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Criticism: ‘chemistry’

Art Critic Zurina Wright discusses the messages behind Kelly Clarkson’s newest album. 
Cover via Apple Music

Art Critic Zurina Wright discusses the messages behind Kelly Clarkson’s newest album. 

Rating: 8/10

Relationships are beautiful moments with someone special, yet they may end in hurt and ache. Released on June 23, Kelly Clarkson’s “chemistry” album explores her relationship with her ex-husband, Brand Blackstock, and how it changed from butterflies to heartbreak.

Featured on “chemistry” are fourteen different drum-heavy, emotionally-charged songs. The title track sums up that alluring, magnetic feeling of meeting someone new. It’s a magical experience that can lead to a beautiful relationship, but if it fades, results in a toxic reaction: “You know, chemistry, it can sneak up on ya / One day you can turn around and feel a part of / A magic you can’t deny in the moment.” 

Clarkson aims to convey both the good and bad sides to her relationship — continuing that exciting feeling of attraction — as the track “favorite kind of high” expresses the positive emotions. Starting at a fast pace with drums and up-beat guitar, the song escalates as Clarkson flexes her vocal talents. This song encompasses the passion of chemistry using lyrics like,  “You’re my favorite kind of high / Rushin’ through me like a fire.” 

“Mine” conveys feelings of anger and missing someone. Soft vocals and gentle guitar accompany mournful lyrics in “mine,” giving introspection on her relationship and a sense of regret as one recalls the memories shared.

The more you miss someone, the angrier you might feel toward yourself for not being able to move on. Clarkson expresses these bitter feelings toward both herself and Blackstock, “Can’t believe I let you in / I can’t believe I stayed.” The meaning behind the title becomes evident further into the song as the singer wishes her ex-husband will experience someone messing with his heart, “like you did mine.”

Directly after “mine” is “high road,” depicting Clarkson neglecting her own feelings and needs in the relationship. Despite her mother insisting, “To become strong, you had to only / Cover your fears, don’t show your lonely / Put others first before your own needs,” Clarkson resolves to stop traveling the “high road.”

The lyrics elaborate on how time has taught her that she should not hide away, and she should express those fears and remain open. In particular, she notes “And now I’m older, I’ve learned some lessons / To become stronger, you have to listen / Keep it open, don’t try to hide it / And if you need love, don’t try to fight it.” 

Following this feeling, “me” symbolizes the rediscovered identity and independence that was shut away in exchange for the relationship. But Clarkson no longer needs anyone else, just herself, or “me.”

The “chemistry” album has elements of a classic breakup album elaborating on issues in Clarkson’s past relationship, how she will move on and a few love song staples reminiscing about the good times they shared. Fans of Clarkson and listeners experiencing heartache will resonate with these lyrics as the rhythms convey the sorrowful resonance of a broken romance. 

Some may criticize that the album is too deep and gloomy, with the majority of songs having downcast tones and hidden messages depicting a collapsing relationship, but there are additions like “favorite kind of high” that radiate lightheartedness and energy.  

These lyrics and songs appear to come from a place of both love and hurt, and cycle through the sentiments of grief as the realization that one cannot fix the relationship, and moves toward emotional liberation. As “me” suggests, those feelings of grief can transform into a lesson on how to grow and reclaim one’s identity, focusing instead on loving oneself and valuing yourself enough to leave. 

Editor’s Note: Both the album and track “chemistry” is lowercase on Kelly Clarkson’s new release. 

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