It is hard to argue that Kelly Clarkson doesn’t have some of the best voices in music today, and Piece by Piece is a steady, coherent testament to just how well she can blast the house down with her pipes. She doesn’t overdo that screechy banshee thing, though, unlike, say Christina Aguilera or Mariah Carey from a decade or so ago, which only adds to the appeal of this album. It’s almost old school how unabashed poppy this album is, without any of the musical bling-bling production values that characterize pop music at the moment. This is a formula that has worked for Ms Clarkson for a long time now, and she is not rocking the boat.
Hence, there the the usual penned-by-Sia, sounds-like-a-Sia tune ballads like Invincible, some mid-tempo beats like Heartbeat Song, mournful soaring anthems like Someone… there is nothing here that breaks new grounds or gets the heart pounding a little faster, but they all work. It’s like having a meal at a favorite restaurant – I can’t say that I haven’t eaten the dishes there before, but the taste is consistent and enjoyable enough that I don’t mind coming back often. My favorite song here is War Paint, a “make love. not war” melodrama that sees her taking someone she is always at loggerheads at that their antagonism can be transformed into something more beautiful – if he’d take off hers while she takes off hers. War paint, not underwear, in case your mind is going there.
The greatest triumph of Piece by Piece is simply in how easy and fun it is to sing along to these songs. The choruses stick to the mind like glue, and the old-school 1990s-style straight-up pop is perfect for summertime karaoke or just for those times when one just wants to screech off-key for the heck of it. This one is fun, it’s addictive. Okay, it’s also tad on the generic side, but who cares in this instance?