Stronger is Kelly Clarkson's fifth studio album. It was first released on October 21, 2011 in Australia and on October 24, 2011 in the United States.
During an interview with MTV News in November 2009, Kelly stated that while performing on the "All I Ever Wanted Tour," she would also be in the process of writing new material for her fifth studio album which she hoped for a late 2010 release.
In an interview with the "Chart Show TV," Kelly revealed that she wanted to do something different for the album, she remarked: "Luckily, my label wanted me to do it as well."
On March 4, 2010, Kelly was announced to perform on the revived Lilith Fair music festival. However, low ticket sales and scheduling conflicts led her and Norah Jones to cancel their upcoming performances. She remarked she would focus on recording for her upcoming album instead.
Kelly took a six-month break from her music career in 2010. She had a hectic schedule following the release of her sophomore album Breakaway, admitted that her music career had a bad effect on her health, saying:
"Because my career went from zero to 100, there was no 'growing'. I learnt well under pressure, but, like, four years passed by and I hit rock bottom, Breakaway just exploded everywhere. Everyone was making a lot of money, so everyone was pushing the train. That's when it finally all caught up with me. I came down with 'walking pneumonia' for the second time in a year. My body was physically giving up. I took six months off and went home. I love working, but at the end of the day you've got to take care of yourself."
In an interview with MTV on December of 2009, Kelly said:
"There's still some like singer/songwriter stuff [on the album], but there's ... I don't know. It's almost like Garbage-meets-pop-meets-Muse. It's a little different. "I don't know how it's going to end up. Who knows?" she said. "It always ends up being something completely different."
On October 6, 2010, Clarkson hosted an impromptu session on the social networking site Twitter to update fans regarding the status of the album. Clarkson tweeted "We've almost completed the album. We're gonna have way too many songs to pick from." Later adding that she hoped to release it in early 2011.
Claude Kelly (who had previously worked with Kelly) on "All I Ever Wanted") remarked:
"Well, I wrote 'My Life Would Suck Without You' for the last album, so we're trying to take it up a level," adding:
"She's toured the world with that album. She's experienced stuff, so whatever she's going through right now: fun, good, the bad, the ugly — we want to put on that record."
During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kelly remarked that unlike her previous records, most notably the controversial My December and her previous single "Already Gone," the recorded songs for "Stronger" didn't manage to spark a single conflict with her label RCA.
Upon the album's release, she remarked:
"Usually on most albums, I'll fight and be like 'No, this has to be a single.' There's no real fighting on this. The label and I, we all love them."
Kelly remarked that "Stronger" was her best album to record, stating: "Everything was really fluid, and everyone agreed on it and that's a first."
Collaborations Kelly began collaborating with Howard Benson and Claude Kelly, both of whom also produced songs from her previous album All I Ever Wanted.
Jason Halbert (Kelly's musical director and her co-writer during the sessions for "My December") also added new material for the new album.
Kelly also announced that she also recorded worked with several other musicians such as Toby Gad, Greg Kurstin, Josh Abraham, Steve Jordan and Rodney Jerkins.
Bonnie McKee revealed in an interview that she also contributed with Kelly for the album, stating:
"I did a bunch of work with Kelly Clarkson last summer, it’s looking like that will make the album. She really has an incredible voice and I’m excited to see what happens, I have high expectations for that album!" Recording The recording sessions for "Stronger" took place at various recording studios around the world while Kelly was on the international leg of her All I Ever Wanted Tour.
Some recording sessions took place at Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California and at Smoakstack and Starstruck Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.
In August 2010, Kelly recorded a song with country singer Jason Aldean entitled "Don't You Wanna Stay" for his fourth studio album "My Kinda Party."
The song was released as a single in November of 2010 and was later included in the deluxe versions of the album as a bonus track.
In February 2011, Kelly announced that she will record the final song (which is "Mr. Know It All") for the album on February 25, 2011.
She also revealed that she recorded two duet songs for the album, saying:
"There are actually 2 duets on the new record & I have at some point sang w/both of these artists before but not on record."
One of the duets, titled "One More Yesterday" (which Kelly confirmed was featuring fellow Idol-alumnus Chris Daughtry) did not manage to make the final track list.
The song was written by Daughtry, Richard Marx and Jason Wade, but Kelly decided not to include it feeling that it might not be suitable for the album's direction.
The second duet "The Sun Will Rise" (which appears on the deluxe edition) is revealed to be a duet with American songwriter Kara DioGuardi.
Kelly revealed the that the album's title would be "Stronger."
