My December is Kelly Clarkson's third studio album. The album was released in Europe on June 22, 2007, in Australia on June 23, 2007, in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Poland & Mexico on June 25, 2007 and in North America on June 26, 2007.
Kelly began writing and composing songs for the album during her international Breakaway World Tour.
In an interview, she was quoted:
"Everything caught up with me in a bad way. My body was wearing down, and my emotions were wearing down. I was trying to get over someone. I hadn't seen my friends and family for a while, and it was becoming a nuisance [to see them] because I was so busy. I was traveling, and then there was more added to the schedule. It just got chaotic. I was 24, and that is pretty young to be the boss of so much. And it caught up with me. I couldn't smile. I couldn't do anything. I broke down. I cried so much I couldn't speak. I was that tired. I was drained. I didn't want to act, didn't want to smile -- I didn't want to pretend. I just broke. ... It was the lowest point of my life and my career."
During this period, Kelly wrote songs that would eventually become part of her album, My December, calling it "free therapy."
These feelings inspired the song "Irvine", telling of when she was in Irvine, California.
"Irvine" would be later used in the season five premiere episode of the CW series "One Tree Hill" titled "4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days."
According to Kelly:
"All of my favorite records — Jagged Little Pill, any U2 record, Tragic Kingdom — I love how it's like a story from beginning to finish. Especially Jagged Little Pill. The last song on My December, "Irvine", it literally was the lowest point I've had in my life. I wrote it after my Irvine show on my last tour. I was just so burned-out. I was really struggling at getting somebody out of my life and finding people that really cared. The whole song is a prayer. I wrote it in the bathroom of the venue after the show. I had to cancel my meet-and-greet; it's the only meet-and-greet I've ever canceled. I couldn't smile. It was just a really, really bad night."
Conflict With Record LabelEdit
Prior to the album's release, sources reported that Clive Davis (the head of Sony-BMG) was dissatisfied with the album.
Davis reportedly wanted Kelly to make significant changes to the album with some rumors claiming that he even wanted to delete the entire album and have her record all new material. She reportedly refused to change any of the material.
Initially, these reports were denied by representatives for both RCA and Clive Davis, with Davis specifically stating that Kelly is "one of the top four artists at Sony-BMG" and wanted to ensure that she is treated as such.
However, Kelly later confirmed the rumors to be true. Not only did she state that Davis wanted to hold the album from being released as scheduled, she also stated that her label thought the album was "too negative" and dark.
She has stated multiple times that she recognizes that My December may not rival the showstopping sales of "Breakaway."
However, Kelly compares it to Bruce Springsteen's landmark 1982 album "Nebraska," which was explicitly anti-commercial, but it has since gained a huge reputation of (as she said), "an artist's record."
"I've sold more than 15 million records worldwide, and still nobody listens to what I have to say. I couldn't give a crap about being a star. I've always just wanted to sing and write."
American Idol judge, Simon Cowell commented on the situation in issue of Entertainment Weekly, saying:
"Kelly is not a puppet; she does not like to be told what to do. She could have gone the easy route, which is, you go with ["Since U Been Gone" producer] Max Martin — it's a guaranteed success. She made it absolutely clear that she wanted to steer the musical direction on this record. You just gotta say, 'You know what? This girl has given us millions and millions of sales.' You've got to give her that opportunity. If it works out, fantastic. If she then decides she wants to do a pop album, every good writer and producer wants to work with her. Because Kelly will be here for 30 years. She has one of the best pop voices in the world right now. What she sold in the UK, Europe, Asia had nothing to do with American Idol. It had everything to do with the fact that she made a great record and she's got an incredible voice. She's not a girl who got lucky in a talent competition; we got lucky to find her."
The controversy fell quiet for a brief stint, but it resumed when Kelly cancelled her tour for "My December" and fired her manager, Jeff Kwatinetz.
Interestingly, Jeff Kwatinetz had defended the album to Kelly's label, saying:
"It's an amazing record from beginning to end. I see Kelly as a songwriter who's going to have a 30-year career. If the record doesn't do what the last album does, if it doesn’t sell 5.7 million in the U.S. and have four No. 1 hits, then it’s a failure? No. It’s ridiculous that she’s burdened with these expectations. This record is already a success because she’s pushed herself, she’s evolved and she’s grown. And I hope she keeps doing that."
Narvel Blackstock (Reba McEntire's husband) has since been hired by Kelly as her personal manager.
In regards to her cancelled tour, disappointing ticket sales were acknowledged as a factor and Kelly stated that it (touring) was "too much too soon."
Following the dismissal of her manager and cancelling her tour, Kelly appeared in an issue of Elle Magazine where it was revealed that Davis offered her $10 million to remove five songs from the album in favor of five more radio friendly songs of Davis' choosing which included "Black Hole" which appeared on Lindsay Lohan's sophomore album "A Little More Personal (Raw)."
