by Kelly Clarkson, pop (2004)

It is a predictable image and sound genesis that any former teenybopper act will be familiar with. First, they have Kelly Clarkson coming out with a hodge-podge of harmless radio-friendly toothless pop tunes. For the second CD, she will have to project an edgier, harder image (read: sexy clothes and a nose stud) to tell everyone that she is now grown up (read: she is singing songs written for her about how tougher, creative, and hard she is now, with probably a credit as a songwriter for her adding a "yeah" or two here and there). Even the title of the CD, Breakaway is calculated for the headlines her handlers are hoping to inspire. Something like "Clarkson's Breakaway from the shadows of Idol", perhaps.

But it is hard to wonder how Clarkson wants to stand out from the crowd of white, waifish young women pretending to be rock chicks who seems to hold half the market share of the US (the other half is of course held by the faux and interchangeable hip-hop rappers and their scantily-clad female songstress girlfriends or backup singers). Songs on this CD that are produced by the same people who give us the wonderful gems of Hilary Duff, Avril Lavigne, Evanescence, and Ashlee Simpson have at best the whiff of the bandwagon or at worse, whiff of the reject bin of Clarkson's counterparts from which these songs are fished out from. There is nothing on Breakaway that I haven't heard from the othermentioned acts before.

So Clarkson wails like Amy Lee in tracks like Addicted, a Ben Moody contribution. She screams her heart out in Gone until any semblance of tune is pulverized from the chorus. She can be mistaken for Lavigne in Behind These Hazel Eyes, contributed by the same guy who also makes music to put into Lavigne's mouth. The end result is a pleasant, pretty CD that lacks any distinctive personality. Worse, at least Avril Lavigne seems to have mastered the art of pouting so prettily in her video and staring coldly at the camera through her mascaraed lashes. Kelly Clarkson, on the other hand, comes off like a dumpy and sweet young lady with a strong voice who tries a little too hard to dance and pout with professional pretenders like Lavigne, only that she isn't fooling anybody. Lacking any convincing edge in her voice and persona to make her faux-rock anthems even a little credible, she comes off like a wannabe who tries too hard at times.

The title track, by the way, has a chorus that is actually a work of genius. If you haven't tried it yet, do sing along with Clarkson, only this time mangle the chorus with your best reinterpretation. My attempt? "They made me go on a diet, no cakes and no pies/Sometimes I wish that I just want to die/So I make a wish/Eat a fish/Chewed on a dish/Puke them out kapish/Just gag away!" My hubby's attempt? "I think I'm Lavigne, I'm think I'm so fly/I'm singing these songs and I drink on the sly/Because I'm just their doll/Panadol/Hate my life, I want a Midol/To breakaway!" Altogether now: "We breakaway! Just break-aaaaa-waaaaaay!"

Kelly Clarkson, ladies and gentlemen.

Rating: 74

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