She described it as "very much about strength and empowerment, so 'Stronger' felt like the perfect title. Plus that song is just a gold mine — it's a little bit pop, a little bit pop-rock, a little bit urban, a little bit dance, and it ties everything in. And everybody loves that message. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." It's a perfect representation of my life."
During Kelly's live web cast on August 30, 2011, she stated that the reason she named the album "Stronger" is "mainly because the entire album is very much about empowerment and just strength overall and I love singing songs like that... That was kind of the theme is strength so we named it Stronger."
Another reason for the album title comes from a lyric from one of her favorite tracks on the album called "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)."
According to Kelly, "It just kind of encompass the whole theme for the album."
Music and Themes Kelly co-wrote seven tracks from the album and collaborated with other artists such as Ester Dean and Bonnie McKee for the first time.
Kelly stated that the new music will be different from her previous albums, describing it as "like Garbage-meets-pop-meets-Muse."
Claude Kelly remarked that the songs he wrote "were in true Kelly Clarkson form, singer records that showcase her voice, but also show her edge and her attitude and her personality."
He also explained that "[It's] always up-tempo for me when it comes to Kelly. I like to hear her in kick-butt mode. She has an edge to her voice that you want to hear her sing high and get in your face."
Rodney Jerkins then remarked that he and Lauren Christy wrote a song that’s just crazy pop-rock and "The first person who came into my head to do it was Kelly Clarkson."
Kelly stated that the album ended up going in a different direction than what they were originally going for.
In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Kelly stated that she and her producers strove to record her voice in the album as it is heard at live performances, with as little auto-tune processing as possible, saying:
"What separates this album are the vocals. They sound richer and fuller, and for the first time, how I sound when I’m performing live. The producers I worked with just let me sing and be me."
Kelly remarked that "It was a lot of soulful stuff. You know what I'm saying? Like, Radiohead is alternative, but they're very soulful. And Sheryl Crow, very soulful singer/songwriter. So it's all very soulful, rhythmic pop rock."
Shortly after the final track listing was revealed, MTV observed that the word "you" featured prominently in the songs' titles.
"They're all different 'you's,' There's no common, like, it wasn't like one, I didn't have a bad breakup or anything, it wasn't like that. No I just think life is about relationships, so I always write about all these different ones going on in my life and I don't really have a filter. So it's usually very [straightforward]."
The lead single "Mr. Know It All" (written by Ester Dean, Brian Kennedy and Brett James) is a mid tempo pop song with R&B influences, similar to the songs of her debut album Thankful and was described by critics as a fusion of Bruno Mars and P!nk.
The song generally features raw vocals of Kelly which was not much featured from her previous songs as well as a feature she wanted to showcase for the album.
Rolling Stone remarked "Clarkson sasses a controlling man with double-entendres that up her R&B appeal."
Kelly compared "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" to her 2004 hit single "Since U Been Gone."
"I can't wait to perform that live. It's like this big dance anthem. That'll be the one [that's] kinda like 'Since U Been Gone,' [with] people jumping up and down to [it], and it's just kind of really inspiring, so I can't wait to perform that one."
Another song, "You Love Me" which Kelly wrote following an incident that she thought would break her.
According to her:
"It was probably the most hurt I’ve ever been in my life. But by writing about it, I got to work through it and get it out of my system."
Kelly described the lyrics of the song "You Can't Win" as her favorite, singing the line:
"If you're thin/Poor little walking disease/If you're thick/They're all screaming obese/If you're straight/Why aren't you married yet/If you're gay/Why aren't you waving a flag."
In October of 2009, Kelly announced that the album will be released in Fall 2010. In January of 2011, she stated that the album will be released in March of 2011.
In March 2011, she announced that the album has been pushed back to September 2011, explaining:
"I realize that is a long time, but that’s the best time to release it apparently so I’m sorry for the wait, but I promise you it sounds great!"
Jerkins told The Hollywood Reporter that it was a "smart decision" while Claude Kelly remarked that the move could work in her favor, citing:
"I will say that I'd be willing to bet that the reason it was pushed back was not for anything as horrible or earth-shattering as people think — it's probably (sic) a better setup."
It was also reported that the delay was caused by the internal restructuring at Sony Music with the former Universal Music Group chairman Doug Morris entering as its new CEO.[
On July 11, 2011, several demo songs that Kelly recorded (ranging from 50 to 70) were leaked into the internet, some of which were recorded in 2002 while she was still recording "Thankful" and for "Stronger."
RCA immediately issued warnings to infringing websites and leaked tracks were soon removed from such sites.
