Clarkson shows signs of hanging on to soul

Kelly Clarkson has returned from her Persephone-like journey across the pop-goth River Styx on the excellent but commercially disappointing album My December with a shiny, streamlined new cut meant to break the speed limit up the charts.

My Life Would Suck Without You, zooms forward from its guitar-plucky intro toward a cymbal-crashing climax without ever slowing down.

You will be singing this song by your third listen, which will be unavoidable, because without a bridge or even one blue note, it's perfectly suited to the formats that support 21st-century pop - especially YouTube parodies and singing toothbrushes.

But is Kelly in there, amid the syn-drums and keyboard bleeps?

She didn't write the lyrics, but they're so applicable to her recent history that one can't help but think she must have dictated them to her corporate mentors.

When Clarkson belts, "You've got a piece of me," it's impossible to avoid thoughts of her relationship with Clive Davis, the music-biz Svengali who condemned her for trying to take creative control on My December, only to welcome her back once she apologised and dumped her management, her band and her muse.

Tapping into the theme of unavoidable love My Life is different from your typical blues, presenting resignation as a positive emotion.

Clarkson's delivery is where her soul lives.

She sings through gritted teeth, and her tone is sharper than it was on her greatest hit so far, Since U Been Gone. That song blended morning-after sultriness with the kick of a cold shower; this one offers the vocal equivalent of a clenched fist.

I'm hoping that the anger in Clarkson's voice is her signal that although she'll play the Photoshopped star for dollars, she's hanging on to her soul for future use.

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