Sunday, October 29, 2017

Quick Takes: Weezer & Kelly Clarkson

This week marked the release of albums by two artists that have burned bright, and burned out. Both Weezer and Kelly Clarkson are artists who at one time were held in my highest esteem, only to see that status tumble downward as the music they released moved further and further from my my taste. Listening to their newer efforts is a tough task, considering the happiness they have both brought me in the past. That is why I didn't want to spend the time writing full reviews for either of these records. I fear that doing so would only encourage me to write things that are more harsh than they need to be. But I still have something to say about them, so let's do this the quick 'n easy way.

Weezer - Pacific Daydream
To put things bluntly, with the exception of half of "Everything Will Be Alright In The End", everything Weezer has done since "Make Believe" has been like intentionally causing your legacy to rust, because you think it looks 'tough'. Despite being a father in his 40s, Rivers Cuomo has never been less emotionally mature. Yes, when he wrote nonsense songs about how "cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb", he was still better off than he is now. This album continues Weezer's bland mediocrity, where they're happy to be the nerd/emo scene's Jimmy Buffet, putting out fluffy music that encourages people to sit back and pretend surfing and a beer is an adult way of fixing life's problems.

In fact, the only real positive I can take away from this album is the recycling of the lost demo track "Burning Sun". That melody shows up here, but the song adds in new pieces that ruin what was once a great "Green Album" era track. Even when Weezer starts with a leg up now, they trip and fall on their face. No, this is nowhere near as bad as "Raditude", but let's not applaud getting off the bottom of the barrel. This is completely useless music, and I find myself wishing Weezer would take another hiatus, even if it's only for my sake.

Kelly Clarkson - Meaning Of Life
In the world of pop, the last artist I was able to got thoroughly behind was Kelly Clarkson. "Breakaway" remains one of the greatest pop albums ever assembled, and even if the albums that followed were hit and miss, her string of singles was nearly perfect. I could hear her moving in new directions, but there was a core sound to her music that allowed for those detours without falling apart. Unfortunately, we've hit that point where the core has rotted away.

The problem is that Kelly Clarkson started out as a spunky, rocking pop star. Her records were energetic, empowering, and loaded up with enough guitars that a rock fan didn't need to feel ashamed of liking her. Today, he voice is still the powerful weapon it always was, but her songs have shifted into a hybrid of modern electro-pop and old-fashioned soul. Gone are the powerful anthems, replaced instead with slinky backdrops that treat guitars like lepers, and relying on vocal power in place of writing solid melodies.

Artists need to evolve as they go along, but to make such a hard shift in direction is a tough task. Soul has often been more about the singer than the song, and I get that feeling from this music. Her voice is titanic, but she needs strong hooks to showcase her formidable talents, which is not something this variation of soul provides. These songs are built as a showcase for her vocals, but there isn't much appeal in just listening to a voice that isn't singing something interesting. She is fantastic, but these songs aren't. They also feel out of place, as I don't know who was calling out for her to move in this direction. It seems to me like Kelly is making a record for an audience that isn't hers, instead of focusing on the one that is.

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