How Kelly Clarkson Delivered Her Most 'Grown-Ass' Album Yet
(Images of 'Meaning Of Life' Album Launch)
By James Dinh, iHeartRadio US
Kelly Clarkson still stands tall as the US reigning reality-tv-singing contestant-turned-global superstar, and she's definitely put in the hard work.
With 15 years in the industry, the singer moves into an elevated era in her career with her newest album, Meaning of Life, which arrived on Friday (October 27) via her new home at Atlantic Records.
Filled with her rich octave-bouncing voice, sassy background support and even star-studded collaborations with Earth, Wind & Fire, the LP serves as a fitting addition to her discography.
In her sixteenth year, it has not been an easy road to complete an album she's dreamt of since her adolescent years.
In fact, there's no one that has been looking forward to this moment more than Kelly Clarkson herself.
she told iHeartRadio. "It's taken a few years of just collecting songs and actually getting in a studio and working with writers and producers."
Naturally, the bubbly pop star started our discussion with that side of the story before disclosing the creative confinement that she dealt with at RCA Records.
After years of ruling the charts with her signature pop/rock sound and incorporating her emotional sentiments into the Top 40 landscape, Clarkson was ready to take control of her creative direction, or at least make another attempt at it.
It's a battle she had fought in 2007 when she went public with her conflicts with industry big-wig Clive Davis over the release of her gritty third studio LP, My December.
Thankfully, after reissuing her seventh studio album, Piece by Piece, along with its companion remix album in 2016, she had successfully completed the terms of her recording contract with RCA Records and 19 Recordings, which she won from Idol, and was open to new opportunities.
Cue the semi-impromptu meeting with Craig Kallman, Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Records, where he blatantly used Aretha Franklin as a reference and told her his vision to hear her mix the old with the new.
"I don't have a filter, so I don't think it's a shock," Clarkson said about her departure from RCA. "We were successful with the cards that were dealt, but I definitely didn't get to spread my wings as an artist and really do the albums I was really wanting to make. It was a lot of compromises. I think at the age of 35, you should do what you want."
Using the likes of her very own childhood aspirations like Whitney Houston, En Vogue and Annie Lennox, Meaning of Life hears the big-voiced singer extract from her own upbringing and intertwine the experience she's gained as an industry veteran.
It's a project she likes to her refer to as a "grown-ass woman's record."
"Even after winning Idol, I would not have made this record. It would not sound like it does now. I think with this record you have to have lived through certain circumstances. I had to have had all those hurdles and all those things to really appreciate the gravity of the situation that I'm in right now," she explained. "Knowing the difference has really made me happier.
Perky and wide-eyed, Clarkson explained that everything about the recording of the LP went swimmingly.
Wine and several song pitches alongside former collaborator Jesse Shatkins led to lead single "Love So Soft." Conversation with Earth, Wind & Fire's Verdine White enlightened her to appreciate the earlier generation of powerhouse stars during the recording of "Whole Lotta Woman." However, power ballad "I Don't Think About You" seems to have one of the more interesting backstories.
"I wanted a ballad that not everybody could sing. Now, the problem with that is they almost wrote one that I couldn't sing," she said with a laugh. "It's a message song and I know a lot of people know I love message songs and I love empowering things. This song is basically my time to breathe. I'm out of an arranged marriage musically, business-wise."
Still, Clarkson made it a point to admit she doesn't want to entirely slam her "successful" run with smashes like "Since U Been Gone" and "Strong (What Doesn't Kill You)," emphasizing that her creative process for Meaning of Life just offered a lot more liberty. "This is the first time I get to do a lot of things. It was always in the back of my mind and always held me back, emotionally and musically, because I felt suppressed a lot."
Asked about her unreleased cuts like "Soap & Water" and "Feel It Coming On," which hit the blogosphere earlier this year, Clarkson held back nothing about initial plans to work on a project that hit on another genre close to home: country. "I think that somebody was trying to sabotage my release by releasing the country stuff," she said, explaining that the actual leaks didn't bother her all too much because she loves the tracks. "I cut actually three country songs because we were going to work on a country thing, but I was in a situation with the label that wasn't on board with it, so it was very hard."
Ultimately, Clarkson didn't want to make a country album and have it never see the light of day with RCA Records, so she held back. For now, the focus is Meaning of Life, and it's something that even her own mother understands was a long time in the making.
"My mom heard the record and was like, 'This is what I thought you were gonna do. This is why I was so confused for a while.' But she knows I love a lot of music [and] different genres, and I love my pop/rock stuff, I always will play it at shows, but this is the record that, as a child, people probably thought I was gonna make as a woman."
Meaning of Life is currently available on iTunes.