Kelly refused the offer, stating that:
"I am a good singer, so I can't possibly be a good writer. Women can't possibly be good at two things. I haven't lost my temper about it. It only drives me more. If your thing is to bring me down, cool. I'll just work harder."
Reba McEntire responded to the situation in the same issue, praising Kelly, stating:
"Back in the day, female artists were told to perform and then go sit in the corner. Thank God for people like Dolly Parton who took charge. Kelly is the same way. She knows what she wants. She's had a rough go of it in the music business. People think she just won Idol and everything else was easy. Not so. She's had to fight."
Further articles displaying Kelly "downplaying" her label were written.
In an edition of USA Weekend, she stated:
"I'm going to be real honest with you: I am not a fan. I do respect him [Clive Davis], but I don't want to barbecue with him. We don't braid each other's hair. And despite the rumors, he is nowhere near a father figure."
Although American Idol judge Simon Cowell had sided with Kelly earlier, it seemed he begun to grow sick of the controversy as he was quoted saying:
"Kiss and make up, decide what's best, get on with it! Clive Davis, at 80, is better than 99 per cent of the people in the music business in their 20s, 30s and 40. And he's not 80, he's less than 80. Kelly is one of the best and she always will be, but Clive is the boss of the record company. It's his job to advise."
A few weeks after the release of the album, Kelly publicly stated that all of the controversy regarding her "feud" with her label has been "blown way out of proportion."
In a statement on her website, she stated:
"There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the release of "My December," much of which has focused on a supposed feud with my record label, in particular, Clive Davis. I want to set the record straight on this by saying that I want my band, my advisors, those close to me and my record label to be one big, tightly knit family. Like any family we will disagree and argue sometimes but, in the end, it's respect and admiration that will keep us together. A lot has been made in the press about my relationship with Clive. Much of this has been blown way out of proportion and taken out of context. Contrary to recent characterizations in the press, I'm well aware that Clive is one of the great record men of all time. He has been a key advisor and has been an important force in my success to date. He has also given me respect by releasing my new album when he was not obligated to do so. I really regret how this has turned out and I apologize to those whom I have done disservice. I would never intentionally hurt anyone. I love music, and I love the people I am blessed to work with. I am happy that my team is behind me and I look forward to the future."
American Idol ControversyEdit
Some people felt that Kelly was shunned by Davis during his appearance on the season six finale show of "American Idol" when he proceeded to promote other Idol contestants' current singles or albums, but failed to mention Kelly's upcoming album or its first single, "Never Again" and furthermore went out of his way to praise professional songwriters such as those who had written "Breakaway" and "Since U Been Gone."
However, he did briefly mention that Kelly had sold over 15 million albums worldwide to date, when discussing the current state of "Idol" sales.
In addition, Kelly claims that she was pressured by the label to sing "Never Again" at the charity event "Idol Gives Back" to promote the song, saying:
"My label wanted me to sing 'Never Again,' and I was like, to promote yourself on a charity event is beyond crass. People are starving and dying and I'm up there singing some bitter pop song? And believe me, everyone wanted me to sing it. Because they are jaded and they have no soul. Imagine sitting in a room full of people totally against you. Can't they hear themselves speaking? Capitalize on AIDS? Are you kidding? Insulting an entire nation of people? I just refused."
Instead, Kelly sang Patty Griffin's song "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)" at the "Idol Gives Back" special, getting a standing ovation and saved "Never Again" for her appearance on the season finale show
- Never Again (3:37) (written by Kelly Clarkson & Jimmy Messer)
- One Minute (3:05) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Kara DioGuardi, Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida)
- Hole (3:02) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer & Dwight Baker)
- Sober (4:52) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer, Aben Eubanks & Calamity McEntire)
- Don't Waste Your Time (3:36) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer, Malcolm Pardon & Frederik Rinman)
- Judas (3:37) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer & Dwight Baker)
- Haunted (3:19) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jason Halbert & Jimmy Messer)
- Be Still (3:25) (written by Kelly Clarkson & Aben Eubanks)
- Maybe (4:23) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Aben Eubanks & Jimmy Messer)
- How I Feel (3:41) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer & Dwight Baker)
- Yeah (2:43) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer, Malcolm Pardon & Fredrik Rinman)
- Can I Have a Kiss (3:32) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer & Dwight Baker)
- Irvine [includes hidden track "Chivas"] (8:47) (written by Kelly Clarkson & Aben Eubanks)
iTunes Bonus Tracks
- Dirty Little Secret (3:34) (written by Kelly Clarkson & Jimmy Messer)
- Never Again (Dave Aude Radio Remix) (4:11)
- Never Again (Dave Aude Club Mix) (7:55)
- Not Today (3:30) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Messer & Kahne)
Japanese Album Edition Tracks
- Irvine (4:15)
- Chivas (3:30) (written by Kelly Clarkson & Jimmy Messer)
- Fading (2:52) (written by Kelly Clarkson, Kahne, Malcolm Pardon & Fredrik Rinman)
Even though "Never Again" debuted in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to strong digital sales, it never achieved substantial airplay and it was pulled from many radio stations only a couple of weeks following its release.
