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Kelly Clarkson's 'All I Ever Wanted': 3.5 stars [UPDATE]

February 27, 2009 |  2:24 pm

Kelly_clarkson_getty___ The former 'American Idol' star is in her purest form on the new album.

The fourth album from pop's most sympathetic rebel girl, Kelly Clarkson, has nearly as many mandates attached to it as a certain economic stimulus plan.

The record label execs who objected to the emotionally loaded, tough-sell hard rock of 2007's "My December" are hoping for a massive, industry-saving hit. The critics who love her spunk but question her sensibility desire artful pop with a little bit of red meat. The "Idol" watchers and Top 40 listeners who made her a star in the first place want the perfect blend of sincerity and catchiness to lift their spirits during a year when nobody needs another breakup album.

Clarkson, ever the overachiever, has delivered on all counts. "All I Ever Wanted" is a masterful rapprochement with the mainstream, full of cheerfully ear-snagging tunes, inventive production, exhilarating vocals and enough inherent Kelly-ness to put aside fears that her label bosses implanted blond electrodes in her brain to make her behave.

"All I Ever Wanted" -- due March 10 but leaked online -- also fulfills the one requirement that makes Clarkson a top-shelf pop star worth loving: It provides her faithful female fans with a solid group of anthems and introspective moments expressing dignity, independence and emotional truthfulness.

The first single, the desperately radio-friendly "My Life Would Suck Without You," wasn't a good sign: Ripping off one's biggest previous hit isn't a path toward self-discovery. But that album opener simply announces a rousing, if slightly overloaded, collection of ballads and barn-burners well serving the needs of Kelly's girls for a big scream and a good cry.

Anyone who's been to a Clarkson show and seen the earnest love her female fans express knows this is where her work goes beyond entertainment to affect lives. Without uttering the word "feminism," she applies its principles within pop formulas now more often used to sell peep-show thrills, greed and cynicism.

Clarkson works her every-superwoman magic within a few different phone booths here. She removes the cartoon mannerisms from two songs co-penned by Katy Perry; her version of "I Do Not Hook Up," a song cowritten by Kara DioGuardi and produced by modern rock heavy Howard Benson, should be heard by every teen girl contemplating chucking her purity ring.

Her collaborations, including several cowrites, with mood-rock hit maker Ryan Tedder take the opposite approach. They insinuate instead of shouting, showing how the self-described "limestone rock" sound Coldplay perfected with Brian Eno can work as a vehicle for feminine yearning. The albums' sequencing presents the quieter Tedder material as a mini-suite, resulting in an energy drag; that's too bad, because individually considered, each track is gently memorable.

Pop addicts looking for fizzier stuff will prefer the work Clarkson did with former Color Me Badd member Sam Watters and his partner Louis Biancaniello, including some covers of tunes by Oklahoma-based unknowns Aranda. The title track evokes the soul-rock fusions of Timbaland and Rihanna, while "Whyyouwannabringmedown" gives Clarkson a chance to howl the way she's wanted to since her grunge-loving teen years.

"All I Ever Wanted" also has a couple of the old-fashioned tear-jerkers that Clarkson does so well -- "Cry," which she cowrote, and songbird Keri Noble's "If No One Will Listen," which she produced -- and an apparent Pink tribute song, "Don't Let Me Stop You."

The album is a generous helping of the Kelly so many love -- yes, Photoshopped and slicked up, but with her big, brilliantly accessible heart and voice intact.

Kelly Clarkson
"All I Ever Wanted"
RCA Records
Three and a half stars

--Ann Powers

Photo credit: Getty Images

Albums are rated on a four star scale.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post identified "All I Ever Wanted" as Clarkson's third album. It is her fourth.

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Comments (18)

I believe this is Clarkson's fourth album, not third.

It's her fourth album.

Kelly Clarkson's Debut Album - Thankful
Kelly Clarkson's Second Album - Breakaway
Kelly Clarkson's Third Album - My December
Kelly Clarksons FOURTH Album -All I ever wanted.

