once-in-a-career effort, and that "My December" has still shifted 2.5 million units worldwide -- an unqualified success by any other standard, especially in an era where million-sellers are increasingly rare.

All I Ever Wanted By Kelly Clarkson
Even so, the shameful controversy surrounding Clarkson's decision to co-write all the songs on "My December" -- epitomized by label head Clive Davis offering Clarkson $10 million to swap five of her songs for five of his choosing -- has certainly colored the way she approached her fourth album, "All I Ever Wanted" (RCA).

It is in many ways a safer, if catchier outing, with chart-centric writing contributions from some of the hottest hired-gun songsmiths around, including Max Martin, Ryan Tedder and Kara DioGuardi. In fact, there are 11 different writing credits on these 14 songs, which results in the usual problem that accompanies such variety: there's no unified style.

Clarkson's powerful voice is the one constant, and she's a versatile singer who is equally adept at nuance and full-on bombast. She displays both here, but not enough of these songs play to her strengths. There's too much techno flavoring for a singer who's at her best on songs with a rock edge, like her 2004 smash hit "Since U Been Gone."

The pulsing beats and blaring synths of "If I Can't Have You" and lead single "My Life Would Suck Without You" are fine for less gifted singers who need the distraction, but they're overkill for Clarkson. She shines brightest here on the ballads.

All I Ever Wanted (Deluxe) By Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson sings with empathy over piano and cascading guitar on "Save You" and pours on the heartache with layered vocals on "Already Gone," piano and strings rolling mournfully over a steady, boxy drumbeat. There's a throwback '70s-pop feel to the bouncy organ on "Ready," and echoes of classic girl groups in the playful stutter-step rhythm of "I Want You," which Clarkson sings with demure allure.

They're standouts on an album that's about halfway there: The good songs are great, but the empty bluster on some of the others overshadows the spunky personality that made Clarkson a draw in the first place.

Listen to the playlist here:
  1. All I Ever Wanted
  2. All I Ever Wanted (Deluxe)
You can buy the album here:
  1. All I Ever Wanted
  2. All I Ever Wanted (Limited Edition CD/DVD)

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