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A chastened Clarkson stays true to formula
 Kelly Clarkson is back with her fourth album.
Only three forces in the universe can never be denied: death, taxes and Clive Davis.

By Jim Farber

Kelly Clarkson found that out the hard way when she released her last album. The original American Idol squared off against her mentor, the great god Clive on her third CD, 2007's "My December," insisting on doing it her own way.

Defying both Davis' wishes and his wisdom, she employed darker instrumentation, explored a more individual point of view, and offered fewer, hit-'em-between-the-eyes pop hooks. She even brought her beef with Clive to the press, causing a temporary rift between the two.

Small wonder "My December" turned out to be her Waterloo - at least commercially. Creatively, it advanced a rare hybrid: goth-pop. Yet it sold barely a fifth of its predecessors, and its shrunken audience forced the singer to ax a planned arena tour in favor of a modest swing through the theaters.

It will surprise no one, then, that this time Clarkson swings back hard in Clive's gilded direction. Her new "All I Ever Wanted" sounds like everything older fans ever desired - to an almost desperate degree. Of course, no one ever went broke lunging for the lowest common denominator. Which explains why the CD's advance single, "My Life Would Suck Without You," has become one of Clarkson's biggest hits. Not only does the song boast a big, fat chorus meant to be shouted to the sky, its title mimics the jokey, in-your-face sass of current girl-pop stars from Lily Allen to Katy Perry.

In fact, Perry co-wrote two songs on the CD, including a notable one ("I Do Not Hook Up") about a talented alcoholic who's trying to get the narrator into bed. Clarkson herself did a bunch of co-writing on the CD, too, though she steered clear of the intimate disclosures she featured last time. Even if she had, the production would have run a truck over them.

The general sound of the CD overwhelms everything else. It's a nonstop, pile-driving style, mulching every instrument into a uniform rush of sound. It doesn't seem as if human hands ever touched a single fret of a guitar or wielded a lone drum stick. Everything sounds like it was spat out by machine.

Of course, that's the way certain radio stations like it, and since airplay seems to be the sole concern here, it's no wonder the CD ended up this way. Several songs poke through with a fetching melody, even if none of them proves as winning as the older Clarkson hits they're meant to mimic, like "Since U Been Gone" or "Miss Independent." At least the new songs make good use of Clarkson's ability to belt. If, along the way, she doesn't go anywhere near the nuance she showed on her last tour, that's by design. She wanted cynical hits. And that's surely what she'll get.

New York Daily News, March 9, 2009


Eric...I believe you were the professor who taught the course "Clive Davis 101" at "Case Western University" in Cleveland.

This review of Kelly Clarkson's new album and the Clive...("Whatever Clivee Wants Clivee Gets")

Factor"...seemed to reflect many of your your thoughts on your Arista experience.

Would you please share your reactions to this article?

I believe that author Jim Farber is a former "Billboard" magazine contributor.-Ira.

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Yep. That second album fiasco was just Clive showing her how "Her Life Would Suck Without Him."

Dear Mz. Clarkson,

Let me remind you who is in control here. A couple of years ago you were an overweight bumpkin on American Idol. I turned you into a star. I chose your songs, your producers and, most importantly, I controlled the budget for the promotion of your record.

I told you I didn't believe in your last record, and yet you had the audacity to challenge my wisdom. I told you there weren't any hits on it, but you chose to flex your muscle as an 'artiste'. How silly of you to think I would promote a record I had told you could never be a hit. Why, if I HAD promoted it, and it WAS a hit, I would have proven myself wrong, and given up the power to control our relationship, and your career. How foolish you were to presume I would do such a thing.

I'm pleased to see you have come to your senses. Rest assured, I have chosen the right songs, the right producers and, once again, I have opened the spigots that control the money to promote your new CD, thus allowing you to have another hit. As a matter of fact, since now I am the one so obviously responsible for the success of your record, I plan on pulling out all the stops.

You're going to have three, perhaps four hit singles, and that should propel sales of your CD back into the 2 to 3 million units range. I will have thus proven to you and the world that, like all Arista 'artists,' you are nothing without me. Do not ever again make the mistake of forgetting that, or I will crush you like a bug.

Warmest regards,


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"The world is a bad pace...a sad place...a terrible place to live...But I don't wanna die".-"Marmalade".

Eric...I have a friend Bob who I have known since Kindergarten...over 50 years ago.

There were cuts at his agency...And Bob's boss...a mean mean lady used her 3 cuts as carte blanche to get rid of Bob and 2 other people she found threatening (Read more talented.)

Bob described his feeling as "Impotent Rage"..anger with no way to express it in a way that would be beneficial to him.

I am a senior teacher in the one corner of New York City where the schools are decent.

Staten Island is the model for nepotism!

Every day I am demeaned by a principal who wants to replace me with a pretty 24 year old relative at 1/2 the price!

It really sucks to be talented ..whatever your field...and have to deal with "Clive Davis-Like" scum...No matter how entrenched they are in their positions.

Please forgive my ire...Tomorrow I'll go back to posting my usual up-beat observational stuff.

Today I don't really feel like life is a "Hallmark Card".-Ira.

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Great letter, Clive... er, Eric! See, you too could be a record company mogul. You know the game, and you know how to speak the language.

The occasional public celebration of Clive sure make him seem beloved, but he's left a fair number of squashed bugs in his wake, no?

PS: As an aside, I for one loved the use of the word "spigot." Very imagistic. And you just don't see that word used much; it's an under-appreciated word.

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