|File:Kelly Clarkson - Stronger.jpg|
October 21, 2011
2010–11 Los Angeles, Calabasas, Nashville, New York City
Pop rock, dance-pop
Brian Kennedy, Ester Dean, Dante Jones, Darkchild, Toby Gad, Howard Benson, Jason Halbert, Greg Kurstin, Oligee, Josh Abraham, Andre Lindal, Chris DeStefano, Michael Knox, Steve Jordan
Stronger is the fifth studio album by American pop-rock, singer-songwriter Kelly Clarkson. The album was released on October 21, 2011 in Australia and October 24, 2011 in the United States and the United Kingdom through RCA Records. The thirteen-song set (seventeen on the deluxe edition) features Clarkson collaborating with new musicians Greg Kurstin, Steve Jordan, Rodney Jerkins, Toby Gad, Brian Kennedy and Ester Dean, as well as recording with longtime collaborator Howard Benson. Wanting to stray away sonically from her previous albums, Clarkson's main objective was to record her vocal performances as it is heard in her live sets, and used as little auto-tune processing as possible. The album also marked the first release by Clarkson that did not cause a conflict with RCA; her previous records, most notably My December, were released with conflict and controversy.
Clarkson began writing new material for the album in November 2009 while touring and finished recording in February 2011. For the recording sessions, Clarkson drew inspiration from Tina Turner, Prince, Radiohead and Sheryl Crow among others. Clarkson also mixed R&B, country, urban, dance-pop and soul with her established pop rock character to develop a more diverse pop music material. The album's lyrical content mainly explores themes about heartbreak, vengeance, forgiveness and empowerment using metaphors about Clarkson's relationships around people. The record is predominantly a pop rock and pop music album, with several music critics noting the predominant R&B and country influences Clarkson explored in Thankful and All I Ever Wanted as well as dance-pop themes which Clarkson has newly developed. Originally planned to be released in late 2010, the release date of the album was pushed back several times. Upon its release, Stronger received mostly favorable reviews from critics, who noted the album's un-risky progression unlike her previous albums but notably praising Clarkson's vocal performance. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number five, with over 30,000 in sales. In the United States, the album debuted at number two by selling over 163,000 copies.
The album's release was preceded by the lead single "Mr. Know It All", which was released on September 5, 2011. The song, originally perceived as a moderate success, peaked at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, number four on the UK Singles charts, and number one on the Australian Charts. The second single, "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)", has topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Clarkson's third number-one single in the United States. "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" has also peaked at number eight in the United Kingdom, number eighteen in Australia and number four in both Canada and New Zealand.
During an interview with MTV News in November 2009, Clarkson 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 Clarkson 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, Clarkson was announced to perform on the revived Lilith Fair music festival. However, low ticket sales and scheduling conflicts led Clarkson and Norah Jones to cancel their upcoming performances. Clarkson remarked she would focus on recording for her upcoming album instead. Clarkson took a six-month break from her music career in 2010. Clarkson, who 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 2009, Clarkson 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 Clarkson 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, Clarkson remarked that unlike her previous records, most notably the controversial My December (2007) and her previous single, "Already Gone" (2009), 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." Clarkson remarked that Stronger is her best album to record. "Everything was really fluid, and everyone agreed on it and that's a first."
Clarkson began collaborating with Howard Benson and Claude Kelly, both of whom also produced songs from her previous album, All I Ever Wanted. Jason Halbert, her musical director and her co-writer during the sessions for My December, also added new material for the new album. Clarkson 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 Clarkson 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 sessions for Stronger took place at various recording studios around the world while Clarkson was on the international leg of her All I Ever Wanted Tour. Some recording sessions took place at Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA, and at Smoakstack and Starstruck studios in Nashville, Tennessee. In August 2010, Clarkson 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 2010 and was later included in the deluxe versions of Stronger as a bonus track. In February 2011, Clarkson announced that she will record the final song, which is "Mr. Know It All" for the album on February 25, 2011. Clarkson also revealed the 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 Clarkson 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 Clarkson 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.
