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Review: Kelly Clarkson - 'Piece By Piece' (Deluxe Edition)
US singer/songwriter Kelly Clarkson returns to music with her first album of original material in four years, ‘Piece By Piece’,
After working with Clarkson on 2011’s ‘Stronger’ and her 2013 holiday LP ‘Wrapped In Red’, Californian producer/songwriter Greg Kurstin also reappears to handle a chunk of the record's production.
‘Piece By Piece’ is a playful patchwork of pop songs, boasting a range of musical influences and a lone guest appearance from soul star and friend John Legend.
With many of the album’s highlights located further into the album, the tunes designed for more immediate consumption impact with varying success.
The achingly sincere title track shines lyrically and speaks of Clarkson finally being able to heal long-held emotional wounds, however, the song is executed in a way can feel unprogressive and middle-of-the-road.
Lead single ‘Heartbeat Song’ sounds formulaic, and similar to a number of previously released Clarkson hits.
That being said, for the most part ‘Piece By Piece’ is fresh. Moreover, the Texan is still the owner of a genuinely awe-inspiring vocal – and it’s a joy to hear it take flight on the rousing Sia-penned highlight, ‘Invincible.’
Originally released last year by German pop/rock outfit Tokio Hotel, Legend and Clarkson come together for a cover version of the band’s ‘Run Run Run’.
The talented pair’s 2015 update is earnest and eventually explodes into a grand-scale spectacle of belted notes, pounding drumbeats and choir-led backing vocals.
However, because the tune never quite stops sounding like an impassioned, intricate dedication to the original, ‘Run Run Run’ 2.0 isn't distinct or purposeful enough to make the timeless impression it clearly wants to.
On the other hand, it’s exhilarating to hear 32-year old Clarkson jump bravely into a dubstep/EDM influence on ‘Take You High’.
Thanks to layers of buzzy production and Clarkson's chart appeal, 'Let Your Tears Fall’ is saved from sounding like a run-of-the-mill pop tune.
The military motif that runs through the melodic, spirited ‘I Had A Dream’ is effective because it expands to include the battle imagery within the song’s lyrics, as well as the call and response backing vocals heard at the tune’s climax.
Though ‘Dance With Me’ plays out like countless cuts on ‘Piece By Piece’, Clarkson delivers the song with gusto after preaching the values of natural beauty on ‘Warpaint’.
The comparatively stripped down hidden gem ‘Tightrope’ is easily the album’s most natural, poignant ballad.
Honouring the shameless hard rock of the Eighties, irresistible highlight ‘Nostalgic’ is proud of its cheesiness – and incorporates bashful faux-laughter and vox synths on its mid-section to prove it.
Further exposing herself to the bright lights of the Eighties era, Clarkson successfully changes up her vocal styling to suit the cool, synthy vibe of ‘Good Goes The Bye’.
The instrumental of standout bonus track ‘Bad Reputation’ is engrossing.
Clarkson effortlessly embodies a smoky, reckless bad girl persona, before laying out a handful of stellar, full-throttle vocal runs.
Positive without the corniness, and resilient without any force, the performer is defiant on ‘Second Wind’.
Bolstered by never-say-die lyrics, ‘Second Wind’ captialises on Clarkson’s ability to perform top-tier vocals without the over-dramatics.
There’s nothing remarkable about bonus cut ‘In The Blue’, however the tune’s sing-along refrain and stark, cutting R&B beat unite comfortably to shake up the tracklisting a little.