Kelly (who came after spending a vacation in Tahiti) released a statement, saying:
"I get back in the States from a vacation and somehow 50 of my songs are leaked on the Internet?! There's no point in getting angry because there's nothing I can do. I can't wait for everybody to hear my actual finished fifth album."
In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kelly responded to the situation:
"Oh my God, have you ever been robbed? I have. I’ve been physically robbed a couple of times, but this is much worse. Those songs came out and people are like, Oh my God, what direction is Kelly going? I think what made me mad was that: People stole from me, everybody had no idea what my next album was going to sound like. That really caused a lot of confusion. Here’s the best part though, nothing that’s leaked is the final version. Those are all demos."
Kelly then added:
"I don’t even have (the full album), by the way, because I’m so freaked out to put it on my computer."
Referring to the incident in December 2010 where two hackers from Germany were arrested after stealing songs by international pop artists including Kelly, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Justin Timberlake by accessing their own computers.
On August 17, 2011, Kelly announced that the album's title will be "Stronger" which is set to be released on October 25, 2011.
On September 7, 2011, RCA released the album cover and moved up the American release date to October 24, 2011.
The deluxe edition of the album will be released simultaneously with the standard edition worldwide.
On October 15, 2011, the Japanese iTunes Store accidentally released the whole album for purchase which was immediately replaced by snippet previews later that day.
On March 19, 2011, Kelly previewed the song "Why Don't You Try" during Muhammad Ali's "Celebrity Fight Night" charity event in Phoenix, Arizona.
On August 16, 2011, RCA announced that they will merge Clarkson's two websites, KellyOfficial.com (Sony Music site) and KellyClarkson.com (Official Fan Club site) in favor for KellyClarkson.com.
On August 17, 2011, RCA released press statements for the release "Mr. Know It All", which was released on August 30, 2011, and of Stronger, which is set to be released on October 25, 2011.
On September 7, 2011, RCA released the album cover and moved up the release date to October 24, 2011 due to overwhelming demand.
On August 30, 2011, Kelly hosted a special live webcast on her website to premiere "Mr. Know It All."
She began promoting the song worldwide for the first time at the "Stars for Free" music festival in Berlin, Germany on September 10, 2011.
She then performed it on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on September 20, 2011, at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 23, 2011, on the Australian television series The X Factor and at the 2011 NRL Grand Final at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia on October 2, 2011 accompanied by three hundred dancers (which marked her first appearance at the event in 8 years since 2003 NRL Grand Final).
On October 5, 2011, Kelly previewed the final version of "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" and "You Love Me" on her website to positive reviews from music critics.
"The track is a sonic departure from first single 'Mr. Know It All' and may give an indication of the range of material on 'Stronger.'"
On October 18, 2011, Kelly promoted the album at the thirteenth season of "Dancing with the Stars."
Kelly also performed "Mr Know It All" at the eighth series of British television series "The X Factor" on October 23, 2011, at the 2011 American Music Awards on November 20, 2011 and at the German television series "X Factor" on November 1, 2011.
Kelly promoted "Stronger" on "The Today Show" on October 25 and 27, 2011, "The View" on October 26, 2011 and at "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" on October 28, 2011.
On October 12, 2011, VH1 announced that Kelly will film "VH1 Unplugged: Kelly Clarkson" featuring songs from the album on October 27, 2011 which will be broadcast the following month on November 17 and 18, 2011.
On October 31, 2011, Kelly also appeared at the MTV O Music Awards.
She then performed "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" on the American television series The X Factor.
On December 18, 2011, Kelly participated at the "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" television special.
On January 7, 2012, she promoted the album on the 37th season of "Saturday Night Live," performing both "Mr. Know It All" and "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)."
Kelly partnered with Toyota to promote Stronger by performing "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" in a Toyota Camry advertisement in 2011 with Chris Berman, Andrew Zimmern and James Lipton.
She also partnered with Sony in promoting Stronger by performing select songs from the album in a free concert sponsored by Sony at The Troubadour in Los Angeles on October 19, 2011.
Kelly also performed an acoustic version of "Mr. Know It All" during the Sony presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where she was presented by Sir Howard Stringer, chairman and former CEO of Sony Corporation.
