This is where it all began. The American Idol craze had just begun, and a rather dramatic first season that took America by storm ended trimphantly with Clarkson the unquestionable victor. In a field of underwhelming talent where her biggest competition was a curly haired Justin Timberlake wannabe, she literally blew every other potential "competition" clean out of the water. No matter how close the votes may or may not have been (since I do not recall how close it ended up being). With this victory began a whole new life for the young Ms. Clarkson. A former waitress turned potential pop superstar in mere months. The question, however, was would this be the beginning of an illustrious pop career in which she would be catapulted into the stratosphere, or the winner of some hokey competition who fails to amount to anything more than a young girl with potential who merely soaked in her fifteen minutes of fame and fell off the face of the earth?
There is no question in Clarkson's talents. Her voice is simply one the most powerful in all of pop music today, but that means nothing if the music she implements it in is utterly worthless. Luckily, on her debut Thankful, while not breaking any new ground, it manages to lay the foundation of what could be quite an interesting career. Her voice comes off as well trained, as if she has been singing professionally for years, and the way she can implement it throughout different genres (rock, pop, soul, r&b) is something to take notice of. Her maturity and poise is impeccable for her lack of experience. The problem that seemingly takes away from the album is the obvious overproduction and cautious approach that is taken. It's relevant that the producers and writers did not want to take any chances at writing any lifeless, dull, uninspiring music. However, because of this some of the songs come off as rather forced and it seems they were trying too hard to make every single track awe-inspiring and powerful.
Sometimes this approach succeeds. Take a listen to the anthemic and powerful chorus-driven Miss Independent and similar but more rock-ish Low. Both were huge singles that drove the album towards that platinum mark rather quickly. Even the album opener, the swooning, soulful, radiant The Trouble With Love Is, with gospel-esque background vocals in the chorus stands out amongst most pop music that plagues the music scene today with mediocrity. Beautiful Disaster provides us with one of the catchiest songs in years with soaring beauty and uplifting greatness, a true Kelly Clarkson classic in her rather limited catalogue. And her ballad Before Your Love, and American Idol centerpiece, stands out as a wonderful and emotional musical ride and perfect showcase for her wide ranged voice.
It's just a shame the rest of the tracks fall so flat. The lifeless R&B track Some Kind of Miracle showcases her vocal talents but fails to go anywhere other than that as the song just isn't very interesting. Nor is the follow-up track What's Up Lonely. Just Missed the Train is a decent soulful rocker, but pales in comparison to the standout tracks of the album. Then there is the failure of a duet You Thought Wrong featuring fellow American Idol finalist Tamrya Gray, which seems to just be a showdown of their powerful voices and is used more to show off rather than be a decent song. Tis' a shame.
And of course, how could anyone forget the song that pretty much started it all, the dreary, boring, and rather cliche ballad A Moment Like This. It may have been the song she rode to stardom but it's definately not one of her strongest.
Overall, Kelly Clarkson has proved to be the most successful of all American Idol winners. Ruben, Clay (he didn't win, but he had more success than Ruben), and Fantasia. All of which are practically unnoticed in the music scene lately,and it will likely stay that way. Carrie Underwood is the only other winner that has had some decent success and is still doing alright for herself. American Idol did good with Clarkson, as her follow-up to Thankful proved rather nicely. She could be a potential staple in pop music for many years to come. The potential is surely there and the foundation is slowly being built up to it's fullest potential. Thankful was the beginning, and though it has it's cliche faults and uterrly boring and pointless moments, its still a decent debut. It's certainly worth a listen.