With Kelly Clarkson’s sixth non-holiday studio album in the mail on its way to me, currently titled Piece by Piece, I listened and graded all the tracks from her previous 5 albums. Based on the compilation of songs, each album received a grade. I excluded her Christmas album because since the Christmas mood has passed most of the songs would have received lower grades than if I had graded them during the holiday season. I also excluded her Greatest Hits album, since it only had 4 unique songs and in theory would have been graded her best album since she could pull from 5 albums of work.
Kelly’s debut album, Thankful landed in last place. In retrospect this shouldn’t be all that surprising. If she hadn’t won the first season of American Idol, she might have had more creative say in how the album turned out. She did get co-writers credits on four songs, which you’ll notice if you passed a couple names first. The songs I rated as her highest were “You Thought Wrong” feat Tamyra Gray (4th place in American Idol’s first season), “Miss Independent” and her swan song “A Moment Like This”. The songs I rated as my least favorite were “Beautiful Disaster”, and “Before Your Love” (the other song she was given to sing on American Idol. Album grade B
After Kelly’s power struggle with her record label about releasing music she wanted that resulted in an album with no studio support or marketing, she arrived with her fourth studio album, All I Ever Wanted that also landed in fourth place on this list. It is her only album that has not yet been certified platinum, and she helped in the writing of 7 of the songs. The leading tracks of her album for me are Keri Noble cover song ”If No One Will Listen”, “Cry” and “Don’t Let Me Stop You”. The songs that I ranked as the lowest for the album were the Aranda (an American rock band) cover song “All I Ever Wanted” and “Ready”. Album Grade B+
Kelly’s last studio album, Stronger landed at #3 on my list. The title track of this album is her best-selling single, and arguably one of her best songs to date. Other high marks for the album include “You Love Me”, “I Forgive You”, “The War is Over” and “Breaking Your Own Heart”. With 6 tracks with writing credits, I can only hope that they are having more faith in her ability as a writer and let her take the reins more often. The low points on the album include “Honestly”, “Alone”, and truly her worst song ever recorded (the beat is fine but the lyrics are atrocious) “Einstein”. Album Grade B+
In second place, just narrowly missing the top, is Kelly’s most famous and highest selling album Breakaway. This is the album that everyone knows is a great album because it’s where most of the songs you’ve heard about come from. Great hits like “Since U Been Gone”, Walk Away”, “Because of You” (one of 6 that Kelly co-wrote and even this hit she practically had to fight to get on the album), and the much-improved by a live version of “Beautiful Disaster”. The worst songs on the album could easily have been gems on other albums, but few of them could take away the power of the top album on my list. Album Grade A-
That just leaves the album that Kelly fought to release and her studio did nothing to advertise because it wasn’t the sound they wanted. I hope each new album can try to hold a torch to My December. The album is filled with A+ hits, like first single “Never Again”, all the way to the end tracks “Can I Have a Kiss” and the two-tracks in one of “Irvine” and hidden track “Chivas”. The songs on this album sound like they could have been vocalized by numerous artists and that’s what makes it so impressive. Kelly received first billing on writing for every track on the album. The album also has my favorite Kelly song, “Sober”, one of those songs that will always stick with me as one of her best as well as one of the best songs of all time. Album Grade A-