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11 Underrated Deep Cuts from Kelly Clarkson

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11 Underrated Deep Cuts from Kelly Clarkson

 

 

You Found Me

This waste-of-an-opportunity from Kelly’s breakthrough album Breakaway was written by frequent pop collaborator Kara DioGuardi and produced by John Shanks. Just like the title track, “You Found Me” has soaring, full instrumentation that just feels like a breath of fresh air. Kelly ascends into the chorus and beyond without being too overbearing. The production fits perfectly with the lyrical content of the relief of finding someone worthwhile who will stay by your side thick-and-thin. “You Found Me” is pure, mid-2000s pop perfection. The song itself is a relief to hear after the heavier – in sound and content – tracks that preceded it.

 

Maybe

I think the song “Maybe” from the album My December showcases Kelly’s ability to not only write a good track, but the general outpouring of emotion she can convey. The song is generally stripped back, with Kelly being accompanied by a single guitar through most of the track, although a full band kicks in during the climax as wells a piano during the outro. Kelly is vulnerable yet defiant; she’s not perfect but she’s not broken: “I don’t need to be fixed / and I certainly don’t need to be found / I’m not lost / I need to be loved / I just need to be loved”. It showcases the depth of personal loneliness she was experiencing at the time.

 

Be Still

“Be Still” is a rather unassuming track nestled in the middle of My December, but a closer look would reveal its potential. This slow ballad, accompanied by a simple guitar beat and subtle strings, showcases Kelly’s gentler side. Kelly is often known for her belting vocals and aggressive break-up tracks, but “Be Still”, on the other hand, does not have a climax at all. Her vocals are small and gentle, keeping in her head voice throughout most of the track. The lyrics are composed almost like a letter to herself. Kelly has said while writing this album, she was at her lowest point in her career; broken, drained, and tired. The lyrics confide in herself, allowing her to feel this; “foolish one with a smile / you don’t have to be brave “

 

Beautiful Disaster

Two very different versions of this song exist. The first comes from Kelly’s debut, where it is an unassuming album track with a somewhat overproduced, chugging tempo. The second is a stripped back live version (accompanied only by piano) that was included on Breakaway. The nature of the latter version perhaps does better service to the lyrics, but the original is not to be thrown away either. The lyrics describe a female protagonist who is torn over how to deal with a troubled male lover: “A tragedy with / more damage than a should should see / and do I try to change him / so hard not to blame him”. The sensitive song is beautifully written, and Kelly’s tender delivery gives it its due in both version. 

 

Ready

It’s a shame that most of All I Ever Wanted’s interesting tracks were stuffed towards the end of the album. The self-written “Ready” is upbeat with bubbly synths but with the heavier energy of a typical rock instrumental. Kelly challenges her object of desire to make a move, boasting some of her more delicious lyrics: “too much of your mouth is like too much sun / how I burn / how I burn” as well as pleasantly interesting imagery: “Fearless / with cape in hand / conquered / what I need to amend / little girls get so broken”. Although Kelly belts out her chorus, she allows her vocals to be sugary sweet in the bridge. Before the final chorus, the instrumentation suddenly falls away and Kelly whispers: “Come. Get. Me.”, and it’s difficult not to accept the challenge. 

 

Can I Have A Kiss

This rock track is nestled towards the bottom of Kelly’s third album My December. It stands today as one of my favorite songs ever released from her. It has heavier instrumentation and is a little more upbeat than the other My December tracks featured on this list thus far, but still retains the same level of vulnerability and intimacy. Like all of the tracks from the album, “Can I Have A Kiss” is self-written, and Kelly croons her affection and praises to her person of interest while downplaying her worthiness of them: “I’m unworthy / I can see you’re above me / but I can be lovely / given the chance”. The song is tenderly chaste: “I tried to warn you / been a mess since you known me […] If I can’t hold you / can I have a kiss?”

 

Hello

“Yes I stumble into the night / we’re touching but I feel like you were still out of reach / the people here were buzzing like a bug on a light / I’m feeling like I always see them / but they can’t see me” are the opening lines to the funky rock track from Kelly’s fifth album Stronger. The lyrics seem to portray the incredibly isolating experience of being a big star. The upbeat, rugged tempo of the track disguises the more vulnerable content of the lyrics. The title itself is the artist calling out for anyone to prove she isn’t alone. It has some of the interesting flavor exhibited on tracks from her previous album, All I Ever Wanted.

 

Yeah

Probably one of the most upbeat tracks on My December, the relatively short “Yeah” is full of “oomph” and swagger. In fact, I would say it stands as a precursor to the type of music she is currently making. Although a rock song, the addition of horns in the instrumentation and the layered vocals during the chorus give this track a classic quality to it. It’s soulful, and the chucking beat reminds me of the era of New Jack Swing. The lyrics aren’t anything to write home about – Kelly is challenging her ex-lover to stand up to the plate, giving her consent to give their relationship another go – but there are a few gems: “I got your back / I never wanted anything more than you and your sexy smile”. The energetic, whispered bridge is a particularly fun highlight.

 

You Love Me

This midtempo ballad is one of the shining tracks from the relatively mediocre Stronger. Although it sounds like a typical love/break-up song, Kelly later revealed that it was directed to her record company, who she had numerous struggles with. Kelly and her company often came to heads over differences in creative direction, and they would often double-cross her in order to gain success out of her star power, while pretending to support her as an artist. Kelly describes the manipulating pain in the self-written lyrics: “You just opened my eyes while breaking my heart / you didn’t do it for me / I’m not as dumb as you think / you just made me cry / by claiming that you love me […] I’m not good enough / I’m not good enough”

 

How I Feel

Like every other track from My December, “How I Feel” isn’t too positive in its lyrical content, but the beat is strong and infectious with rock instrumentation and a gentle keyboard melody-line running through. In fact, it seemed like a perfect contender for a single, but unfortunately was left by the wayside, most likely due to lack of promotion backed by the record company. Kelly has a relatively pessimistic view of her own life compared to others: “I’m not jealous / but I won’t lie / I don’t wanna hear about your wonderful life”. She’s annoyed with everyone around her telling her to buck up, wishing they would allow her to wallow in her depressive feelings: “and that’s how I feel right now / so just let me be”.

 

I Want You

“I Want You” sits back-to-back with “Ready” on the All I Ever Wanted tracklist and there couldn’t be a more perfect pair. “I Want You” is a bit more light and uptempo than the previous track. Again there are bubbly synths; summery and spirited. At closer inspection the rest of the instrumentation is a refreshing array of percussion, including what sounds like a harp, and calls to mind some of the softer tracks from Florence + the Machine’s debut Lungs. Her vocal delivery, on the other hand, is something more akin to Lily Allen. The lyrics are decidedly sweet: “Outta gas so you walk for miles / to pick me up in your worn out shoes / you never settle never take too much / you count on me just like I count on you”.

 

 

 

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