For those of you who don’t know, when I covered Piece By Piece by Kelly Clarkson in 2015 I was, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. It wasn’t that it was precisely bad, but it certainly was forgettable and sloppily produced and often poorly written to boot, the sort of record that really didn’t add anything new or interesting to the pop culture conversation. It really only was redeemed by the fact that Clarkson remains a great singer to this day, but it’s not like the production or compositions flattered her as much as they could, and the second you compare this to what she was doing in the mid-2000s… well, one of the phrases I used was ‘sell-out’, but in truth any sort of greater unique artistic ideal went out the window after My December underperformed ten years ago.
And you know, I got a lot of crap for those statements. I stand by them, but I also think something was missed: namely, when Kelly Clarkson gets good material she’s a tremendous pop singer. I put her in a similar category to Demi Lovato in that they’re both singers with huge voices that sound better in rock than R&B or soul or gospel, but if the pop song is great I’ll take it, as I did when her cover of ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ from The Hamilton Mixtape made my year-end list of the best songs of 2016! But I was genuinely worried about Meaning Of Life, not just because she had changed labels but also because if ‘Love So Soft’ was representative of the artistic pivot she was trying, it was not one that remotely flattered her voice! But my Patrons wanted me to review this, and while there were a few returning producers overall she looked like she had a new team – even despite having only four writing credits on a fourteen song album, but whatever. So how is Meaning Of Life?