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All I Ever Wanted

Kelly ClarksonThe first ever American idol winner releases her fourth CD, All I Ever Wanted, with strong vocals delivered over a well constructed, equal parts high voltage and funky groove, unabashedly pop rock backdrop.

Clarkson brings the high energy on instant radio hits like "My Life Would Suck Without You", "I Do Not Hook Up", and "Long Shot". I love her emotional outpouring and impressive range in the song Cry, in perfect rhythm with the song's almost orchestral sweeping score. "Whyyawannabringmedown" is a straight up joyful ode to punk rock.

Clarkson gives her all on every song, pulling from deep within her own emotional well to sing lyrics the Texas native wrote herself, if not with her with her collaborator Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. The result is a sincere expression of modern pop exuberance, even when Clarkson mourns the loss of a lover in the sorrowful ballad "Already Gone" or confronts the agonizing feeling helpless in the face of witnessing a loved one's descent in the beautifully tragic and "Save You", which somehow still manages to be uplifting with its repeated chorus of "It's gonna be alright...". Her song "Impossible", my personal favorite, stands as a true testament to the success of Clarkson's career; in having the courage to take chances and do what others around her thought indeed impossible, Kelly Clarkson went from being an anonymous talent to a bona fide American pop star.

Cobra Starship
Hot Mess

Cobra StarshipFun! Exuberant! Infectious! But just a "joke band," out to create a general pop derivative of auditory silliness, like other critics, and even the band themselves, have suggested? I dare to disagree. High energy, feel good, "nostalgia" music that simultaneously evokes an ideal yester-year of 80's pop heaven, while planting its foot firmly in the world of contemporary, radio-friendly psuedo-hip-hop/rock/pop hybrids like Black Eyed Peas. All this while inspiring your foot to start tapping and your head to start bopping, can be serious stuff if chosen as the soundtrack for the coolest of house parties or that special date. For a generation that grew up on such cultural landmarks as Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, and all the rest of those classic 80's films, having the right soundtrack to key moments of one's life can be crucial. That being said, I can imagine many scenarios where Cobra Starship would be the perfect musical choice. When I hear Cobra Starship generously sample the tried and true staples of several classic genres, I hear fans delightfully paying homage to these sources with nothing but pure joy and the love of music.

Their fourth CD, Hot Mess, offers plenty of huge chorus hooks, arena rock guitar riffs, glossy dance beats, catchy electronica-lite synth lines. Each song is a tasty little three minute nugget of the best of melodious, infectious, candy pop. Nothing too deep here, just a solid collection of upbeat, fun songs to work up a real good sweat to, whether that be on the dance floor of a club, someone's living room, or perhaps in a car on a spontaneously passionate Friday night. Either way, I recommend you buy it, pop it in, and have fun.