Review: Kelly Clarkson nails bold new sound on sixth album 'Piece By Piece'
Kelly Clarkson

It's been a while since we've had a proper studio album from Kelly Clarkson. She's been busy making Christmas music, a greatest hits album and a baby. Over three years later, she's ready to release the new album Piece By Piece on March 3 via RCA Records. The new set is still very pop (and her final pop record in her current contract) and quite a departure from what she's done in the past. While the 2011 Grammy winning Stronger was cohesive with her pop rock styling, she's ditched the roaring guitars for songs that move and groove with messages of empowerment.

Recording the album while mostly pregnant, the passion and intensity is littered across the album on songs like "Invincible," written by singer-songwriter Sia (producers Greg Kurstin and Jesse Shatkin are collaborators with Sia). Bold and in your face, Kelly took on the world and the industry, "Now I ain't a scared little girl no more," she sings. Sia also contributed "Let Your Tears Fall" to the project, another solid pop track that was the first song recorded. "Invincible" was the final track done for Piece By Piece.

Kelly Clarkson branched out and while it's not groundbreaking, it's an evolution of who she is an artist on the dance tracks "Dance With Me" and "Take You High." Clocking in at 4:20 (happy accident?), the latter feels ethereal, light and airy with dubstep breakdowns. "Dance With Me" is power pop perfection that will do well for a night on the town. "War Paint" is about wearing fear on the sleeve being guarded.

For Piece By Piece, Clarkson asked John Legend to sing on "Run Run Run," a track she put on hold during her 2013 tour with Maroon 5. Originally not a duet, Legend and Clarkson built a slow builder that exits with intensity, something that could be heard in a movie. "Run Run Run" was later recorded by Tokio Hotel before Clarkson was able to release the track.

Usually KC has her hand in writing more on her albums. Piece By Piece is more of a collection of songs she gathered and were introduced to than it is her own writes. The songs she did write don't hold back on how she was feeling like title track "Piece By Piece," the silver lining to 2005 hit "Because of You." Kelly also expresses her disappointment in today's generation on the self-penned "I Had A Dream."

"When I was writing this song — well first of all, I was very hormonal — I was sitting around and talking with some of my friends, and we were all talking about how I just expected more of our generation. I just expected us, first of all, to be past 'Gay, straight, black, and white.' Like, who cares? Are we still talking about this? We should just have equal rights across the board for every person no matter what you look like, no matter who you like. I don't understand why we're still struggling with these basic, asinine issues. It bothers me. So I ended up writing this whole song about it and I had a dream that we were more. That's where the chorus came from. I thought as a kid, I just remember being that ten-year-old girl going, 'I can't wait to change the world.' You dream big when you're little. I guess I look at our generation and we're still talking about the same stuff. That's sad," she tells SPIN.

While most of the album is rainbows and blue skies, another self-penned ballad "Tightrope" hits on trying to always please people and it's never enough. "Good Goes The Bye" closes the standard album on a sad note but even then the song has a steady beat to compliment it. Rather it's the apologetic "Someone" or the sassy "Bad Reputation," the album goes from one emotion to the next with intensity.

Kelly teamed up with producer Greg Kurstin for Piece By Piece. The two have previously worked together on No. 1 hit "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," "Dark Side," "People Like Us" and the entire Wrapped In Red holiday album. She also brought in her longtime musical director to produce several tracks including the 80's throwback jam "Nostalgic."

Piece By Piece is the beginning of a new chapter in Clarkson's life.