Title and conceptEdit
Clarkson revealed the that the album's title will 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 Clarkson's live web cast on August 30, 2011 she stated what made her title 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. She also named it Stronger because it comes from a lyric from one of her favorite tracks on the album called "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)". "It just kind of encompass the whole theme for the album".
Music and themesEdit
Clarkson co-wrote seven tracks from the album, and collaborated with other artists such as Ester Dean and Bonnie McKee for the first time. Clarkson 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." Clarkson stated that the album ended up going in a different direction than what they were originally going for.
In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Clarkson 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." Clarkson 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. Clarkson asserted "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]."
Song structure and lyrical contentEdit
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 Clarkson, 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."
Clarkson compared "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" to her 2004 hit single "Since U Been Gone". She remarked "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 Clarkson wrote following an incident that she thought would break 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." Clarkson 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."
Release and promotionEdit
In October 2009, Clarkson announced that the album will be released in Fall 2010. In January 2011, Clarkson stated that the album will be released in March 2011. In March 2011, Clarkson 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 2011, several demo songs that Clarkson recorded, ranging from 50 to 70, were leaked into the internet, some of which were recorded in 2002 while Clarkson is still recording Thankful and for Stronger. RCA immediately issued warnings to infringing websites, and leaked tracks were soon removed from such sites. Clarkson, 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, Clarkson 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."
Clarkson 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 Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Justin Timberlake by accessing their own computers. On August 17, 2011, Clarkson 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, the Japanese iTunes Store accidentally released the whole album for purchase which was immediately replaced by snippet previews later that day.
Clarkson previewed the song "Why Don't You Try" during Muhammad Ali's "Celebrity Fight Night" charity event in Phoenix, Arizona on March 19, 2011. 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, Clarkson hosted a special live webcast on her website to premiere "Mr. Know It All." Clarkson 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, this marks her first appearance at the event in 8 years since 2003 NRL Grand Final. On October 5, 2011, Clarkson previewed the final version of "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" and "You Love Me" on her website to positive reviews from music critics. Billboard commented, " 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 11, 2011, Sony announced that Clarkson will perform select songs from Stronger in a free concert at The Troubadour in Los Angeles on October 19, 2011 to promote the album. Clarkson then promoted the album at the 13th season of Dancing with the Stars on October 18, 2011, Clarkson is also scheduled to perform at the 8th series of British television series The X Factor on October 23, 2011, and at the 2011 American Music Awards on November 20, 2011.
Clarkson is then scheduled to promote 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 Clarkson will film VH1 Unplugged: Kelly Clarkson featuring songs from Stronger on October 27, 2011 which will be broadcast the following month on November 17 and 18. MTV also announced that Clarkson will perform at the MTV O Music Awards on October 31, 2011 which will also include a special tribute performance honoring the Apple co-founder and former chairman and CEO Steve Jobs.
The album's lead single, "Mr. Know It All", premiered on August 30, 2011 during a special live webcast on Clarkson's website, after which the song was immediately sent into radio airplay. The single was released to several countries as a digital download on September 5, 2011. It debuted at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Clarkson's second highest debut on the chart since "Never Again" (2007) debuted at number eight. It then peaked at number ten on the chart, thus becoming Clarkson's first top ten single since "My Life Would Suck Without You" (2009) and her ninth top ten single overall. It also peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard Pop Songs and at number twelve on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number six on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart. In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number six on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number four, becoming Clarkson's second highest-charting single and her seventh top ten single on the chart. The song also debuted at number twenty-five on the Australian Singles Chart and peaked at number one after Clarkson's performance at the NRL Grand Final, earning Clarkson her first number one and her highest single in Australia.
