I'm having a Kelly Clarkson moment today.
So last night Kelly was on American Idol performing her new single. Which totally blew away the mumblefest that was Kanye West, by the way. What is wrong with that boy? Anyway, Kelly was rocking when Patrick came in, glanced at the TV, and said, "Who's that chubby girl? Did she just get eliminated or something?"
All right, yes, Kelly is a little . . . bigger . . . than she was the last time around. But it suits her. She's a real girl, not a parisnicoleashleeavrilmiley freakshow. And she doesn't care. In January, writing on her blog, she debuted the cover of the new album and wrote, "it’s very colorful and they have definitely photo-shopped the crap out of me but i don’t care haha! whoever she is, she looks great." That's my kind of girl.
Okay, so now about my Kelly Clarkson moment. A couple of posts ago I mentioned that my biggest fear about the new novel is that people will hate it. Well, sure enough, this morning I received an e-mail from a reader who got an advance copy and wasn't as taken with it as I might have liked. It was a nice note--not mean at all--and the writer said that he's enjoyed my other novels. But this one, not so much.
That's okay. He doesn't have to like it. I fully expect that other people won't, either. But here's the thing--my suspicion is that people who don't like it won't like it not because it's not a good book, but because it's not what they're used to from me.
What does this have to do with Kelly Clarkson. Well, remember when she had her big dust up with Clive Davis, the head of her record company? He wanted her to make another Breakaway, the album that spawned a billion hits. But Kelly wanted to do something different, something more personal. There was a lot of yelling and accusations and general hoohaa, the end result of which was that Clive said "you're going to be sorry" and Kelly put out the record she wanted to make, My December.
This album was totally different from what she'd done before. No poppy ditties. No sing-along anthems. It was all guitars and fuck you's and general gloom and doom. A big bunch of sitting in your closet eating cheesecake with the door closed while weeping anti-fun. But critics more or less liked it. Entertainment Weekly wrote, "There's real artistry blossoming on this, the boldest and best effort ever by an Idol star." (By the way, Entertainment Weekly gave me my favorite review of all time when they called Changing Tides "an unusually literate beach read," which I really think ought to go on the cover of every book I do from now on.)
Fans, however, were not pleased with Kelly. This was not the Kelly they were used to. It was not the Kelly to whom they could relate. It was not the Kelly they wanted. One listener, reviewing the album on Amazon, wrote:
this right here, this hook-free, jumbled mess called 'My December', never should have seen the light of day. It's unlistenable. I certainly understand artists wanting to challenge themselves, whether it be through songwriting or production, but her vanity clearly got the best of her and her label had every right to be concerned - from beginning to end, this cd is..well, it's just bad. Painfully bad.
Long story short, the album bombed and Clive said, "I told you so."
Fast forward two years. If you've heard Kelly's new single, "My Life Would Suck Without You," you know that it sounds eerily like "Since U Been Gone." This isn't surprising considering it was written and produced by the same guys who penned that earlier hit. Equally unsurprising are the rave reviews the album is getting, most of which applaud it for returning Kelly to her old sound.
I'm sure Kelly is thrilled to have another number one. But as I watched her last night, I couldn't help but wonder if she was looking out at the audience and thinking, "I fucking hate this song, and I'm going to hate it more every time I sing it on tour for the next year."
You often hear artists complain that their audiences don't want them to do anything different. And you know what? It's true. If you do something in red and it becomes popular, chances are someone is going to say, "Now do it again, only in blue."
I'm not saying that I've now done it again in blue, and green, and yellow, but I admit that I was getting a little tired of writing about angsty gay men. I wanted to do something different. Maybe you won't like it; maybe you will. The real point is that I like it. It would be nice if everyone else did, too, but they won't. Fuckers. (I say that with love.)
I think I'll send Kelly a copy of my new novel. She's a reader, that girl, even if her favorite books are the Twilight series (don't get me started). Then when she calls I can say, "I know you hate that song. I hate it too. My December was totally better." And then she can say, "Thank you. And What We Remember is totally better than the Twilight books."
Then we'll eat a whole cheesecake and not care how fat we are. Because that's the kind of girls we are.