Imagine that Kelly Clarkson, the
Kelly Clarkson, calls you one day and tells you that when you get home, she will be waiting for you in your bed. So, being the lusty man that you are, you start to fantasize. When you get home, you run into the bedroom, expecting to find this woman lying in your bed:
Exciting, no? Well when you get into the bedroom, this is what you find instead:
Well, that first picture is the Kelly Clarkson who made Breakaway. That second picture is the Kelly Clarkson who made My December. Yeah. Oh don’t get me wrong. There are parts of My December that are undoubtedly enjoyable, much in the same way that Kelly Clarkson #2’s big toe would be enjoyable, but it’s such a huge letdown from Breakaway, which was enjoyable all the way through, much in the same way that Kelly Clarkson #1 would be enjoyable all the way through, if you know what I mean.
The main problem with My December is that it just doesn’t feel like Kelly Clarkson. If someone else were to make this album, like maybe that chick from Lacuna Coil or one of those other goth whores, it would be slightly more fitting, but this is Kelly Clarkson. You know, the spunky Texan who completely blew away everyone else in American Idol and became one of the biggest pop starts of the new millennium. For her to put out something like My December is almost an affront. For most of the album she seems to be channeling Amy Lee (even with the album cover), and that is certainly not a good thing, seeing how Amy Lee specializes in watered down mainstream rock. Sadly, that’s exactly what most of this album is. It’s pop yeah but Clarkson tries to sprinkle rock on top of too many of the tracks, proving that when she strays from her pop boundaries, she will almost always fail. She was able to get away with it on a select few tracks from Breakaway, like “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” but even then it seemed sort of plastic and decidedly not
Kelly Clarkson-like. On top of that, a lot of the pop tracks have hooks that are just plain annoying (“Judas, ” “Yeah”), which is such a huge disappointment after Clarkson gave us such catchy wonders like “Walk Away” and “Since U Been Gone.”
Of course the thing that was always most enjoyable about Clarkson’s music was her voice, and even that is a bit lackluster on My December. On Breakaway, she was at her best when her voice was unrestrained, when she let loose and belted out every note in true Christina Aguilera fashion. With My December, her vocals are more subdued and restrained, and throughout the album it seems like there was just so much more
that she could have done; vocal flourishes here and there would have been more than welcome. On one hand, it’s good that she isn’t trying to show off her vocal talent on every second of the album, but she’s at her worst when she holds herself back. Maybe she was trying to give her backing band more attention or something. It doesn’t really matter what she was trying to do though, because she failed. And when her voice isn’t letting us down, the lyrics pick up the slack. They really are insipid on most of the tracks, the best example being lead single “Never Again” (“If she really knows the truth, she deserves you. A trophy wife, oh how cute. Ignorance is bliss.” and “Does it hurt to know I’ll never be there? But it sucks to see my face everywhere.”). With pop music, I’m usually kind enough to let the occasional bad lyric slide, but Jesus Christ.
But don’t worry, true Kelly fans. It’s not all bad. “Sober” is one of the few tracks where Clarkson gets away with her vocal restraint, mainly because at the end she lets loose and gives one of the best performances of her career, making the two or so minutes of waiting worthwhile. “How I Feel” benefits from cool guitar parts both in the verses and the chorus, making it one of the few songs on My December that’s musically interesting. “Haunted” wouldn’t feel too out of place on Breakaway, as it has a similar feel to “Behind These Hazel Eyes.” Clarkson brings the rock, and it works. Sadly, it’s really the only track where it does. My December ends up feeling like a waste of time, seeing how even the songs that are good are weighed down by the feeling that they could be so much better. There’s really no point in sifting through the bad to find the few nuggets of good. My December seems rushed and sloppy, and ultimately it’s a forgettable effort from someone who was once one of the brightest of pop stars.
“Don’t waste your time on me” sings Clarkson on “Don’t Waste Your Time.” We might as well take her advice.