As the final season of "American Idol" is underway, the show has spawned artists with a clear vision to make a career out of the spotlight. Not all of it has been glory. The inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson famously had a spat with former RCA head Clive Davis over the direction of her third album My December. Davis tried every trick in the book to get Clarkson to rework or replace songs while shelving the album for four months. In the United States, he would only release one song as a single, the rocking bitter "Never Again." Written with her backing band, with some help from producer David Kahne, it was a much needed step for the singer-songwriter who was overworked and tired. She stood her ground and eventually was able to have the album hit shelves. My December became a Platinum album with just one single but was littered with emotional cuts depicting what she was feeling at a mere 25 years old. AXS is taking a look at the top 5 songs from the album that will go down in pop music history for its very public controversy.
"Can I Have A Kiss?" comes later on the album and was played lightly more so on stations heard at shopping malls. The album track was written about two people, making fans scratch their heads about the subjects involved. It stands out as one of the "cool" songs on My December for its very U2-ish vibe. "I know why you left/ I can't blame you myself/ Must be hard living with ghosts inside an empty shell/ I tried to warn ya/ Been a mess since ya known me/ I can't promise forever but I'm working on it," she sings in the chorus.
Falling in the middle of the album, "Haunted" is virtually a raw track about experiencing someone she knew committing suicide. A demo leaked of the track but the album version is much more rock and for lack of better word, haunting. Eerie vocals and roaring guitars, "Haunted" was originally intended for 2004's massively successful Breakaway. Lyrically it's a bit staggered but the intentions and intense backing track draw interest.
My December only saw one single. "Never Again" was released with much anticipation following the battle with Clive Davis after working tirelessly to promote Breakaway. Clarkson wrote the rocker about an ex, who also happens to be the subject of hit "Behind These Hazel Eyes," and the video for it became a story about a fairytale gone wrong. Mocking a trophy wife stereotype and drowning in the relationship, Clarkson slams her ex with lyrics "You wrote me in a letter/ You couldn't say it right to my face/ Give that Sunday school answer/ Repent yourself away." Clarkson's ex cheated on her with his ex and then married. The song is straight forward and blunt as to what happened. The subject also wrote a track in response, but never amounted to anything.
Actually two songs, one as a hidden track, "Irvine" closes the album on a somber note. The song written as a prayer has never been performed live and was recorded on Clarkson's laptop in her closet. After hitting rough waters, she cancelled her meet and greet after a show (the only one she's cancelled) and sat on the floor crying writing the heartbreaking song. David Kahne wrapped her original vocal in reverb, making it perhaps the saddest song in her extensive catalog. "Chivas" on the other hand can be heard shortly after "Irvine." Written on a napkin at a bar, she realized a guy she was hanging around was a mistake. "Don't know what I saw/ But I ain't seeing it now/ Woke up this morning bitterness in my mouth/ Guess I fell too fast/ Guess I learned my lesson/ So much for true love/ I'll take the Chivas instead," she playfully sings with an old fashion record scratch overlapping the song. "Chivas" easily became a fan favorite, even bringing her bottles of Chivas Regal to take shots on stage.
In the U.S., there was the intention for a second single. "Sober" is what she calls one of her "favorite song she's ever written." A friend gave her the line "pick the weeds and keep the flowers" and she wrote the whole track around that with her guitarist Aben Eubanks. Powerful and having self-realization, Kahne told fans that he was keeping in touch with that when she recorded the bridge it felt it was like "being pushed off a cliff." It still remains one of Clarkson's best tracks for its inspiring desire to move forward in life, "no comparing, second guessing, no not this time."
Following My December, Kelly Clarkson released a compromise pop album and went along strongly with her career, confident and in control. Several years ago, leftover tracks from the album leaked onto the internet and showed the sadder side versus the intense woman scorned side with tracks like the exhausted "Racehorse" and the song in hindsight "I Wish I Could Be Lonely Instead." Other notable songs on the release include the in your face "Hole," the confused and hypnotic "Maybe" and the Japanese bonus track "Fading." The two standard bonus tracks "Dirty Little Secret" and "Not Today" can now be found on Spotify.