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" was released as the second single. It debuted at number 64 at the Billboard Hot 100 with over 40,000 downloads sold. So far, the song has reached number one on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart, becoming her fourth top three single, and third number one single. It also debuted at number 64 in Canada. "Stronger" has also been successful internationally, charting in the UK, Poland, New Zealand, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Russia and Australia. The song has received a Gold certification in New Zealand and a Platinum certification in Australia, the song has also received a Gold certification in Denmark.Template:Citation needed
- Main article: Stronger Tour
Clarkson also stated in interviews that she was developing touring plans to support Stronger, which will begins in North America in January, in which she might release a live album. On November 15, 2011, RCA announced the North American tour dates, which will begin on January 13, 2012 at the MGM Grand Theatre in Mashantucket, Connecticut and will end on April 14, 2012 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Washington. Folk rock musician Matt Nathanson is the opening act for the tour.
|The A.V. Club||(C)|
|The Boston Globe||(positive)|
|The New York Times||(favorable)|
|The Washington Post||(favorable)|
The album has 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, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Prior to its release, the album was placed on several lists including Entertainment WeeklyTemplate:'s "Fall Albums We Can't Wait to Hear", and Rolling StoneTemplate:'s "Fall Music Preview: The Season's Hottest Albums", and MTV's "Fall albums, in which MTV remarked, "Clarkson's fifth LP promises to be one of the season's highlights." Mikael Wood wrote a positive review for Spin, commenting that " Stronger isn't Clarkson's long-promised Nashville album; it mostly sticks to the bright-and-shiny bubble-grunge sound of "Since U Been Gone." But she delivers tunes like "Einstein" and the disco-glam title track with a country singer's earthy conviction." Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly wrote a positive review, remarking that Stronger is Clarkson's older-better-tougher-smarter album, later adding "Best of all is "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," a throbbing glitter-disco tribute to believing that it really does get better. Los Angeles Times's Allison Stewart wrote that "Clarkson has two moods — scrappy and morose — and “Stronger” works every possible combination of both." And concluded that "it's a good album by a great vocalist who, it’s easy to still hope, is capable of a lot more." Express's Simon Gage wrote: "[...] her voice is strong while the production is a real bulldozer of sound ploughing through songs that mostly seem to have the gumption to withstand the assault."
Allmusic's senior editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine was very positive towards Kelly perfomance, writing that "the album’s success is entirely due to Kelly Clarkson, whose personality and professionalism turn it into her best album since her Breakaway breakthrough in 2004". Jon Caramanica from The New York Times went to write 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 went to write that she is "a modern version of Pat Benatar", while praising "Clarkson's performances on Stronger", which according to him "are more consistently lived-in and evocative than on any of her previous efforts."
A mixed review came from Rolling Stone's editor Jody Rosen, who rated it three stars (out of five) and 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".
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 catapulted "Mr Know It All" from number six to four, with 53,307 in sales. 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 Clarkson 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. As of February 29, 2012, the album had sold 633,000 copies in the US.
|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, Olivia Waite||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|
(^) denotes co-producer
(^^) denotes additional producer
(*) "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)" was renamed "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" in later pressings of the album.
The Smoakstack Sessions EP Edit
Clarkson's first EP, titled The Smoakstack Sessions, is packaged with the Stronger deluxe editions that are available exclusively on her official music store. It consists of acoustic performances of select album tracks as well as "If I Can't Have You" from All I Ever Wanted (2009), and a cover version of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me"; all of which are recorded at the Smoakstack Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.
Track listing Edit
(*) produced by DJ Form and Incorporated Elements
- Chris DeStefano – background vocals
- Lauren Christy – background vocals
- Kelly Clarkson – vocals, background vocals
- Kara DioGuardi – vocals
- Jason Aldean – vocals
Visuals and imagery
- Meghan Foley – art direction, design
- Peter Butler – hair stylist
- Ashley Donovan – make-up
- Justin McIntosh – photography
- Harper Smith – photography
- Steph Ashmore – wardrobe
Charts and certificationsEdit
Template:Certification Table Top Template:Certification Table Entry\ Template:Certification Table Entry Template:Certification Table Entry Template:Certification Table Entry Template:Certification Table Bottom
|Australia||Template:Start date||Sony Music Entertainment||CD, digital download||Standard, Deluxe edition|
|Poland||Eco, standard, Deluxe edition|
|Sweden||Standard, Deluxe edition|
|United Kingdom||RCA Records|
|Canada||Sony Music Entertainment|
|Japan||Template:Start date||Sony Music Japan|
|Germany||Template:Start date||Sony Music Entertainment|
|Brazil||Template:Start date||Deluxe edition|
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