QUICK SPINS: Kelly Clarkson, Justice

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 1, 2011 5:00PM

In which we take a quick look at a few recent or upcoming musical releases.

Kelly Clarkson
Stronger

2011_12_Kelly-Clarkson-Stronger.jpg Look, we fell in love with Kelly Clarkson during the first season of American Idol. Back then we were more innocent and so was she. The show hadn't turned into a showbiz juggernaut yet so Clarkson won based solely on her talent. And her moxie. And that fucking voice.

Clarkson's voice can save even the crappiest of tunes from abrading our soul. While most pop singers depend on the same four notes and an octave slide, Clarkson channels inner pain (though who the hell would want to hurt her and why in God's name does she keep letting them get away with it?!), mixes it the strength of a thousand wannabe Beyoncés attacking their path to righteousness and tops it off with this weird southern charm that warms the heart of even the most cynical northern urbanite.

On Stronger Clarkson plays to her strengths but she doesn't capitalize on them. What we get is a perfectly serviceable set of pop songs but the collection fails to sail into the stratosphere. This is somewhat amusing since even Clarkson's weakest stuff exposes current pop stars like Rhianna or Katy Perry as the equivalent of megaphones with no heart.

Now come over here for a second. Stronger is a fun if not fine album. But Jeebis, if you take nothing else away from this review then at least leave with the track "I Forgive You." Here Clarkson understands U may still feel gone, but she wrangles the best frickin' chorus Taylor Swift never wrote and hammers it home with a conviction that will make you want to face down Clarkson in an Indiana Jones Marion style drinking contest you hope you'll lose so you have to buy her dinner afterward.

Ahem, sorry, got slightly off track. Bottom line? If you're gonna go in for the pop then avoid the pap and suck up what Clarkson has to deliver.

Justice
Audio, Video, Disco

2011_12_Justice-Audio-Video-Disco.jpg Justice turned heads with their unpronounceable debut but, honestly, while we enjoyed it we think their fame was built more on the people's lust (ourselves included) for a not-forthcoming Daft Punk album moor than anything else. But hell, it was still a fun endeavor. On Audio, Video, Disco — despite what you may have heard — the French electronic duo deliver pretty much what you would expect. They've expanded their palette to mix Moroder with King Crimson, and the heavy presence of guitars serves to prove our theory that every DJ wishes they were a rock star, and in justice's case they at least make a credible argument for their inclusion in the rock pantheon. No, nothing they do here is particularly amazing by itself but the fact they tackle classic rock stereotypes and usher them onto the dance floor without embarrassing themselves is worth a hearty round of applause. And ass shaking.

Nothing lasts forever, and Justice is aware that their dominance of a particular moment in dance culture couldn't be easily replicated (see: any number of other dance acts) so they opted to try and connect their beats with the riffs of yesterday in order to maintain their relevance if not reclaim their status as tastemakers. So, unlike most classic rockers, Justice seems to be trying to age gracefully. And we can't fault them for that.