There’s been some pretty high profile leaks these past few days: first U2’s No Line on the Horizon (which I reviewed on Wednesday), and earlier today it was Kelly Clarkson’s All I Ever Wanted, which wasn’t due to be released until March 10. In both cases, the culprit wasn’t some shady figure sneaking a disc out of studio, or even a review copy breaking the embargo: it was a division of their respective record labels that accidentally began selling the album weeks early. Oops. Anyways, given that the Internet has a HUGE crush on Ms. Clarkson and wants nothing more than for her to take over the world, clearly it’s been making the rounds and OPINIONS are bound to follow. So here’s my quick take.
I expect that most music nerds remember the first time they heard “Since U Been Gone” and geeked out over the fact that the bridge was lifted almost note-for-note from “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I expect they’ll have similar reaction when they hear All I Ever Wanted’s title track, which features a bass/guitar riff that’s a dead ringer for Spoon’s fantastic “I Turn My Camera On.” You would think this kind of theivery would bother us, but this is what great pop music should do (although perhaps with a little less obviousness – if I were Britt Daniel, I’d be seeking out a writing credit). The mainstream should be raiding the alternative dials (err…hard drives?) for new sounds to co-opt and rework into a glorious, palatable palette of pop perfection. It’s what keeps pop music fresh and relevant, instead of distant and out-of-touch.
Sadly, All I Ever Wanted suffers from a desire to be everything to everyone and, as such, it’s weighed down by some pretty forgettable ballads and is a good 3-4 songs too long. You really feel it starting to drag towards the end, but there’s so much exhilarating pop music here that it feels like a triumph regardless. It’s doubtful that anything here will be as big as “Since U Been Gone,” but some tracks come damn close: the sexily sexless “I Do Not Hook Up,” the electro-pop of “If I Can’t Have You,” the Blackhearts-borrowing punk pop in “Whyyawannabringmedown,” the flawless formula of “Long Shot.” And it’s all held together with Clarkson’s golden pipes, which never falter and rise to every challenge that her army of writers and producers throw at her.
So yes, perhaps the musical common ground between the connoisseurs and the casuals is slowly disappearing. But Kelly Clarkson just threw her flag into the shrinking landmass and invited everyone to her kickass party – nerds and normals alike. Whether you reply now or wait until March 10, it’s an invitation worth accepting.