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Pop - Released October 27, 2017 | Atlantic Records

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Pop - Released March 4, 2016 | RCA Records Label

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Pop/Rock - Released October 21, 2011 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released January 17, 2004 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released November 9, 2018 | Atlantic Records

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Pop - Released November 19, 2012 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released October 27, 2017 | Atlantic Records

With Meaning of Life, Kelly Clarkson opens up a new chapter of her career, moving from RCA to Atlantic Records. Switching labels gives Clarkson the freedom to pursue a different kind of music, an opportunity she seizes here by leaning hard into soul and R&B. Clarkson doesn't entirely abandon adult-leaning pop -- Greg Kurstin, one of the producers du jour in 2017, comes aboard for the sparkling "Would You Call That Love," a song that glistens -- but there's an undeniable soulful undercurrent on Meaning of Life. Certain styles bubble to the surface -- "Love So Soft" has a bounce straight out of Motown, "Heat" has a bit of gospel fire, "Move You" is Southern vamp -- but even if the construction is a throwback, the production on Meaning of Life is thoroughly modern, a seamless hybrid of retro flourishes and crisp electronics. There's a clean sheen to the sound, but Clarkson never seems to be chasing trends. As the title suggests, there's a maturity in the perspective of Meaning of Life: it's filled with songs about love and living, it's rooted in the past and living in the moment. The blend of contemporary and classic suits Clarkson, who sounds assured here in a way that differs from her earliest records. Controlled and confident, she certainly has her share of showstopping moments, but Clarkson always keeps her focus on the songs, which are consistently strong -- maybe her best overall set of songs yet. Even if they're not, Meaning of Life is one of her most satisfying albums: it feels like not just a collection of good tunes, but a statement of purpose. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Ambient/New Age - Released October 29, 2013 | RCA Records Label

If American Idols are ready for anything, it's that industry standard, the Christmas album. It is to Kelly Clarkson's credit that she waited a decade to deliver a seasonal platter, but 2013's Wrapped in Red is worth the wait; a testament to her confidence as an interpreter. Generally, the 14 songs here emphasize Clarkson's skills as a full-throated diva -- the arrangements are bold and brassy, as is her delivery -- but when the tempo slows and the arrangements scale back, she's perhaps even more alluring, turning "Blue Christmas" into a sweet fireside crawl and effortlessly overshadowing the overmatched Ronnie Dunn on "Baby It's Cold Outside." Clarkson's selections favor the bold -- there aren't many carols here, these are primarily secular holiday tunes, and she doesn't resist Vegas glitz, giving "My Favorite Things" a bit of a gaudy makeover -- but she fares well in this setting, always sounding like the strongest element in the mix. Perhaps the concept and execution are conventional, but even in this utterly expected setting, Clarkson retains her fiery, individual spirit, and that's what makes Wrapped in Red appealing: to the letter, it delivers what it promises. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released January 17, 2012 | RCA Records Label

No longer needing to reassure her label and fickle fans in the wake of her wild detour My December, Kelly Clarkson settles into her skin on Stronger. Using 2009’s All I Ever Wanted as a rough template, Clarkson is nevertheless willing to dip back to the beginning of her career for skyscraping, crowd-pleasing power ballads, but she’s assuredly not retreating. Kelly lives in the modern world, and quite cannily so, at times co-opting Rihanna and Katy Perry while also making room for a duet with country hunk Jason Aldean, all the while never seeming as if she’s desperately chasing different demographics. Nevertheless, Stronger certainly has something for anybody who has ever loved Kelly: she belts out the show-stopper “Standing in Front of You,” then turns around for a blast of furious pop-punk in “I Forgive You”; she even dips her toe into brooding My December territory on “The War Is Over,” then pushes into the brilliantly dense pop of “Let Me Down”; and she cheerfully gets tough on the girl power anthems “Einstein” and “Don’t Be a Girl About It” (the latter only on the deluxe edition). Certainly, part of the variety is down to the multitude of producers and writers on Stronger, but the album’s success is entirely due to Kelly Clarkson, whose personality and professionalism turn it into her best album since her Breakaway breakthrough in 2004. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released March 27, 2019 | Atlantic Records

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Pop - Released April 24, 2012 | 19 Recordings

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Pop - Released September 29, 2003 | RCA Records Label

