It’s been 4 years since Kelly Clarkson released her last studio album Stronger. During that time she put out her first Greatest Hits collection and released the well-received Christmas album Wrapped In Red. She’s also become a mother welcoming her first child with husband Brandon Blackstock last summer. Now Kelly us back to music with the release of her new album Piece By Piece with the lead single Heartbeat Song charting in the Top 10 here in the UK.
When the audio for Heartbeat Song was first released we were a little underwhelmed to say the least. Whilst the song itself is a solid pop song, it didn’t have the same energy or wow factor that Kelly’s lead singles usually do. Eventually the song grew on us but it left us a little bit worried about what Piece By Piece would be like.
By no means a bad album, Piece By Piece is pretty much business-as-usual for Kelly. There isn’t the standout pop banger in the vein of Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) or Since U Been Gone that we expected and for the most part it’s a mid-tempo affair. This does unfortunately mean that by the end of the 16 tracks (there’s 13 on the standard disc) that it all starts to sound pretty similar and it’s hard to pick out much in the way of a memorable track.
Kelly’s powerful voice isn’t quite the force it once was with a raspy sound (take a listen to Nostalgic) but we’re thankful that she’s toned down the shouting for Piece By Piece. Run, Run, Run featuring John Legend is one of the most restrained vocals we’ve heard from Kelly and it sounds all the better for it. Similarly Tightrope is a stripped-back highlight that highlights Kelly’s voice in a beautiful way.
The album’s best moments come on the Sia penned Invincible and title track Piece By Piece. Invincible, sure to be the next single, may be the usual Sia fare but it’s a perfect showcase for Kelly’s vocal range and is likely to become an anthem for her fans. Piece By Piece, one of the five tracks Kelly had a hand in co-writing, is one of her most personal to date. It recalls her third album My December, which was wildly unappreciated during its release in 2007.
Piece By Piece is a solid if unremarkable effort from Kelly. It will likely fare well commercially but it doesn’t break any new ground for her. Fans of her previous albums will lap this up but the lack of a standout hit could prove problematic for the record’s longevity. Whilst it’s a pleasant enough album, it’s not one of her best and it left us wanting something more.