OK. We’re going to experiment with a new format here. I’ve been stretching to find new releases to talk about for almost the entire year now, so maybe focusing on one release would be better.
So, yeah, Kelly Clarkson’s back. If you all remember, America’s Sweetheart went down in flames with her last album, “My December”, although truth be told, the music enclosed within wasn’t a hell of a lot different (or better, or worse…maybe a little less catchy) from the music that had rocketed her to fame a couple years prior with hits like “Since You Been Gone”. Her lyrics may have been a little angrier, but it’s not like being an angry broad didn’t help Alanis Morissette sell fifteen million records, right? At any rate, much was made of her beef with label head Clive Davis, a man who apparently had an issue that Clarkson decided to (shock, horror) write her own material without the help of song doctors. Davis worked his best “I’ll show you, bitch!” magic, and “My December” went on to sell a respectable but not blockbuster-level 800,000 copies.
Now, if I was Kelly, I’d have been like “Look, 800K is not a bad number, especially in today’s music market. I’ll keep my publishing, downsize my fan base a little bit and keep on truckin'”. However, I’m obviously not Kelly Clarkson, because Idol #1 went back to Clive with her proverbial tail between her legs and rejoined forces with song doctors old (Max Martin) and new (Katy Perry-for true??) for her fourth album, “All I Ever Wanted”, which is out today. So far, the gambit is working: the first single, “My Life Would Suck Without You”, rocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts, even though the song itself is a lazy recycling of “Since You (or was it U) Been Gone”.Â The album’s gotten decent reviews so far, which at least gives me a little hope that the remainder of the set is better than the single. Kelly begrudgingly gets my $9.99, as will her “Idol” brethren Taylor Hicks. These two start off the “Idol” release season proper with their new albums-watch out for new albums by the likes of Elliott Yamin, Mandisa, Ruben Studdard and LaKisha Jones, all before the current season ends this spring. People talk a lot of shit about Taylor, but I give him props. He seems like the one “Idol” winner who’s not interested in selling out for success. Good for him.
In addition to Kelly and Taylor, here are a couple of other quick hits:
The-Dream is the latest in a long line of R&B artists who are much better songwriters and/or producers than they are singers. The guy behind songs like “Umbrella” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” is back with his second album, which is called “Love or Money” or “Love vs. Money” or some bullshit like that. Maybe someone should change the title to “Stick to Producing, Bucko”, because The-Dream’s simplistic lyrics and barely-there singing voice don’t give me much hope for this guy being the future of R&B. Then again, his records sell, so what do I know?
One of the guys The-Dream helped rocket to fame was J. Holiday. If you’ll remember, he had that song “Bed” a couple years ago, which mixed a Prince-style slow jam with that damn “eh” tic that “Umbrella” popularized. It was surprisingly effective, but the success of the song had everything to do with the song itself and nothing to do with the artist. So expect the sophomore slump to eat Holiday whole with his new “Round 2”. Oh, I love imaginative titles. Don’t you?
Two words you never expected to hear in a sentence together: Chris Cornell and Timbaland. Well, guess what? The greatest rock vocalist of his generation hooks up with Timbo (I’m not going to wrack my brain to come up with a superlative in this case) for the oft-delayed album “Scream”, which is sure to piss off every Cornell fan that Audioslave (who I actually *liked*) didn’t already piss off. I think it’s hilarious when people call moves like this “selling out”. ‘Cause first off, it’s not like Cornell wasn’t already selling googobs of records, right? Second, what rock icon would take the chance of working with a commercially successful pop producer, running the risk of alienating his *entire* audience, and say “Yeah, this is gonna sell me TONS of records!”? Like, are you serious?
OK. I wrote way more than was my original intention, so I’ll bring this column to a speedy close by saying you can get a complete list of albums that came out today right here. Enjoy.