Kelly returns to her throne

Denise Wright

The pop princess earns her tiara back with the sure-to-be successful ‘All I Ever Wanted’

How does “American Idol” royalty abdicate the pop throne? Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson managed to do so pretty easily with “My December.” The 2007 album barely managed to stumble to its current single-platinum status – an especially sad feat considering 2004’s “Breakaway” sold more than 13 million copies worldwide.

Real quick:


“All I Ever Wanted”

Released by Sony BMG

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★★☆

I can’t blame Kelly for ditching her tiara and trying to take on a darker, more rebellious sound with “My December.” I guess I’m just usually not one to scorn taking risks, and truth be told, “Never Again” is one of my favorite Kelly Clarkson songs. Apparently, the rest of the world didn’t agree.

Flash forward to 2009, and we have the incredibly catchy single “My Life Would Suck Without You” blaring on every other radio station. Does the current No. 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit mean our pop princess is back? The answer is not so simple. The introspective Clarkson we caught more than a glimpse of on “December” is still there. But don’t start throwing tomatoes just yet – this time around, Ms. Clarkson has some perspective to serve up, too. On the piano-driven rocker “Impossible,” she admits, “I will stumble and I’ll make my own mistakes, yeah/But I won’t worry ’bout it anymore.”

And Kelly certainly had her chances to make mistakes with this one, co-writing six of the album’s 14 tracks. But in this case, she really doesn’t have much reason to worry, as many of the songs on “All I Ever Wanted” follow in the footsteps of the album’s leading single/dance club anthem.

Of course, “Miss Independent” herself recorded a few of the feisty women anthems we’ve come to expect and love. “I Do Not Hook Up,” which was originally written and recorded by Katy Perry, is one of my favorites of the album. The lyrics are simple, but Kelly’s vocals are strong, and the instrumentals are catchy as hell. This is the one you’ll find yourself dancing along to in the car, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“Cry,” the third track and first ballad of the album, is nothing special but certainly nothing ear-cringing either. At this point, I’m left to wonder if the rest of the album will be as second-rate.

Then the next song starts – and “Don’t Let Me Stop You” blows me away. The song, which is by far my favorite from the album (and maybe even Kelly Clarkson entirely – gasp!), is going to be every girl’s theme song. Clarkson has a solid history with jilted-lover songs and this is yet another to add to the list.

“This is gonna sound kind of silly/But I couldn’t help but notice/The last time you kissed me/You kept both eyes opened/Baby can you tell me what does that mean?/If you’re looking over your shoulder/Then you don’t need to be with me/And I don’t need to hold on,” Kelly sings with enough emotion for an all-girl army. Clarkson is clearly giving attitude, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was listening to the newest Pink single.

Then I’m hit with another blow. And this time, it’s delivered by Mr. Mediocrity as I sit unenthusiastically through “All I Ever Wanted” and “Already Gone.”

“C’mon, Kelly. Pick it up,” I think to myself as I head for track seven, “If I Can’t Have You.” The tempo picks up again here, complete with a strong electronic pulse. This incredibly infectious song is very danceable. And it’s a very, very good thing.

With the exception of the “whoa!” power pop vocals and intense drums of “Whyyawannabringmedown,” the rest of the album closes on a ho-hum level, but I’m still not displeased. I can honestly say almost every song on the album could hold its own as a released single.

I don’t know what Kelly went through to pull herself back up, but it’s safe to say she’s ready to reign.

Contact all editor Denise Wright at [email protected].