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Just two years after the release of her album Piece By Piece in 2015, pop powerhouse Kelly Clarkson is back with a soulful new album, which came out on Friday.
Her first full-length album with Atlantic Records, the album, aptly titled Meaning Of Life, is much more R&B-influenced than its pop-rock predecessors, and there isn't one track that fails to please. This record features a new, more confident Kelly Clarkson that still manages to bring the bops.
Almost every song on Meaning Of Life has the potential to be a smash hit single, each unfilled to the brim with soulful melodies, sassy beats and incredibly catchy pop hooks. However, without Clarkson's dynamic vocals, the album could easily have been the typical collection of mainstream top 40 tunes.
The record opens with "A Minute," a song that is unsurprisingly a little over a minute long, and it serves as something of a warmup track, preparing listeners for what is to come.
The track easily segues into "Love So Soft," the album's lead single and a huge highlight. It's a confident and flirty R&B-pop masterpiece that effectively showcases Clarkson's powerful voice and captures the sassy spirit of past hits like "Walk Away."
"Love so soft, you ain't had nothing softer/Break it then you buy it and it's sure gonna cost ya," Clarkson sings over a smooth, effortless beat.
Another highlight on Meaning Of Life is "Whole Lotta Woman," a feminist anthem that features a booming brass section and shoots down body shamers and bullies. It's a fierce track that celebrates women of all shapes and sizes.
"I'm a whole lotta woman," she wails during the chorus in a witty call-and-response with her brilliant backup singers that is reminiscent of legendary female team up songs like "Bang Bang" and "Lady Marmalade."
While the inaugural American Idol champ is certainly running the show on this album, it's great to see that her backup singers also get the chance to shine just as much as she does. Throughout the record, they create incredible harmonies on several songs, being so prominent that they basically star alongside Clarkson in the "Love So Soft" music video.
While she slows things down on title track "Meaning Of Life," a heartfelt ballad with a soaring chorus, she still manages to keep listeners engaged with her powerful vocals. Her raw emotion is also present in songs like "Move You" and "I Don't Think About You."
"We can take it slow, and I can show you how to slow dance," Clarkson croons on "Slow Dance," another standout ballad with a killer guitar solo that puts her softer, more vulnerable side on full display.
She picks up the tempo with ease on album highlights "Didn't I" and "Heat," the former being a brash, bold pop piece that incorporate R&B stylings similar to that of Demi Lovato's "Sorry Not Sorry." The latter, "Heat," is a love song that contains an infectious, hard-driving beat.
Clarkson truly shines on the record's final track "Go High," an anthem all about keeping your head up and taking the high road. It was inspired by Michelle Obama's famous quote, "When they go low, we go high," from her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
"Sometimes I don't wanna be nice/But I try," she sings. "When you go low I go high."
Overall, Meaning Of Life shows us a Kelly Clarkson who knows who she is and what she stands for, and it proves that after all these years, she's still able to put out high-quality music that resonates with listeners.
"I'm a strong, badass chick with class and confidence," Clarkson sings on "Whole Lotta Woman," and that's exactly what she is on this album.