Kelly Clarkson | Greatest Hits, Chapter One (RCA)

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kelly sqThey say you never forget your first. Kelly Clarkson was the first person to win American Idol way back in 2002, and is still as fresh and relevant as she was then.

 

I have to admit, I was taken by Clarkson when she first appeared on the show. Her deep, soulful voice captivated me week to week, turning me into a rabid fan. Each week I did what Seacrest and Dunkleman told me to do and dialed until my fingers bled. She had to win! Justin’s Sideshow Bob hair was no match for Kelly’s talent. Luckily, she won and an instant legend was born. Oh, but then she had to sing that horrible song, “A Moment Like This,” which, like it or not, will always be her first single.

That song, along with 13 other hits and three new songs, appears on her new compilation, Greatest Hits, Chapter One. The reason I have remained a Clarkson fan her unwillingness to milk just one genre for all its worth. She has chameleon-like vocal abilities, which allow her to span the musical rainbow from pop to soul, country to hard rock.

Let’s start with the hard rock (and I use this term loosely) aspect of her voice—my personal favorite. Gems like “Miss Independent,” “Never Again,” and “My Life Would Suck Without You” are some amazing jams that got me through some rather rough workout sessions. (Yes, I am that gay.) They showcase Clarkson’s ability to open up her pipes and just wail.

Then she takes us on an emotional journey with gems like “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” “Because of You.” and “Walk Away.” None of these ballads stand out to me as much as her massive hit, “Already Gone.” And yes, I still run around my living room acting out my So You Think You Can Dance fantasies by doing my own interpretative dance as I reach for the stars; as I emote sadness and love. (See earlier comment about my sexuality.)

Now on to the country aspect of Clarkson’s musical library—my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong: I like country music, but it limits Kelly’s abilities. On 2010’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay” Clarkson plays second fiddle to Jason Aldean’s warbling vocals. One of her new tracks, “Don’t Rush” with Vince Gill, makes me want to rush away from this album. The song has none of Clarkson’s treasured angst or character; it is just a watered down country song.

Another new song, “People Like Us,” could be Clarkson’s attempt to win back some of her LGBT fans from Gaga. It is an empathetic song empowering the downtrodden and the forgotten, and gives hope of a better tomorrow. Sure to be a hit with the drag queens, this single is a smash in the making.

Like her or not, the fact remains: Clarkson popped America’s Idol cherry and has become a powerful force in the music industry. Despite her questionable movie career (I shall wipe all memory of From Justin to Kelly from my memory) or her Republican political endorsements, Kelly Clarkson is and will always be a go-to diva in my iTunes library. This compilation album is an excellent collection of her hits thus far, and opens the door to the second chapter of her already-accomplished career. | Jim Campbell

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