On May 20, 2012, she performed "Dark Side" at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards.
|1.||"Mr. Know It All"||Brian Seals, Ester Dean, Brett James, Dante Jones||Brian Kennedy, Dean^, Jones^^||3:53|
|2.||"What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)*"||Jörgen Elofsson, Ali Tamposi, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin||Greg Kurstin||3:42|
|3.||"Dark Side"||busbee, Alex G.||Kurstin||3:45|
|4.||"Honestly"||Tom Shapiro, Robert Marvin, Catt Gravitt||Kurstin||3:36|
|5.||"You Love Me"||Kelly Clarkson, Josh Abraham, Oliver Goldstein||Abraham, Oligee||4:04|
|6.||"Einstein"||Clarkson, Toby Gad, Bridget Kelly, James Fauntleroy II||Gad||2:59|
|7.||"Standing in Front of You"||Clarkson, Aben Eubanks||Jason Halbert||3:59|
|8.||"I Forgive You"||Rodney Jerkins, Andre Lindal, Lauren Christy||Jerkins, Lindal||3:04|
|9.||"Hello"||Clarkson, Abraham, Goldstein, Bonnie McKee||Abraham, Oligee||3:00|
|10.||"The War Is Over"||Gad, Livvi Franc||Gad||3:57|
|11.||"Let Me Down"||Clarkson, Chris DeStefano||DeStefano||3:24|
|12.||"You Can't Win"||Clarkson, Abraham, Goldstein, Felix Bloxsom||Abraham, Oligee||4:20|
|13.||"Breaking Your Own Heart"||Jennifer Hanson, Michael Logen||Howard Benson||3:49|
"Stronger" received generally positive reviews from music critics.
At Metacritic (which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics), the album received an average score of 62, based on 11 reviews.
Mikael Wood of Spin wrote that, although "Stronger isn't Clarkson's long-promised Nashville album," she "delivers tunes like 'Einstein' and the disco-glam title track with a country singer's earthy conviction."
Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly dubbed it Kelly's "older-better-tougher-smarter album" and complimented the songs' "finger-wagging, rafter-reaching power."
Allison Stewart of The Washington Post wrote that "Clarkson has two moods — scrappy and morose — and Stronger works every possible combination of both" and called it "a good album by a great vocalist who, it’s easy to still hope, is capable of a lot more."
Allmusic's senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine attributed the album's success "entirely" to Clarkson, "whose personality and professionalism turn it into her best album since her Breakaway breakthrough in 2004".
Jon Caramanica of The New York Times asserted that "Ms. Clarkson is turning into the Mary J. Blige of pop: so good at being wounded that no one wants to let her heal."
Slant Magazine's Jonathan Keefe felt that, with the exception of "Mr. Know It All"'s "obvious electronic manipulation," Kelly's performances are "more consistently lived-in and evocative than on any of her previous efforts."
In a mixed review, Rolling Stone editor Jody Rosen wrote that "Clarkson remains a slightly wearying one-note artist--she's a wounded lover, bellowing her pain and scorching the earth. But wow--that voice."
The A.V. Club was more critical, writing that "the album suffers from a heavily produced electro-sheen, and ends up feeling more manufactured than magical."
Sputnikmusic was ambivalent towards Clarkson's attempt at "something with a deeper purpose" and questioned "what do you listen to Kelly Clarkson for: the integrity of the songs, or the hooks?"
Andy Gill of The Independent found no "development" in Kelly's singing and panned its music as "an overlong string of standard putdown R&B and bogus emotional turmoil, the songs blitzed with generic power-ballad overkill."
On its first week of release in the United Kingdom," Stronger" sold 29,233 copies, enough for it to debut at number 5 in the UK Albums Chart, the album's release also helped lead single "Mr Know It All" ascend from six to four with 53,307 in sales, becoming her second highest charting single there ahead of "Since U Been Gone" (#5) and behind "My Life Would Suck Without You" (#1).
In Australia, the album debuted at number three in the ARIA Charts, which was lower than "All I Ever Wanted" but higher than "My December."
In the United States, the album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart with 163,000 copies sold, making it the second time Kelly debuted at the second spot on the chart (the first being "My December" in 2007).
It also became her fifth consecutive album to debut at the top three.
Although Stronger became Clarkson's lowest first-week total after All I Ever Wanted, which debuted with 255,000 copies in 2009; week-to-week commercial performance of Stronger was better than its predecessor.
Billboard editor Keith Caulfield predicted that "Stronger" would surpass "All I Ever Wanted" and "My December."
As of September 2012, the album has been certified platinum in the United States, denoting shipments of one million copies and over 200,000 copies in the United Kingdom, becoming her second most successful album there after Breakaway, which sold over 1,500,000 copies.
As of February 6, 2013, "Stronger" has sold 1,043,000 copies in the United States.