Serioulsy? Can you not do a minimal fact check...or wikipedia this?

I'm not a big Clarkson's fan, but this album is really really good. so much better than those wannabe rockstar girls. she has talent... it deserves 4/5 stars imo.

oh, and you should put up more about the lyrics. it deserves attention. ("Already Gone", "If No One Will Listen", "Whyawannabringmedown", "All I Ever Wanted" ...)

i think it's 3.5/4 stars......

Why don't you people find WORSE photos of her!? Thats just mean. You must have some good ones!

This album is completely AMAZING. I love it!

I am not a KC fanatic, but I have loved her since I first saw her on AI. She is brave, has a incredible voice, and has the body of a goddess. My family and I LOVE to blast her songs at get togethers or in the car! And isn't it refreshing to see someone NOT splashed all over the news for their personal life? She is the quintessential pop star, she will last forever! And SHAAAME on LA Times for putting an unflattering picture of her up! I am very disappointed!

you guys always put up bad pics of her. i think it should be a 4 star

You under-rated her album and put up a very unflattering picture. This album shows why Kelly is one of the greatest singers out there. Over the years, we've heard her sing country with Reba, R&B, Pop, Rock, Rhythm&Blues on Idol Gives Back, her tribute to the Pope,her wonderful Big Band performances to name a few. Now we get to hear different takes of Pop music on her album. Every song is different and her voice adapts to each song in a different way. To me, the difference between a very good singer and a great singer is a good singer can sing one or two styles of music well and a GREAT singer can sing any genre well. She also writes songs too. She has done all this and is VERY humble. When most of the female singers out there have to resort to showing much of their body to help sell their music, it is refreshing to find a singer that doesn't.

I think that Kelly's new album is really good! Full of Good songs...but put together poorly. I believe two things-Clive Davis is trying to make Kelly somewhat like Pink, and Kelly's voice is to strong for some of the songs actually on the album. The song "Save you" is a beautiful piece-but it would have been greater without the drums throughout the second verse, and if they had changed the music just a bit to suit Ms. Clarkson it would be a rocking song! I give Ms. Clarkson 4th Album... 4 out of 5 stars!

its out of 4 stars! not 5


Kelly Rocks, thats all I have to say

Kelly is one of the great talents in pop music today and "All I Ever Wanted" really delivers. This new album is a diverse collection of rock-pop that shows Kelly is clearly still at the top of her game. Yes, it is more accessible than My December (which was tragically sabotaged by her label), but it still resonates emotionally with the listener. Cry, Already Gone, and Save You are some of the most achingly beautiful songs in recent memory, while MLWSWY and I Do Not Hook Up are power-pop perfection. It's nice to read a reviewer that really gets it.

I generally don't like pop, have never watched a full season of American Idol, generally don't care the majority of current radio play, and am a child of the 90's and alternative rock in the purest sense. But for some reason I really like Kelly Clarkson. More than any other "idol," or current pop star, her style is distinct and her songs just sound really good. There's some good stuff on this album.

What's with the picture? Couldn't you have put up the album cover, at least? ANYTHING more flattering than THAT picture. But, whatever. Kelly looks amazing, no matter what. She is a great role models for young girls, in a society that demands perfection. She shows that you don't have to be thin as a rail(ala Paris Hilton) to make it in this business, or to be well-liked. You just have to have a nice personality. The album IS amazing. No doubt about it. I'm glad she redirected her 'i hate you for dumping me, but i'll be fine' message from slow, sad songs("My December"), to fun, pop songs. This album is an example that Kelly can do anything. She is just an all-around, great singer, with range, and an incredible voice. FIVE STARS.

i love this album..i already got it....
i give 4star..........
i love Already Gone.......i hope this song will her third single from the album....thnks to Ryan Tedder..he's genius songwriter and producer.... im very love that song...
then i hope Dont Let Me Stop You will be her fourth single from the album....i think this song similar with Behind The Hazel Eyes on starting of drum in that song.....
buy the album now....




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