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First Listen: Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted

As American Idol chooses its top 12 tonight, it's only fitting to spend some time thinking about the original Idol champ: Kelly Clarkson, whose fourth album is out next week.

Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted is now streaming online thanks to MTV, and I gave all the tracks a first listen this week. (It hits stores Tuesday, March 10.) The album is solid, if not groundbreaking, with some classic pop hooks and plenty of commercial appeal. There's also a decent amount of variety on the 14 tracks, especially on the second half of the album. To check out my first take, just


  • "My Life Would Suck Without You" — We've already heard this leadoff track, and I wouldn't say I love it, but it's grown on me as a solid addition to my gym playlist. The synthesizers in the background are a little too '80s or too clubby for my tastes, but Clarkson's voice sounds great.
  • "I Do Not Hook Up" — "I do not hook up / I go deep" Clarkson sings on the soaring refrain of this song, which is undeniably catchy. It reminds me of something we might hear from Avril Lavigne, message-wise, but with better singing.
  • "Cry" — The album's first ballad is competent but nothing special, but I blame that mostly on the arrangement. Clarkson's voice sounds fantastic, growly and raw in a few parts, but I think it would be better as an acoustic song without so many insistent instruments trying to step all over the singing.
  • "Don't Let Me Stop You" — This song starts out almost pop-country tinged, then turns into a Pink-style rocker that makes me want to get up and stomp around. Clarkson has a good history with jilted-lover songs, and this is another to add to that pile.
  • "All I Ever Wanted" — My favorite part of this one comes about three-quarters of the way through, when the instruments drop out and Kelly just lets loose. It goes on a little long, though, which just makes me resent the electronic bleeping that ends the song.
  • "Already Gone" — This song seems a little conflicted between being a straight-ahead pop ballad and something more Sarah McLachlany. It might have been better had it committed to either path; as it is, I found it fairly forgettable.
  • "If I Can't Have You" — The tempo picks up again here, with a strong electronic pulse. This song might not feel out of place on a Britney Spears album, which isn't a bad thing. Very danceable.
  • "Save You" — Not one of my favorite tracks on the album, largely because there's just too much going on — a piano interlude, a drum break at the end, some echoing vocal effects. This is a track that I could imagine working better as a quieter song. Bet it'll be better live.
  • "Whyyawannabringmedown" — Whoa, and changing direction completely, this track has hand claps, stompy drums, and an overall pop-punky feel. If this were on American Idol, Simon would either love it or call it too screamy. I intend to blast it loudly next time I have a bad day.
  • "Long Shot" — I love the way the gentle beginnings of this track give way to something that's pure power pop. Probably the track that's sticking with me most so far — and miles beyond the version its co-writer, Katy Perry, recorded.
  • "Impossible" — Ooh, there's some cool stuff going on in this one. With some piano in the background, it's a little more atmospheric than many of the earlier songs. The lyrics are just OK, but musically it's one of the more interesting tracks.
  • "Ready" — This is not the best track on the album, and yet I could see myself listening to it a lot — and I could see it ending up in a shampoo commercial or an episode of The Hills. It's a pleasing, midtempo song with a nice swing to it.
  • "I Want You" — This is a sweet and catchy track — bouncy, lots of syncopated hand claps — but it actually doesn't require much from Kelly's voice. I'd almost like to see what someone like Lily Allen did with it.
  • "If No One Will Listen" — We close on a relatively spare, classic ballad. I could imagine this one being the down-tempo radio hit off this album — it's not terribly original, but it's simple and clear and strong.


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