Otherwise, the album opened successfully, its opening week sales comparable to those of Kelly's first two albums.
It was suggested that so much controversy could hinder the sales of Clarkson's new album. M. Tye Corner of AOL music had earlier opined that the controversy could "affect sales a bit in the first few weeks and when the record c[ame] out."
In spite of the controversy surrounding the album, it has garnered fairly positive reviews from professionals and critics as well.
The album scored 64/100 on Metacritic (which indicates generally positive reviews).
Slant Magazine reviewed "My December" mostly positive with the album receiving a 3.5/5 star review.
An excerpt from the review, in response to the disappointing performance of "Never Again", reads:
"But who cares about hits—or appeasing the kids—when the songs are this good?"
The Times writes:
"Clarkson has the moxie to rock without worrying about what anybody else thinks... Her gift is finding the source of vitality in absolute mainstream, people-pleasing pop, which by its nature breaks stylistic rules in favor of magpie mash-ups, bold appropriations and happy accidents."
AllMusic gave the album a more lukewarm review, giving it 3/5 stars, saying:
"It's what Kelly wanted to do, so on that level it's a success, and one that listeners who share her viewpoint (and quite likely her age) will respond to but for everybody else, My December is a disappointment."
Commenting on Kelly's feud with the record label, they also claim:
"My December proves that both camps were correct: Davis is correct that there are no big crossover hits here, yet it's also true that this is an artistic move that Clarkson needed to make. If left up to Davis, she would simply be another vocalist singing professional product."
Rolling Stone, giving a similar lukewarm review, writes:
"Clarkson clobbers you over the head with her emotions and arena-ready choruses. The result is a record that's bland in some spots and annoying in others."
In it's debut "My December" was not only was one of the best selling albums of the week, it sold faster than Kelly's previous album, "Breakaway" (which peaked at number three).
The album debuted at number two in the United States with sales of approximately 291,000 copies, a mere 6,000 copies less than Kelly's debut hit "Thankful" sold in its first week.
It came behind "Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus" which sold about 326,000 copies that week.
The album debuted at number two in the United Kingdom selling 40,509 copies, eventually falling to number nine in its second week and number twenty in its third week.
The album was certified platinum in the United States by RIAA on the December 12, 2007.
It also made it to number 66 on the album year-end-chart of 2007 while Kelly was the sixty-third top selling artist of the year.
The album debuted and peaked at number four on the Australian ARIA Charts, falling off the Top 20 in five weeks. It fell off the charts after eighteen weeks.
- Chapman Baehler – Photography
- Dwight Baker – Composer
- Joe Barresi – Engineer
- Rob Bril – Additional Drum Programming
- Jeff Carney – Double Bass
- Kelly Clarkson – Composer, Executive Producer
Cenovia Cummings – Violin
- Kara DioGuardi – Composer
- Aben Eubanks – Composer, Guitar, Keys, Lap Steel
- Erik Friedlander – Cello
- Rachel Goodwin – Makeup
- Jason Halbert – Composer, Co-Producer, Keys, Musician
- Joyce Hammann – Violin
- Aaron Heick – Alto Saxophone
- Bob Ludwig – Mastering
- David Kahn – Engineer, Keys, Producer, Programming
- Brett Kilroe – Art Direction, Design
- Chantal Kreviazuk – Composer
- Jeff Kwatinetz – Manager, Executive Producer
- Andy Laster – Barritone Saxophone
- Raine Madia – Composer
- Campbell McAuley – Hair
- Calamity McEntire – Composer
- Jimmy Messer – Additional Engineer, Bass Guitar, Composer, Co-Producer, Guitar, Keys
- Lori Miller – Violin
- Billy Mohler – Bass Guitar
- Chris Owens – Assistant Engineer
- Malcolm Pardon – Composer
- Shawn Pelton – Drums
- Fredrik Rinman – Composer
- Mick Rossi – Conductor & Additional Orchestrations, Orchestra Arrangements & Orchestrations
- Mike Scielzi – Assistant Mix Engineer
- Sara Seiver – Cello
- Roger Shell – Cello
- Antoine Silverman – Violin
- Andrew Sterman – Conductor, Tenor Saxophone
- David Siskovic – Additional Beats
- Jennifer Sousa – Album A&R Coordination
- Wendy Sutter – Cello
- Hiroko Taguchi – Violin
- Entcho Todorov – Violin
- Emma Trask – Styling
Andy Wallace – Mixing
- Mike Watt – Bass Guitar
- Paul Woodiel – Violin