Clarkson’s subtle infusion of country, R&B adds flavor to new pop album

Julia Chirls || Staff Writer

Pop-rock singer songwriter Kelly Clarkson put together a new, carefully constructed album appropriately titled Piece by Piece. Clarkson’s new material will definitely please her fans. Released on February 27, this is her seventh studio album since the start of her career thirteen years ago.

In 2002, Kelly Clarkson won the hearts of America after appearing on the first season of American Idol. She was established as “The Original American Idol” after being crowned the winner. She rose to fame internationally when she became the runner-up on World Idol in 2003.

Clarkson’s debut single, “A Moment Like This” broke a Billboard record when it jumped to number one on the 2002 US Billboard Hot 100. It also became the country’s best-selling single at the time of its release. In April 2003, her first studio album, Thankful, was released and sold over 4.5 million copies internationally. The first single on the album and the most popular song on the tracklist, “Miss Independent,” garnered her first Grammy nomination.

Since her debut in the music industry, Clarkson has won 31 awards and earned 73 nominations. She won 12 Billboard Music Awards during the first three years of her career, and four American Music Awards and three Grammy awards all throughout her time as a musician.

In Piece by Piece, she kept the music on the album within the confines of pop, although she occasionally infuses some tracks with country and R&B.

The first single she released, which has become the most popular song on Piece by Piece is “Heartbreak Song,” released on January 12, 2015. Kara DioGuardi served as one of the writers of the song. For those of you who do not recognize her name, DioGuardi was a judge on American Idol for its eighth and ninth seasons. Since her departure from the show, she has gone back to writing and producing music. In 2008 she was appointed executive vice president of talent development at Warner Bros. Records, signing musicians such as R&B singer songwriters Jason Derülo and Iyaz.

“Heartbeat Song” contains a medley of three different tempos. The first is a fast-paced tempo with minimal background instrumentals, only drums and some electric guitar. The second tempo is a bit slower and adds more electric guitar and synthesizer. The final tempo is even slower and includes the chorus. Additionally, the chorus contains a separation of vocals into three different keys creating a nice harmony during the most important parts of the song. The three tempos are repeated throughout the three and a half minutes of bliss.

The sixth song on the track list, “Run Run Run,” was originally written for and recorded by German recording band Tokio Hotel and is included on their album Kings of Suburbia. On Clarkson’s album, the song features another familiar name. Clarkson reached out to Grammy Awards winning singer songwriter John Legend while he was on tour to record the duet with her. Legend has produced many hits including “All of Me,” which debuted as number one on the 2013 US Billboard Hot 100. Most recently, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Glory” from the film Selma, at the 87th Academy Awards. “Run Run Run” is a ballad-like song primarily accompanied by a piano. The chorus of the track resembles that of “Heartbeat Song” in that the vocals are separated into several keys during the chorus. Legend’s voice harmonizes with Clarkson’s creating a broad spectrum of sound for the listener to enjoy. About halfway into the song, the listener is in for a surprise, when drums make their sudden entrance. I have to admit it caught me a bit off guard. However, it does add a bit of variation, deviating from the softer, gentler sound.

Piece by Piece is sure to please, not only Kelly Clarkson fans, but also the millions of viewers of American Idol and the loyal listeners of John Legend.

Sophomore Julia Chirls is a staff writer. Her email is jchirls@fandm.edu.

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