Clarkson attempts to regain past glory with new album

Rachel Kaplan

Coming back from a virtually forgotten third album, canceled tours, and disappointment, Kelly Clarkson’s new album has faced much speculation from both critics and fans. With her fourth effort, “All I Ever Wanted,” she has made strides toward re-becoming the pop star the country once knew and loved.

Turning away from the pop-rock gothic angst that turned industry legend Clive Davis, and for that matter, America, against the hit-less “My December,” Kelly Clarkson aims to revert to her more successful days of “Breakaway.” Like her chart-smashing sophomore album, “All I Ever Wanted” promises an arsenal of over-played, but generally likable radio hit singles, starting with “My Life Would Suck Without You.”

Proving to be a lesser, yet almost identical reincarnation of previous hit, “Since U Been Gone,” her first single off of the album gives fans a catchy power ballad with a heavy beat perfectly suited to a high-kick dance competition. “My Life Would Suck Without You” gives a preview of the major themes of the rest of the record: bad boyfriends and female empowerment. Surprise, surprise.

Luckily, the album greatly improves with a more original, rocking second track,”I Do Not Hook Up.” Throughout the record, Clarkson channels a surprising mix of contemporary Pink and Gwen Stefani in the post-No Doubt days with songs like “All I Ever Wanted.” The combination actually turns out to be a nice change from Clarkson’s previous hits.

Boasting a long list of contributing songwriters from songstress Katy Perry to Ryan Tedder of One Republic, Clarkson’s own influence is hard to define, as the tracks range from punk-wanna-be “Whyyawannabringmedown” to the heartfelt ballad “If No One Will Listen.”

Clarkson’s strengths obviously lie within this song and her other soulful ballads “Cry” and “Already Gone” that effortlessly show off her still-awing pipes that won her the first season of American Idol seven years ago. Because of her undeniable talent and spunky personality, Clarkson promises to remain America’s sweetheart and music aficionados’ guilty pleasure.

Ultimately, “All I Ever Wanted” shows promise from Clarkson, but she still struggles to find a happy medium between emotional strife and poppy crowd-pleasers, making the good old “Breakaway” days before the over-playing seem more and more appealing.