Kelly Clarkson, "Piece By Piece" (RCA, 19)
As one of the most successful "American Idol" winners, Kelly Clarkson can hold her head up high — she's still in the game after 13 years. That doesn't mean her new album, "Piece By Piece," gets any awards for creativity — it sounds like a Clarkson album they forgot to release a decade ago.
This 13-track record writes a check its ambition can't cash. Sadly, Clarkson's strong voice is misused on songs so generic, even she probably forgot she's singing on them.
Case in point: The first single, "Heartbeat Song," doesn't get engaging just by making it high tempo, a modern allegro agitato. The Sia-penned "Invincible," on the other hand, sounds both catchier and more textured, while "Piece By Piece" is a color-by-numbers pop march. It gets better here and there, with dance floor bait "Take You High" or the weirdly sounding-like-something-else-from-the-'80s "Dance With Me."
The one collaboration on the album, the John Legend-assisted "Run Run Run," is a beautiful ballad that adds feeling and drama to an album otherwise in a hurry to get to the finish line.
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