Unlike most American Idol alumni, Kelly Clarkson has always set herself apart by generally placing artistry over histrionics. The pattern continues on her latest pop-rock collection, on which she wisely lends her impressive pipes to address purely emotional matters of the heart. On the opening “Mr. Know It All” she reminds us why she’s the queen of the kiss-off with a gritty delivery reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge or Brandi Carlile, while “Honestly” is a passionate demand for truthfulness that gives Clarkson a chance to show off her uncanny ability to make tall melodic leaps in a single bound. Perhaps the greatest compliment one can give Clarkson is that on the closing power ballad, “Breaking Your Own Heart,” she turns the somewhat clichéd lyrics into a heartfelt admonition to give up one’s stubborn independence. It’s a familiar topic for sure, but one that’s well worth repeating in the hands of a formidable vocalist like this one. –BC

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