The original Idol, following the success of her sophomore album Breakaway, tripped up a bit with My December before getting back on track with 2009's All I Ever Wanted, but with her fifth album Stronger, she finds herself more in her comfort zone than she's been since Breakaway.
1. "Mr. Know It All": Have I ever had my fill of this song, but it's a very strong lead single. 4.5/5
2. "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)": With the mastered version of this song, I'm able to mostly get past the color-by-numbers lyrics, thanks to those golden vocals. 4.5/5
3. "Dark Side": This haunting track keeps in tune with the quality standard set thus far. 4.5/5
4. "Honestly": Now we're getting to the kind of thing that makes me fall in love with Kelly. Incredible vocals with honesty behind them! 5/5
5. "You Love Me": This midtempo kinda falls into a musical space that's pretty hit or miss for Kelly, but this one is a bonafide hit! 5/5
6. "Einstein": Originally known as "Dumb + Dumb = U"... this one's a miss. Kelly's vocals are there, but that's it. Some people just don't gel with James Fauntleroy's style (Leona Lewis being another). 3.5/5
7. "Standing In Front Of You": What a refreshing and unexpected sound from Kelly! In a word, irresistible. 5/5
8. "I Forgive You": Darkchild works his magic on this one. Kelly is in her element. 5/5
9. "Hello": This is not what you would call a standout, but it's good, thanks again to those everpresent vocals. 4.5/5
10. "The War Is Over": I like the structure of this one, but the lyrics bring it down for me. 4/5
11. "Let Me Down": Had this not leaked, I don't see how it wouldn't have been the first single. It's definitely a strong addition to the album! 5/5
12. "You Can't Win": I really like the concept of this song lyrically, which is a rarity for me. The raised chorus versus the leaked version is also an improvement. 4.5/5
13. "Breaking Your Own Heart": My favorite track on the album, which tends to happen with sappy closers from powerhouse divas. She sings it not only like a pro, but like it's personal to her, which is a formula for greatness! 5/5
If you're looking for your Kelly Clarkson fix, Stronger will definitely do the trick. If I'm being perfectly honest, I get the most out of Kelly from her power-pop "Since U Been Gone"/"My Life Would Suck Without You" anthems, which All I Ever Wanted gave me more of, but it's evident that Kelly isn't as comfortable with that as she is here, where she has matured from her My December days, & mostly taken what was great about Breakaway & polished it up. I can't wrap up this review without mentioning the brilliance that is "The Sun Will Rise" from the deluxe edition, which features Kara DioGuardi, who is no Kelly, but does sound nice. As a whole, a case could be made for Stronger to say that it's Kelly's best work yet... I'd say it's her second-best after All I Ever Wanted.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars