In a story about "Mr. Know It All" the first single off Kelly Clarksons new album Stronger Entertainment Weekly calls the multi-platinum singer and songwriter "the samurai of shooting guys down." Indeed Kelly has earned herself millions of devoted fans thanks to her feisty, straight-talking lyrics. Kelly's hits such as "Miss Independent," "Since U Been Gone," "Walk Away," "Never Again," and now "Mr. Know It All," are bold empowerment anthems, which she sells to the fullest with her soulful, powerhouse voice and down-to-earth relatability.
The vibrant, musically diverse Stronger (which Kelly says was influenced by Tina Turner, Prince, Sheryl Crow, and Radiohead) will thrill those who love Kelly for her resilience. The album is filled with candid, emotionally raw tunes like "The War Is Over," "Darkside," and "Honestly," as well as "You Love Me" (in which Kelly witheringly tells an ex "youre not good enough"), "Einstein" (the cad in question is dismissed with "Heres your keys, your bags, your clothes, and now get out of my place"), and the title track, which finds Kelly putting a fresh spin on Nietzsches adage that what doesnt kill you makes you stronger and declaring "it doesnt mean Im over cause youre gone." That fact that these gutsy sentiments are wrapped in fizzy pop melodies, bright choruses, and driving dancefloor-friendly beats (crafted by such A-list producers as Rodney Jerkins, Greg Kurstin, Josh Abraham, and Toby Gad) only makes them that much more appealing.
"The whole album is very much about strength and empowerment, so Stronger felt like the perfect title," Kelly says. "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."
Kelly's life has had its share of challenges. Her parents divorced when she was six and her mother struggled financially to raise Kelly and her older siblings. "My mom had to do everything on her own,"Kelly says. "She put herself through school. It was really hard. I think watching that molded me into this person who wants to relay a message to women everywhere that theyre capable of doing whatever they set their mind to. It made an impact on me even though I didnt know it at the time. Now I see it while Im making these songs that I hope will inspire people."
She may not have known how her early life would shape her artistry, but Kelly did understand the emotional power of music from a young age. She was first drawn to singing at age eight after an eye-opening visit to an African-American church in Fort Worth. "I was like, Wow, whatever they're feeling, I want to feel it too," she recalls. When Kelly was in junior high school, a music teacher heard her singing in the hallway and encouraged her to join the choir. "When youre a kid and you find something youre good at, you cling to it. People would say nice things and that gave me confidence.
Everybody always asks me what I would do if I werent singing and I have no clue, because I have no other talents," she says with a laugh.
As is well known by now, Kelly first appeared on the publics radar in 2002 during the first season of American Idol. "When I auditioned, my apartment in Los Angeles had recently burned down and I had a box of photographs to my name," Kelly says. "I figured Id get to sing and make some money to pay the bills. Nobody thought that show was going to be what it is now."