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leaky_faucetSomeone made a mistake, somewhere in Norway, or somewhere, maybe not Norway, but it first surfaced in Norway, and I have no way of tracing it any further back than that. Surely someone does, and surely they have, but God knows if there will be repercussions, or if it was even a mistake.

Upshot, though, is: Kelly Clarkson’s new album, All I Ever Wanted, was “accidentally” made available for sale on iTunes Norway nearly a month before its official March 10 release. Shortly after this error was identified, it was rectified, to the extent such an error can be rectified, which is to say, the album was removed from iTunes Norway, but not before some fast-fingered Norwegians had purchased a copy. Moments later, the songs were being downloaded on file-sharing networks across the Web, because that is how these things work, and now, I would estimate that 75 percent of Kelly Clarkson fans have heard the collection in full.

Surely those who do not fall into that 75 percent have numerous questions, and I am more than happy to answer them. However, rather than field individual queries here, I have used my powers of deduction and intuition to accurately and correctly guess those questions which you, my readers, most want answered. So let’s get right to the FAQ:


Are you, Michael, one of the approximately 75 percent of Kelly Clarkson fans who have already listened to All I Ever Wanted?

Great question! Thanks for asking! Yes, friend, I have heard the record. In fact, I am listening to it right now, as I write this very sentence. Eerie, no? For you to know exactly what I am doing, as I am doing it? It is as though you are watching me through some sort of remote satellite device, and I am sitting here, writing and listening to music, unaware of your presence. That’s actually a little creepy. Let’s move on.

Do you, Michael, feel it is morally permissible to listen to a piece of music, of dubious origin, prior to its official release? And if so: How dare you? Good day, sir!

Sheesh, calm down already. This is supposed to be a friendly FAQ regarding Kelly Clarkson, not a federal trial, OK pal? Jeez. Now I’m flustered. Anyway, in response, I will say…no? Or…yes? Yes. Yes. My answer is yes, it is morally permissible to…I mean, no…but yes. In certain cases, it is, but in certain other cases it is…what’s that? Another question? Well, if we must.

So? So? Don’t keep us waiting! How’s the album? Good? Bad? Come on, man! We’re dying here!

OK, OK, sorry. That last guy threw me. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh right, the album! Friends, I am happy to report that All I Ever Wanted is very good indeed. It is a joyous, sweet, energetic and perfectly crafted springtime pop album, at least five, six singles deep.

Michael, we know you don’t like to talk about [Clarkson’s disastrous last album] My December, but if you don’t mind, can you please describe the advancements/regressions Clarkson has made since that collection?

Now I don’t know where you got your info here, but that’s plain inaccurate—I don’t mind talking about My December, it’s just that I have already written at length about the album, so I kind of feel like my thoughts on the matter are pretty well documented. Now do I like to listen to My December? Haha, well, that’s another story…but seriously, folks, All I Ever Wanted has much more in common with [Clarkson’s second album] Breakaway than it does My December—presumably because she worked with professional songwriters this time around, rather than doing the writing herself. Still, she does have writing credits on six of the album’s 14 songs, and those songs show a significant maturation and a finer-tuned ear, most notably on the summery, Blondie-esque “I Want You,” which is one of the album’s more nuanced pieces.  (That said, the album’s three very best songs don’t have Clarkson’s name attached to them, for what it’s worth.) Still, there are sonic departures from earlier material—I hear some garage punk, some pop metal, some Euro house—and on the whole, All I Ever Wanted has a much harder edge than Breakaway, though (I am pleased to report) it never resembles the dreary nu-metal-goth of My December. Actually, in many ways, All I Ever Wanted feels like a natural and direct progression from Breakaway…it is as if My December never even happened.

In your last response, you mentioned the—wait, how did you put it? Ah, yes—“the album’s three very best songs”…can you please elaborate?

Happy to! Max Martin-penned lead single “My Life Would Suck Without You” is a clear standout; I don’t think it’s the very best song here, but it’s awfully close, and it’s definitely my favorite single of the year so far. “I Do Not Hook Up”—co-written by new American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi—is addictive and wonderful. And my absolute favorite track is “Don’t Let Me Stop You,” which is almost as good as (and reminiscent of) “Since U Been Gone”—and I sincerely can’t think of higher praise.

OK, so 1-10, 10 being highest, what’s the final score for this sucker?

Whoa, wait up, hold on a sec there, fella. For my official assessment you’ll have to wait till next week—when I write an official review of the official release. My goodness, you people are impatient!

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