For this week’s Music Monday, I decided to review a couple of records that are set to release this week. I will say that I happen to have had them both on my iPod for a couple of weeks now, thanks to internet leaks, but they are both getting their official releases this week in most parts of the world. The reason I picked the two albums I have to review is because they are brand new releases from two of my favorite artists of all-time, Kelly Clarkson and Darren Hayes. Obviously, the fact that these are two of my favorites gives the impression that these reviews may be a little on the biased side, which could be true but I don’t think that really matters in this type of forum. That having been said, let’s get on with discussing the albums.
Kelly Clarkson, for anybody who has been living under a rock for the past near decade, kick started her career when she won the very first season of “American Idol” back in 2002 and remains the highest-selling “American Idol” contestant worldwide, (according to Billboard and Nielsen Soundscan.) In the time since her big “Idol” win Kelly has broken the record for the fastest leap to number one in Billboard chart history in 2002 with her first single, “A Moment Like This,” then broke her own record in 2009 with her single “My Life Would Suck Without You.” She has won 2 Grammy Awards and sold over 23 million albums worldwide… and those numbers are sure to grow with the release of her fifth studio album, “Stronger.” “Stronger” is exactly what the title suggests; it is a much stronger record than her previous release “All I Ever Wanted.” In fact, in many ways, I think it is actually stronger than any of her previous records. It is much more cohesive and flows so much better than any record she has released in the past. It feels sleeker than her “My December” album but with a lot more nuance and rawness than “All I Ever Wanted” or “Breakaway.” In many ways, I think the content of this record come from a much stronger place than any of her previous records, as well. In spite of the fact that she only actually wrote six of the twelve tracks on the Standard edition of the album, it all comes across as so personal and introspective, which is one of the most common traits of Kelly’s music. It seems as though, on a lot of these tracks, where Kelly used to use her introspective songwriting style to express a more insecurity and vulnerability she has replaced that style with a much more confident, aggressive stance. If there is any main theme throughout this record, it is definitely a theme of “moving on.” As far as individual tracks on this record, each one is pretty amazing, in my opinion, but there are two tracks that stand out the most for me – “I Forgive You” and “Breaking Your Own Heart.” “I Forgive You” is a song that I can relate to a lot. Essentially, it is a song about finally forgiving and letting go of pain from the past. The lyrics in this songs chorus really blew me away the first time I heard it – “I forgive you, we were just a couple of kids trying to figure out how to live doing it our way, No shame, No Blame, cos’ the damage is done and I forgive you.” I just felt like that was such a powerful statement to make; being able to admit that somebody hurt you out of sheer lack of prior experience. It’s like finally taking a step back and saying, “Hey, we didn’t know any better.” That can be so difficult to admit to yourself, I know from experience, so it is really powerful to hear somebody actually say it in music. “Breaking Your Own Heart” is another one I can relate to more than I care to admit. It actually made me cry the first time I heard the chorus of “You’re breaking your own heart, taking it too far down a lonely road, You say you just want love but when it’s close enough you just let it go, The very thing you’ve been the most afraid of you’ve been doing from the start, breaking your own heart.” Other tracks on the album that are favorites of mine include the lead single, “Mr. Know It All,” (see the video below,) “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger,)” “Dark Side,” “Standing In Front Of You,” “Let Me Down” and “You Can’t Win,” the last of which is probably the most fun track on the entire album. I highly recommend checking this album out when it is released tomorrow, October 25, 2011. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up!
Darren Hayes is a name that is much less well-known stateside than Kelly Clarkson’s, however his voice is not. You see, Darren Hayes has sold over 25 million albums worldwide, many of which are from his work with his former band Savage Garden. Savage Garden had two of the biggest selling singles of the late 90s, “Truly Madly Deeply” and “I Knew I Loved You,” as well as having pretty big hits in the US with songs like “I Want You,” “To The Moon & Back” and “The Animal Song.” Savage Garden released their last record as a band in 1999 but Darren went on to release his first solo record, “Spin” in 2002. He released a second successful album with Columbia Records, as well as a Savage Garden greatest hits record, before parting ways with the label and developing his own independent label, called Powdered Sugar, to release his third record, a film and a side project album under the name of We Are Smug. For his fourth studio album, “Secret Codes & Battleships,” Darren actually signed with another label, Mercury Records, for a global release. Darren has stated that this would be a pure pop record and he was not lying. This is definitely a pop record but, in true Darren Hayes style, he doesn’t create a silly pop record. It is full of beautiful, emotionally-charged lyrics and classic songwriting, built up with synthesizers and beats and all of the elements of a great dance-pop record. The album opens with a beautiful track called “Taken By The Sea,” which includes the lyrics, “If I am an island then you are the ocean and all of my sadness is taken by the sea.” The water and ocean themes run throughout the entirety of the album, as does the theme of this type of love that saves one from themselves. One of my very favorite tracks on the album is the lead single, “Talk Talk Talk,” (see the video below,) which is a song about reaching out to somebody who you can see is struggling. It reminds me a lot of the “It Gets Better” project, in many ways, as it is a song about trying to show somebody that they are not alone and there is always somebody that they can talk to. This concept is also explored in the song “Blood-stained Heart.” Another favorite track on this record, which follows the love theme of the record, is called “God Walking Into The Room,” which includes a very powerful chorus of “You bring me love, You lift me up, Every time we kiss it’s like God walking into the room.” It just makes you imagine and long for that type of powerful, life-altering love. My very favorite track on this record, though, is definitely “Black Out The Sun.” Unlike many of the other songs on the record, “Black Out The Sun” is a pretty dark song set to a heavier, more hard pop beat like many of those of the pop music of the early 2000s. This is a song about heartbreak so strong you just want to forget the rest of the world. There is a line in the song that says, “Now nothing compares, how could it even dare? All of the love’s gone, so black out the sun.” As much as it sucks to admit, I can definitely say that I have felt this way in the past, as I imagine many of us have. I have only been listening to this record for a week or so now but it seems like it is definitely a contender for one of my favorite records of this entire year. I couldn’t possibly recommend it enough – it is beautiful. Check it out!
That is all for this week’s Music Monday! I wish you all a beautiful week and a beautiful life!