Kelly Clarkson played us her new album, Meaning of Life. Here are 7 songs you'll love.
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For EW’s Fall Music Preview issue, Kelly Clarkson is giving us an exclusive first listen of her new soul album, Meaning of Life, out Oct. 27. “None of my records were this much fun to make,” says Clarkson, perched on a couch in the palatial Nashville recording complex where much of the LP was recorded. “I’ve never been more proud of every single song. There’s always [been] a compromise — like, ‘Ugh, I did not want those songs’ — and this just doesn’t have one. Which is so weird. And awesome.” She’s already shared two tracks from the project — lead single “Love So Soft,” and an album cut titled “Move You” — but there’s plenty more that will move you, too. Here’s a small taste of what’s to come:
“Whole Lotta Woman”
“Texas women do it bigger,” Clarkson howls on this brassy number, which uses Southern food as its central metaphor and features horn and bass contributions from Earth, Wind & Fire. Says Clarkson, “That day [in the studio] I was like, ‘You know what I’m tired of? I’m tired of people running their mouth. I am a whole lotta woman — accept it or walk away!”
Clarkson calls her vocal runs on this funky ’90s-influenced track “so Mariah” — and her high notes will have you feeling plenty of “Emotions,” too. “I wanted to make something like the albums that I was inspired by when I was in junior high,” Clarkson explains. “If En Vogue or Whitney or Mariah were going to make an urban pop [album] now, what would that sound like?”
“I Don’t Think About You”
When Clarkson asked songwriter Jessica Karpov, who records as Harlœ, for a Whitney-esque ballad to showcase her range, Karpov penned this crown-jewel breakup anthem, whose lyrics were inspired by Clarkson’s split with longtime label, RCA Records. “Jessica was talking about a situation in her life, and I was like, ‘Once you get to a certain age, you don’t have the time to worry about it,'” Clarkson says. “You get old enough to where you’re like, ‘Okay, cool, it didn’t work out, and you’re kind of a douche, but thank you for making me a stronger human. Let’s just move on. I wish you well, but I wish you not near me.'”
If there’s a baby boom in July 2018, you’ll know why: Clarkson has dubbed the guitar solo on this smoldering jam “the sexiest thing on the album.” Like many songs on the record, it features background vocals from longtime members of her touring band (who are also featured in the video for “Love So Soft”). “We had such a good time in the studio,” Clarkson says. “There are songs on my record where I get jealous and want to be the background singer because they get the cool parts.”
Co-written by Clarkson, this contemporary-sounding cut takes its name from Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” speech and features a booming breakdown with chopped-up vocals. “When Michelle said that I was like, ‘That is the perfect idea for this song!’” Clarkson says. “Everyone relates to that. No one has gone through life without relating to at some point having to take the high road.”
“Would You Call That Love”
This sparkling mid-tempo stunner reunites with her “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” producer Greg Kurstin. Lyrically, Clarkson says she drew from the experience of watching several couples in her life break up. “If somebody said ‘I never loved you’ after being with you for so long, how devastating would that be?” she says. “‘If that wasn’t love, what would you call that?’ So that’s where this song stemmed from.”
Over handclaps and stomping percussion, Clarkson delivers a soaring hook about working to give 100 percent in a relationship. “[My husband I] put our kids down and it’s like date night every night,” she says. “We don’t want to be one of those relationships where the passion is gone because you’re so tired.”