Any doubt about Kelly Clarkson’s vocal abilities should have been laid to rest during the American Idol’s mid-2000’s heyday with her breakthrough album Breakaway. The mid-2010’s look to be a resurgence of her glory years but where Kelly went more for pop on Breakaway, Piece By Piece is her entry into adult contemporary. But this isn’t your parent’s 80’s adult contemporary. Piece By Piece is a shot out of a cannon release of an artist who has clearly come a long way from her American Idol days to become one of the most revered top 40 artists today. Piece By Piece is by far one of the year’s strongest releases.
Though the album goes all over the place musically (Clarkson did employ a wide range of producers and songwriting heavyweights such as Sia and Britney Spears), her powerful vocals remain constant throughout. In fact, her vocals are front and center and really, when you have one of the most recognizable singing voices in music that’s what you are really paying for. Her incredible, dynamic vocals are at their best on “Invincible” which will grab listeners up to and including its climatic highpoint where she tells all, “But now I am invincible, no I ain’t a scared little girl no more. I am invincible, what was I running from?” and shedding her youth and bubblegum image for good.
The most anticipated single, “Run, Run, Run” featuring John Legend has both artists enjoying equal time expressing tenderness early on in their duet, their vocals blending wonderfully together. Legend’s piano playing soon gets taken over by the powerful orchestral musicianship with both artists really pouring their souls out in by song’s end.
Clarkson doesn’t entirely abandon her pop roots. The opening track “Heartbeat Song” has Clarkson declaring “This is my heartbeat song and I’m going to play it. It’s been so long I forgot how to turn it up all night long.” “Take You High” with its heavy dash of EDM doesn’t come off as Clarkson trying out the latest trend but an epic monster of a single that gives one the sense Clarkson is calling out for a higher presence. “Dance With Me” is a definite future club staple with a bit of an 80’s feel but sounding totally refreshing and original with an equally sounding follow-up, the appropriately named “Nostalgic.”
Though it’s not without its stumbles, Piece By Piece is Kelly Clarkson saying to the world “I’m still here and I’m not going anywhere but up.” Piece By Piece is a goldmine. To quote a line from the album, “It’s a new beginning.” It is for Kelly Clarkson. She has no worries about being a nostalgic act anytime soon.