All I Ever Wanted is Kelly Clarkson’s fourth studio album. Debuting at number one, it sold over 250,000 copies in the first week, and with good reason. Just by looking at the album covers of her past two albums, the differences should become apparent. My December is dark, complicated and without much color. All I Ever Wanted is very simple and colorful.
The sound of All I Ever Wanted also departs from My December’s guitar-driven complexity and moves to a simpler, drum-driven toe-tapping beat. It aims for more of a dance groove, supported by guitars instead of driven by them. My December, for the most part, was Clarkson backed up by a band, as was Breakaway.
All I Ever Wanted features more production than any previous album. There are tracks that have electronic and synth elements, previously not utilized by Clarkson.
She moves away from being a singer with a band and becomes more of an artist on her own, never quite abandoning her band, but giving them a break every once in a while. Because Clarkson becomes more stylistically dynamic on this album, almost everyone should be able to find something that they like.
There is nary a fault with Clarkson’s voice. She is one of the most versatile, real and genuinely talented musicians in a long time. Her voice is strong with power and range to spare, which does not lend itself to slower songs.
However, Clarkson knows her voice and therefore knows how to sell the slow songs by building them up so she really shines. This album really only has three ballads, which are distinctly her own style. She does not shy away from big notes, nor does she overshoot power to show off.
She walks the line perfectly, using excellent dynamics. The songs start slow and melancholy—building and swelling perfectly with instrumentation to cathartic climaxes—almost all while in full voice, which is a rarity among today’s ladies who call themselves singers and just want to show off.
Of the 14 tracks on the basic release, only three of them fall short. Despite Clarkson’s amazing delivery, the album suffers from spotty writing and sometimes lackluster arrangements. The highlights of several songs are not the choruses, but the verses.
“If I Can’t Have You” really exemplifies both of these things. The verses are well-written and come more rapidly than the overly simple chorus. It is very repetitive with a call and response structure, which falls flat in this case.
“Long Shot” starts quite interestingly and then descends to a filler chorus that sounds like any other pop or rock song. It could be interpreted to be about Clarkson auditioning for American Idol, however, the song was originally written for a Katy Perry album that was never released.
“Don’t Let Me Stop You” has strong lyrics, but the formulaic execution of the entire song is more suited for an up-and-coming band trying to break into radio. Both “Long Shot” and “Don’t Let Me Stop You” have potential, but both have poor production.
“Cry” reflects Clarkson’s Texas roots with a heavy country music influence. She has recently performed with Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride; all have strong influences in this song.
“Impossible” is the most standout track on the album due to its complete departure from any previous style embraced by Clarkson. It is produced by Tedder, whose Timbaland-trained skills really shine, blending electronics, drums and voice. However, the song is not all about the production; Clarkson’s voice shines through as clean as the synthesizer.
“I Do Not Hook Up” is a great empowering song about not merely “hooking up” but “falling deep.” Clarkson’s tone is perfect, and it is easy to see her coyly smiling and demanding a real relationship.
Overall, the album has many high points (including the bonus tracks), and the low ones are only bad by comparison to the other great songs. The happy, spunky girl who won American Idol is back!