Kelly Clarkson — “I Do Not Hook Up”

Released: 4.14.08       

Peak:#20

There’s plenty to admire about Kelly Clarkson, from her unfussy good looks and normally proportioned body to her non-self-aggrandizing attempts to steer her own career. As for her music, well, we all love “Since U Been Gone.” But though no one who tells Clive Davis to shove it can be all bad, the purity and strength of Clarkson’s voice, an integral part of the attraction for her fans, sacrifices personality in the name of force, an aesthetic choice that’s always struck me as not only unempowering but uninteresting. Pat Benatar may have had her moments, but she was never Joan Jett.

After the RCA-riling personal statement My December, Clarkson surrendered to outside songwriters for All I Ever Wanted, with a noteworthy decrease in melodrama. I even warmed to its monster ballad, “Already Gone,” once So You Think You Can Dance adopted it as exit music, which is more than I can say for “Halo,” the carbon copy that two-timing hack Ryan Tedder peddled to Beyoncé. But though fun, that album’s biggest hit, “My Life Would Suck Without You,” was typical Dr. Luke blammo, its guitar too obviously replicated from “Since U Been Gone,” the entirety of the joke crammed into the title. Clarkson sounds far too proud to be half of one of those couples whose on-and-off antics annoy the rest of us. (And if you’re gonna use “dysfunctional” in a song, come up with a better rhyme than “can’t let you go.”)

“I Do Not Hook Up” was a Katy Perry leftover produced by a radio-rock dreckmeister – and, against those formidable odds, the most emotionally nuanced of Clarkson’s hits. Rather than over-relying on technique and firepower, Clarkson permits her voice to flicker alternately with pride, with flirtiness, with confusion, and with regret. She squints to see a decent man underneath the smooth mack with whom she pleads to “give up the game,” persuading herself of his worth more successfully than she persuades herself that she’s not going to bed with him. What initially presents itself as a boast of sexual autonomy reveals itself as a fight between desire and reason.

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Comments

  • Chris Molanphy  On November 8, 2011 at 8:17 am

    It’s interesting that you don’t mention who said dreckmeister songwriter is—it’s Kara DioGuardi, of Idol/saying dopey things fame (though I still say the show screwed her in ways even she at her most annoying didn’t deserve, and she was a somewhat better judge than she got credit for).

    I’m not sure I ever want to hear DioGuardi talk on TV again, but her songwriting output has been quality schlock that occasionally veers toward excellent—without the bathos of the dreaded/massively overrated Diane Warren or the dizzying highs and infuriating lows of Dr. Luke. In addition to this Clarkson tune you rightly praise, she wrote Enrique Iglesias’s underrated ’80s-esque jam “Escape,” Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man,” and especially “Walk Away,” one of Clarkson’s all-time greatest and arguably her second-best single after the almighty “SUBG.”

  • usefulnoise  On November 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Chris, I was actually referring to the song’s producer, Howard Benson, who I don’t know a lot about but seems to have a “hard rock” pedigree:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Benson

    I don’t actually have strong feelings one way or the other about DioGuardi.

  • Seston  On January 8, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    This posintg knocked my socks off

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