Hearing about Kelly’s new project reopened some old wounds and an old gripe I have with Clive Davis. Davis and other record label execs argued with Clarkson about “December’s” material, feeling that the album would not sell well because of how “dark” it was. They themselves kept the album from generating sales because they released only TWO singles in America for promotion (“Never Again” and “Sober”), and one of the singles didn’t even have a music video. “Sober” was the last we heard (or saw) of the record. I call that SABOTAGE. Now, it’s possible that they didn’t release any more singles because they didn’t want to risk spending promotional dollars that may not be recouped with sales. However, their lazy promotion of “Sober” makes me wonder differently. So far, we have two strikes: attempting to stifle an artist’s creativity and potentially sabotaging sales.
The next offense was Clarkson’s following album, “All I Ever Wanted.” The album screamed “I did what the label execs wanted me to do”, as it had more of the commercial pop flavor they wanted for “December,” bringing in pop master writer/producer Max Martin (who’s worked with Britney Spears/N’Sync) that worked with Clarkson on the multi-platinum smash “Breakaway.” Not only did they step on Kelly’s neck and make her conform, but they took away some of her writing power; Clarkson co-wrote ALL of the songs on “December”, as opposed to 6 on “Wanted.” I’m sure that by muzzling her and bringing back Max Martin, RCA (Kelly’s record label) was confident that “Wanted” would repeat “Breakaway’s” success. However, that’s FAR from what happened. “Wanted” didn’t even go platinum (1 million copies) and its singles have yet to be certified at all. “December” and it’s 1st single, “Never Again” both were certified platinum. Hmm…..so now, we have 2 more sins: making an artist conform and taking their writing power. Sins result in negative consequences, and in this case the consequence was a huge lack of sales. The label execs shot themselves in the foot. Clive didn’t trust Kelly with her own music, despite the fact that she’s an ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award winner and most of her hits are those she co-wrote. Maybe this go round, Davis will take her word for it. It’s interesting how Davis can appear as such an artist advocate one minute (ex. Letting Alicia Keys have creative control on her 1ST ALBUM) and work against the artist the next.
Not only do I have a beef with Clive Davis about Kelly Clarkson, but some of the other “Idols” as well. Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino (season 3 & 4 winners) were basically pigeonholed into mediocre, generic R&B after both artists expressed a desire to have a more diverse sound. In my opinion, this consequently resulted in declining sales for Studdard and Barrino. The audience that watched and voted for them on “Idol” don’t listen to core R&B. When you’re coming off of “Idol,” staying connected to the “Idol” fan base is crucial. By pigeonholing them, Davis isolated them from their foundation and shortened their audience. Bad move. He should’ve known better. I also feel that he mishandled the careers of several other idol alums, like Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee. On a non-“American Idol” related note, Clive REALLY grinded my gears with his handling of the latest Whitney Houston album, “I Look to You.” “Look” was supposed to be Houston’s breakthrough comeback album, but instead it was an underwhelming, directionless record. Forget whether or not Houston’s vocals were lacking (she sounded decent), the material was awful. Usually with someone like Houston, they try to either “update” the sound and go completely commercial, or they go with the “classic” trademark sound that made the artist popular to begin with. “Look to You” did neither. Each track was either commercially or “classically” lukewarm. No, it wasn’t even lukewarm, it was cold. The album sounded like there was no effort put into it at all. I can’t believe Clive oversaw that project and found it suitable for Whitney’s comeback. Houston is what I call a “handled” artist; an artist who doesn’t write or produce and has to have material built for them (it isn’t a bad thing to be a “handled” artist; not everyone is talented in every area). “Handled” artists are going to need significant help in building solid material, and he didn’t help at all. Are you doing your job, Clive? Whitney Houston is the artist Davis is most known for “discovering” and he failed her in a major way. I respect what Clive Davis has done in the past for the industry, but the ish he’s on now is not cool. On a side-note, I love how Davis found it appropriate to muzzle Kelly Clarkson and sabotage “My December”, but not the whackness that was Alicia Keys’ “Element of Freedom” lol. Anyhow, I hope Kelly has an easier time with this record, screw Clive Davis, and it always sucks when artists have people stepping on their neck. The End.