Pop - Released February 27, 2015 | RCA Records Label

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Recording has rarely come easy for Kelly Clarkson. The classic example of this trouble is My December, the album where she attempted to break away from her American Idol benefactors to find her own way, but 2015's Piece by Piece bears signs of a potentially rocky creation. At the very least, its gleaming surface is evidence that during the four-year hiatus between 2011's Stronger and this 2015 release, she and 19/BMG spent considerable time figuring out which direction she should pursue as she entered the second phase of her career. Instead of consolidating the assured mature pop of Stronger, Piece by Piece refurbishes Kelly, piling on EDM affectations and finding her singing cuts co-written by such successful contemporary pop hitmakers as Sia ("Invincible"), Matthew Koma ("Someone"), and MoZella ("Take You High") on an album largely produced by Greg Kurstin, who has had hits with Sia, Tegan and Sara, Ellie Goulding, and Lily Allen. Previously, Kurstin proved to be a good fit for Kelly -- he produced three cuts on Stronger, including its title track -- but Piece by Piece often makes the cardinal mistake of so many botched albums by pop divas: it places the emphasis on sound, not song. This decision tends to submerge Clarkson, who performs as powerfully as ever but is nevertheless overwhelmed by skittish beats, fragmented samples, and electronic sheen. Her receding presence unfortunately is mirrored by the lack of songwriting credits -- she has just three on the standard edition of the album, half of what she had last time around -- and it's also not true that only the tunes she had a hand with are the ones that work: Sia's "Let Your Tears Fall" has an appealing nocturnal pulse, "Good Goes the Bye" floats upon its percolating beats, and "Nostalgic" is a nifty piece of neo-new wave. These cuts, along with the title track, manage to strike the right balance of Kelly's indomitable character and fresh electronic beats but overall Piece by Piece sounds a shade too desperate, which means it winds up having the opposite effect than intended: instead of sounding like a new start, Clarkson sounds a little bit behind the times. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released March 6, 2009 | RCA Records Label

Thankfully, All I Ever Wanted is not Kelly Clarkson's atonement for insisting on releasing the dark, gothic rock record My December against the wishes of label boss Clive Davis in 2007 -- well, at least not entirely. All I Ever Wanted doesn't completely abandon the tougher rock edges of My December, but it does ditch the brooding in favor of angry spunk, all the better to prove that the girl who sang "Since U Been Gone" is back. And she is -- quite self-consciously on "My Life Would Suck Without You," the first track and first single on All I Ever Wanted, a song designed by Max Martin to be an explicit sequel to his "Since U Been Gone." It's effective, if a bit clinical, running contrary to Clarkson's greatest gift: her genuineness. My December might not have quite worked, but its messiness seemed an authentic reflection of a girl next door sorting through the aftermath of turning into an unexpected star and much of All I Ever Wanted is the opposite, attempting to run the most likeable pop star of the new millennium through the mill. Fortunately, it's possible to dampen Clarkson's spirit -- nobody could survive four Ryan Tedder collaborations without being brought down into his simpering murk -- but not to break it. She can break through Martin's machinations on "My Life" and comes pretty close to breathing some life into Tedder's cold R&B approximations, but those chilly sheets of synths don't suit her. Kelly is at her best when she's belting out a big chorus backed by loud guitars, or even singing a piece of pure pop like "I Want You," as effervescent a tune as she's ever sung. About half of All I Ever Wanted is as good as this and some of it even touches on Clarkson's hard rock infatuation and improves it, particularly on the bubblegum punk "Whyyawannabringmedown" -- complete with Kelly affecting a hysterical Johnny Rotten snarl -- the arena rocker "Don't Let Me Stop You," and "All I Ever Wanted," which turns the disco bass of Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On" upside down. Tellingly, Kelly takes two Katy Perry-written numbers (both produced by Howard Benson)-- "I Do Not Hook Up," co-written by new American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, and "Long Shot," co-written by Glen Ballard -- and goes a long way in illustrating why she's a better pop star. Kelly sounds impassioned and invested in these numbers, selling every one of the skyscraper hooks, but better still she sounds relatable, pulling listeners into a song instead of keeping them at a distance. This is a rare talent and while it's not perfect, largely due to those dreary Tedder tunes, much of All I Ever Wanted does justice to Clarkson's considerable skills. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released January 12, 2015 | RCA Records Label

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Pop/Rock - Released March 6, 2009 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released March 4, 2016 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released November 19, 2015 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released November 5, 2016 | Atlantic Records

Pop - Released November 11, 2016 | Atlantic Records

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