Kelly Clarkson released her sixth album in March 2015 fulfilling her RCA contract. The pop Piece by Piece debuted at No 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums, giving Clarkson her third chart topper. The set was recorded largely during pregnancy and the result was an emotionally charged, vocally raw collection of pop gems. From dance anthems to soaring ballads, Clarkson's colorful album earned a record extending Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, becoming her fourth. AXS is taking a look at the top 5 songs from the powerhouse singer's energetic album.
A track later on the album, "Dance With Me" is a roaring dancefloor anthem. Sexy and smooth, the progressive tune has hints of U2 in its guitars entangled with a flirtatiousness in Clarkson's voice. Her vocal styling is unique on this song similar in the style of her covers on tour, cooing and belting throughout. It's easily one of the most catchy numbers on Piece by Piece.
One of the ballads on Piece by Piece, "Tightrope" was written in 2013 while on tour with Maroon 5. A simple heartfelt piano wrapped in strings, she sings of a relationship at a bump in the road. "We're so messed up but I know/ That you and I will fall in time eventually/ Or maybe we'll both die trying," she sings before bleeding out her heart. "Cuz I ain't seen nothing like you/ The way you light up every room tonight, so easily/ And I have moved mountains, babe/ Just to stumble into your good grace and I/ I still can't compete," painfully exposing her vulnerability. Performing it on the Piece by Piece Tour that unfortunately had to be canceled due to another pregnancy, she took it down a notch on the composition so she could really belt and change around the production. Live, it was one of the highlights on tour.
"Nostalgic" was produced by Clarkson's musical director Jason Halbert and is a throwback to the 80s. Melodic synths, sassy vocals while looking back on a relationship, her voice flirts around a pop R&B rhythm ala Tina Turner about reminiscing over the past but being happy that it happened. "Even though we lost it/ I still get nostalgic/ Even if we wanted, we can't turn back the hands of time," she sings over electro-rock hooks, moving on with her life.
The title track to Clarkson's sixth album is maybe one of the most personal songs she's ever written. After having a conversation with her sister about their father who left compared with the great men they found to love, she was inspired to write she will never do that to her own child. She's often described the song as the silver lining to 2005's hit "Because of You," a song she wrote at 16 about a broken home. On tour, Clarkson struggled to make it through performing an acoustic piano rendition of the heartbreaking song. Breaking to tears too many times early in the song, she announced her second pregnancy so fans would know what she was going through in this moments. The song was released as the third single with a radio remix.
Probably the most attractive track on the album, the title explains it all. Describing the song as her "Bittersweet Symphony" of the album, "High" is wrapped in a scribbled electronic vibe, skipping vocals with angelic lyrics. "High" could be labeled one of her most atmospheric pieces that is just plain cool. The bridge features a solid vocal performance taking her voice to the top, making it a fan favorite from upon its release.
Piece by Piece doesn't match up to the cohesiveness of Grammy winning Stronger released in 2011 nor does it have the rawness Clarkson put into 2007's My December, but it finalizes a good run since winning "American Idol" in 2002. It's yet to be seen, but CEO's Peter Edge and Tom Corson have suggested that she is in negotiations directly with RCA versus her initial contract. 19 Recordings owned the recordings licensed to RCA and is the first "Idol" to complete a contract post-show.