Meaning of Life
Sass and swagger — Kelly Clarkson has them in spades.
There is an unbelievable confidence in Clarkson’s “Meaning of Life.” Every track features bold stylistic and lyrical choices, and while these risks do not always pay off, it’s refreshing to see Clarkson experiment.
“A Minute (Intro),” “Love So Soft” and “Heat” are interchangeable — they’re all big and bombastic. But, despite their similarities, Clarkson manages to sell her songs with her superior vocals and energetic charm.
Clarkson doesn’t linger on a single style for too long. “Meaning of Life” kicks off with a slower background beat, allowing Clarkson’s vocal talent to take center stage. “Move You” continues this trend and exemplifies Clarkson at her peak. The lyrics, vocals and angelic choral harmonies blend together to create a soulful, if somewhat saccharine, love story. The final line, “Like that montage in a movie, mmm, the way you move me. I wanna move you like that,” flows with an eloquent elegance.
“Whole Lotta Woman” combines the rhythm of a rap with the smooth flow of Clarkson’s other work to form a pop powerhouse. There’s a vivacity to her words — a brilliant example of confidence. Clarkson isn’t afraid to be silly, and she isn’t afraid to flaunt her skill. “I ain’t no girl, I’m a boss with orders. All I’m needin’ is a baby to love me like a warm biscuit on a Sunday mornin’,” sings Clarkson in a sassy, no-nonsense tone. It’s a welcome and unexpected bit of absurdism in a fairly straight-forward album.
“Medicine” is the closest thing to failure on “Meaning of Life.” A bizarre vocal distortion in the second half of the song kills the mood established in the previous songs. It sounds like Clarkson is burping her lyrics rather than singing them.
Fortunately, “Cruel” follows “Medicine” and returns the album to its previous success. It isn’t the best demonstration of Clarkson’s talent, but it’s enough to get the album back on track.
But for all the heights Clarkson reaches on the first half of the album, the twelfth track, “Slow Dance,” is a standout hit. Steady, sweet and romantic, the song is a high school love story worthy of Taylor Swift. It’s a perfect companion to “I Don’t Think About You,” which comes immediately before “Slow Dance.” Both tracks have the ambiance of a candlelit dinner in a swanky restaurant — all romance and class.
The album ends on a limp note. “Go High” is unremarkable; it’s simultaneously devoid of the stylish flair and ingenuity of Clarkson’s other songs. There’s no sassy swagger, no creative lyrics and no outstanding vocals. That said, “Go High” isn’t problematic enough to bring “Meaning of Life” low.
Clarkson is dependable. She deftly combines unapologetic bravado with a spirited sense of style. “Meaning of Life” isn’t earth–shattering, but it’s a meaningful and lively addition to Clarkson’s extensive catalog.