Kelly Clarkson “Never Again”

Any connection to that talent/ reality show that birthed her was completely deemed irrelevant when Clarkson dropped the behemoth Breakaway. The multi-platinum Grammy winner was spearheaded by a handful of flawlessly crafted pop/ rock explosions, most notably “Since U Been Gone”, an energy-charged kiss off that earned universal praise from the teenyboppers to the anti-pop clique with it’s showboat chorus and indie rock attitude. Breakaway did for Clarkson what Control did for Janet, quickly pushing away any pre-conceived notions concerning what made her a “pop star” as each released single became a never-say-die airwave staple. Now all eyes are on America’s favorite “Idol” to see if she can do it all over again on her third album, My December.

New single “Never Again” sticks to Breakaway‘s winning formula for the most part, but ups the ante by doing everything thousandfold. The song is bigger, fiercer, louder and much more rockier than anything that album produced. The questions is, though, does it ring better? “Since U Been Gone” was much too ubiquitous to top and anyone expecting anything close to it’s power will walk away feeling at least slight disappointment. But such an unfair comparison doesn’t mean that “Never Again” is a huge fall from grace.

More indebted to it’s tense rock elements and boyfriend irritance, “Never Again” explodes in a blast of crazed guitars and thrashing drum work. It’s all a little too much on first listen, as if Kelly went a little overboard in her ambitions and mistook herself for a Karen O-type artist. But as initial reactions subside, “Never Again” reveals itself to be another potent chart-stomper.

Burnt with jealousy and pain, Clarkson curses her ex’s new relationship in sharp-tongued devlishness (“I hope the ring you gave her/ Turns her finger green/…I would never wish bad things/ But I don’t wish you well/ Could you tell?”), the lyrics growing in pent-up rage until the singer has no choice but to implode in a wide-reaching annihilation of hard rock fury. The song peaks in volume so quickly that by the time the bridge rolls around, the production must go opposite, breaking apart into a cool drum-n-bass riddled section as Clarkson briefly catches her breath before she can vent all over again.

Less adhesive to a teen-pop infrastructure, “Never Again” reaches as far as it can go without Kelly completely losing her identity. It would’ve been foolish to suddenly jump ship from a style that catered to her so well the last time around, so the move to generously build off what worked in the past in such an accomplished way guarantees that Kelly has no intention of falling into a third album slump.

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