Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Best of Kelly Clarkson: Part 2 (#1-5)

In less than four days, I'll be dancing and singing along to Kelly Clarkson's latest album, Stronger. It's hard to believe this is already her fifth album—it seems like just yesterday she beat out Justin Guarini in American Idol's inaugural season. Her career may have its ups (Breakaway) and downs (My December), but through it all Kelly has remained a force to be reckoned with.

Yesterday, I began counting down Kelly's Top 10 best songs to date with songs 6-10. I should take this time to admit that there are several songs that were incredibly deserving of making the Top 10—"Addicted," "I Do Not Hook Up," "Gone" and "Where is Your Heart?" to name a few—but tough decisions had to be made and there's no use living in the past. Now it's time to reveal the Top 5 with the assistance of Jason Myers, an expert on all things Kelly Clarkson and undoubtedly her #1 fan. Did your favorite make the cut...?

#5: "Already Gone" (All I Ever Wanted)
Started with a perfect kiss then we could feel the poison set in
Perfect couldn't keep this love alive
You know that I love you so, I love you enough to let you go

Brian Forte: While songs about being dumped are par for the course in pop music, "Already Gone" comes from the point of view of the one doing the dumping, and Kelly manages to make it even more heart-wrenching. And if it makes Kelly feel better, I didn't notice the similarity to "Halo" until it was pointed out to me.

Jason Myers: You can't write about this song without comparing it to Beyonce's "Halo" (unfortunately).  "Halo" was nominated for several, and won a Grammy award in 2009, while "Already Gone" was shut out despite being the better song.  Where "Halo" makes you feel sweet and sticky inside, "Already Gone" will punch you in the gut and break your heart—but it hurts oh so good.

#4: "Breakaway" (Breakaway)
Buildings with a hundred floors
Swinging 'round revolving doors
Maybe I don't know where they'll take me but
Gotta keep moving on, moving on
Fly away, breakaway

BF: "Breakaway" always manages to fill me with a sense of empowerment and courage. Her first true post-Idol hit, it's an inspiring anthem for anyone looking to break free of their life and find the next great adventure. Ignore the horrible music video, this is one of Kelly's best anthems.

JM: Yes, we all know Kelly from American Idol, but "Breakaway" is really what set her up as a worldwide superstar.  The song was a chart phenomenon in 2004 and spent 20 consecutive weeks on the top of Adult Contemporary chart, and for good reason. Kelly's vocals connected with the song in a way we'd never heard before—likely because they were symbolic of her distancing herself from American Idol: "I'll spread my wings, and I'll learn how to fly / I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky / And I'll make a wish, take a chance, make a change / and breakaway."

#3: "Beautiful Disaster" (Original on Thankful; Live Version on Breakaway)
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster

BF: The original "Beautiful Disaster" track on Thankful is fine, but the live version on Breakaway transcends anything I could've imagined for the song. Kelly expertly launches from soft, pensive moments to soaring high notes and riffs, all the while exposing the amazing soul within her that we have all fallen in love with.

JM: I'll never forget when Kelly sat on top of piano and belted this at the 2004 American Idol finale.  Many had written her off after Thankful as another run-of-the-mill pop star.  However, when she took this generic Thankful track, stripped it down, and infused it with heartbreak she proved why she was more than deserving of the title of Original American Idol.

#2: "My Life Would Suck Without You" (All I Ever Wanted)
'Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
And honestly,
My life would suck without you

BF: I have to admit that I wasn't ready to like "My Life Would Suck Without You." There are so many words in the English language that the use of 'suck' just seemed a bit lazy at the time. I'm happy to admit, though, that the amazing vocals and driving beat of the song make up for any lyrical shortcomings, and then some. After spending so much time telling guys off, it was nice to hear Kelly go the upbeat route, the result being one of her best songs to date.

JM: While the opening beats are reminiscent of "Since U Been Gone," "My Life Would Suck Without You" showed us a side of Kelly's music we've never seen before—a happy, joyful one.  The lyrics may not be award-worthy, but Kelly's performance takes this anthem to another level. In the hands of a less-talented singer this song would've ended up on the cutting room floor, but instead Kelly transformed it into an earworm that'll stick with you for days.

#1: "Since U Been Gone" (Breakaway)
You had your chance you blew it
Out of sight, out of mind
Shut your mouth I just can't take it
Again and again and again and again

BF: What... like you're surprised? "Since U Been Gone" is the ultimate Kelly Clarkson song, no questions asked. Anyone who's been to a club when this song comes on knows the effect it has over people—I dare anyone not to jump around singing like a fool when that chorus starts blasting. This song is total perfection and well-deserving of the top spot on this list.

JM: "Since U Been Gone" is pop rock perfection. From the opening guitar riffs to Clarkson's gale-force vocals to the in-your-face lyrics, "Since U Been Gone" is irresistible. There's a reason VH1 just named it the #5 best pop song of the decade, and if you ask me, even that ranking is far too low.

Bring on Stronger!
So there you have it, dear readers. Whether or not your favorites made the list—and feel free to scream and yell about it in the comments—it's undeniable that Kelly Clarkson is a pop diva, and I cannot wait to see where her career goes next. Stronger hits stores on Monday, and if you haven't pre-ordered it yet I'm not quite sure what you're waiting for. Get on it!
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