Upon the release of her eighth studio album, Meaning Of Life, American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson sounds like she’s stuck 15 years in the past as a contestant on the talent show.
The standout track here is Would You Call That Love, an ethereal chiming bell part which repeats, allowing for Clarkson to croon, “Does it all add up? When you look back at us, would you call that love?”. Lead single and title track Meaning of Life has a similarly strong chorus with the impassioned delivery, “When I’m lost I just look in your eyes, you show me the meaning of life”. However, this song hints towards many of the pitfalls of this album – poor instrumentation choices, vocal dominating mixes, and a burlesque sass which recalls Christina Aguilera’s hit single Car Wash over and over again.
Almost every track, from Love So Soft, to Whole Lotta Woman, and from Heat, to Medicine, to Cruel, shows Clarkson channelling this dated Aguilera impersonation, with formulaic finger clicks, retro brassy RnB, and gospel choirs. In isolation, each cut would be an average pop song, but when they run back-to-back, they become indistinguishable.
The lowest point comes in Didn’t I, where Clarkson attempts to include some trap beats alongside a rebellious rock instrumental straight out of Pink’s playbook. It’s a complete mess.
Clarkson’s voice is impressive at times, but in songs like I Don’t Think About You, she puts in so many vocal acrobatics, that it seems like Meaning Of Life is just an exercise in showing off her skills, rather than delivering anything with any emotional clout.
Edited by Ginny Wong