In 2007 after four tours total and bringing parent company Sony over $100 million in revenue from the massively successful Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson was fighting to release her third album that will go down in history as one of modern day pop's most public feuds. My December was met with resistance from her label RCA Records, more so Clive Davis, for several reasons but the singer-songwriter stood her ground and the album easily became a favorite among superfans who helped it become a success in its own right.
In 2006 during the Addicted Tour, Clarkson previewed a handful of songs that would be released on the upcoming set while she tirelessly promoted Breakaway. Those songs included "Maybe," "Yeah" and "Anymore," the latter being recorded but not making the final cut. Breakaway was more pop rock oriented and the next record was reported to be more alternative rock and fans both diehard and casual embraced the news. She brought in producer and songwriter David Kahne ("Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian") to be the mastermind behind the project. Normally Kahne doesn't work with pop artists but when she presented over 60 songs that she and her backing band had written, he was enormously impressed with her dedication to grow. The team ended up recording half and it then became the fight of her life.
Clarkson turned the album into then-CEO Clive Davis in February, performing the track "One Minute" at the Daytona 500 as the 2007 NASCAR spokesperson. Soon after, producer Dr. Luke revealed on a popular music forum that the label disapproved of the record and would be shelving it. Dr. Luke has previously worked with Clarkson on hits "Since U Been Gone" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and insisted he do the entire project. Clarkson refused and Dr. Luke seemed to have gotten his revenge. The posts were removed but not before the damage had already been done.
Davis tried every trick in the book to persuade Clarkson to rework or record five songs that were more radio friendly. She didn't back down even after being offered a large sum of money, instead agreeing to compromise to do a pop record the next time around. Clarkson planned a tour ahead of the release which became slated for July after her announcement. She then was able to get the record moved up to June 26 so fans could hear the music. A sly tactic, sales for the tour were not as strong as hoped but it was also then manager Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm that kept tensions rising. The tour was canceled and Clarkson fired the manager one week before My December was released. She hired Reba McEntire's now ex-husband Narvel Blackstock and has been with him since, even marrying his son Brandon in 2013. Kwatinetz had a vision for Clarkson's career that she herself did not share. It seemed her career was falling apart.
But indeed it was strengthening. The record was released with the rocking bitter "Never Again" being released on April 13. It debuted at No. 8 on the Hot 100 thanks to fans' support. However, when the song was requested on radio, fans would only find older songs being played then finding out the song had been pulled from Clear Channel radio stations. The second single "Sober" was released, but not properly, and wouldn't even reach the top 100 on the Hot 100 songs chart. Around the world where Davis had no control, "One Minute" and "Don't Waste Your Time" were released as singles. The album would go on to be certified Platinum off one single and Davis was removed from his post in 2008 for "poor financial decisions."
Despite the label drama, My December was a step Clarkson needed to take for her own sake. She was overworked and the content of the album reflected her inner dark feelings. "Never Again" was bluntly written about her ex, the same subject as "Hazel Eyes," while "Hole" was a throttling rock song about sinking reaching for a hand to pull her up. "Haunted" was written for Breakaway but found a home on the intense My December, a song written about a friend who committed suicide. The final track "Irvine" was written after Clarkson canceled her one and only meet and greet in Irvine, California. Videos captured from the concert showed a worn out Clarkson, looking distressed with her voice slipping. She recorded the prayer song on her Mac one time and only a reverb effect was placed on it in the final processing. To date, Clarkson has never sung it live and refuses to discuss why she wrote the song.
My December still had its bright moments like on the U2 tinged "Can I Have A Kiss?" and the sassy hidden track "Chivas" where she sings of a drunken night she regrets. Bonus tracks included the grungy "Dirty Little Secret," the hopeful "Not Today" and the haunting "Fading." Additional tracks leaked years later such as the melancholy "Where Are You Now?," "After the Love," "Empty Handed" which was pitched to country star Faith Hill after the album's release and the somber "I Wish I Could Be Lonely Instead" (Clarkson sang the song at a VIP concert in 2009 and it was said she re-recorded it for fourth album All I Ever Wanted). A fan favorite "Too Much" was also in a leaked batch with the lyrics, "Will you pull your head out of your ass and listen to me/ Will you stop running your mouth/ Try something new/ Is it too much to ask for?" in an effortless Loretta Lynn fashion.
My December was an album Clarkson made for herself and taught her more about not only herself but when to stand up for what she believes in. "It's my face, it's my time," she said of the record. During the feud, other artists jumped to her defense including Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates who also had a conflict with Davis during their run. To date, it still remains a favorite of fans.
Clarkson revisited the era when speaking to Steve Harvey in late 2016 promoting her first children's book "River Rose and the Magical Lullaby." Harvey introduced the period as a "jump" in her career and she proudly spoke of that time in her life.