Sometimes writing a blog can be downright embarrassing. Particularly when you trash someone for five years and then suddenly realise that you're actually rather like them. That's exactly the situation I find myself in with Kelly Clarkson. There's just something about her that always grated on me. I guess I think of her as the original Leona Lewis - great voice, shame about the rest of the package. However, over the past few weeks I've found myself listening to her fourth album. A lot. "All I Ever Wanted" hasn't exactly set the charts on fire or attracted rave reviews from critics but I'm starting to think it's a criminally underrated pop gem. The singles (apart from the shameful "Halo" rip off) have been uniformly strong and there are at least another 5 or 6 tracks worthy of release. By today's standards that makes it a minor masterpiece! On a whim, I decided to go to the concert and it exceeded all my expectations. Kelly is a great live performer and has a sincerity about her that I find completely disarming. As of Saturday night I'm officially on team Clarkson!
The first thing you notice about Kelly is her voluptuous figure. I got into an argument with a friend for commenting on the singer's curves but I actually meant it as a compliment. Kelly looks like she knows her way around a McDonalds' menu and that's ok. There are more than enough barbie dolls in pop. Big bottomed girls need role models too! And they could do a lot worse than the inaugural American Idol, who impressed from the very first song - a rocktastic version of the album's title track (and 4th single in the US). I ache for "All I Ever Wanted". It's ridiculously catchy and could be a big hit with a video clip and some decent promotion. Pull your finger out, Sony! That was followed by "Miss Independent" and the Katy Perry penned anthem "I Do Not Hook Up". The latter has been a guilty pleasure of mine for months, so it was treat to finally hear it live. One of the great things about Kelly is the way she interacts with the crowd. I particularly loved it when she took off her jacket and quipped that it was the concert's only costume change. As it turns out, she wasn't exaggerating! Next up was another great album track "Impossible", but that paled in comparison with her amazing mash up of Alanis Morissette's "That I Would Be Good" and Kings Of Leon's "Use Somebody". Girlfriend had better release a live album or DVD because I want this on my Ipod. I was less enthusiastic about "Breakaway" but nearly fell out of my seat when she combined "If I Can't Have You" (my equal favourite track on "All I Ever Wanted") with Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head". Kelly doing Kylie is possibly the most fabulous thing I've seen in 2010 and was easily the highlight of the show. Check it out below. Respect!
That stunning cover was always going to be hard to top and "Never Again" really only served as a reminder of how shit "My December" was. Her Black Keys cover ("Lies") was beautiful but I preferred her take on Keith Urban's "Tonight I Wanna Cry", which remains one of only two KU songs that I can stomach without hard drugs (the other is his duet with Nelly Furtado). Kelly then took things down a notch for an acoustic medley of some of her more obscure songs including "Sober", "Addicted" and "Gone". I'm not overly keen on any of those tracks but I loved the segment. It really showcased the Texan's powerhouse pipes and allowed her to express a different side of her personality. "Behind These Hazel Eyes" is my favourite song from "Breakaway", so I'm glad she dusted it off for the tour. That classic was followed by four new songs from "All I Ever Wanted". "Cry" is apparently the album's 4th single in Australia. Not that you'd know it given the song's complete lack of promotion and radio play. It's a shame because "Cry" is one of the diva's finest ballads. The same goes for the equally touching "Save You". It was a bit of surprise to hear the charmingly cheesy "I Want You" but I went crazy for "Don't Let Me Stop You" - my other favourite song from the album. Kelly acknowledged it as a fan favourite and Sony would be crazy to sit on it. I prefer it to "Since U Been Gone"!
By about this stage, Kelly had me eating out of her hand. I love the respect she showed all the artists she covered (often rambling about how much they mean to her) and her down to earth commentary on being desperate and dateless. Kelly should join RSVP. She'd be snapped up in a minute! Her commentary on "Because Of You" was particularly interesting. I didn't know it was about her father, although I really should have guessed from the lyrics. That anthem had the audience swaying their mobile phones in the air (they really are the new cigarette lighters) but "Walk Away" brought everyone to their feet. Strangely, I've always hated that song but it was more bearable live. The big finale was "Since U Been Gone", which hasn't lost any of its shine since 2004. After a short break Kelly returned to belt out "Already Gone". As a silent protest against Ryan Tedder's track whoring I sang along to "Halo" in my head. Take that, sucker! The encore continued with an unnecessary cover of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" but ended on a high with a brilliant rendition of "My Life Would Suck Without You". It's amazing how 90 minutes can completely change your opinion of someone. Kelly is a desperate dance album away from joining my A List but she's now a firm favourite. The diva is clearly pop's second realest girl after Mutya. And that's something to celebrate.