The down home diva Kelly Clarkson announced a release date (October 25) and a title (Stronger) for her fifth LP yesterday. Clarkson’s fans have been foaming at the mouth for months wondering when this album would officially come out, especially since a few songs (including “Dark Side” and “Let Me Down”) leaked last month and were well-received by her acolytes.
That said, when we first heard that she’d be titling her record Stronger, we couldn’t help but feel like, well, it had been done before. After all, it was only March of this year when country artist Sara Evans released an album bearing the same name. A little bit more research revealed that a handful of other well-known musicians have recorded tracks called “Stronger” in recent years, artists running the gamut from Kanye West to Britney Spears to Mary J. Blige to Faith Hill (the latter two of whom are, like Clarkson, former VH1 Divas). While it is still unclear if Clarkson’s new LP will have a title track of the same name, here’s a look at Kelly’s competition for becoming the strongest of the “Stronger” pack.
Artist: Mary J. Blige, “Stronger” (Listen to the song)
Album: More Than A Game (2009)
Refrain: “I’m stronger, stronger, stronger / I’m stronger, stronger, stronger”
Analysis: This song has very impressive DNA; it was written by Esther Dean, produced by Polow da Don, and sung by one of the best singers in the biz. However, it suffers retroactively because it’s so closely tied to the disappointing career arc of Miami Heat supervillain/choke artist LeBron James. The song first appeared on the soundtrack to the documentary about James’ high school years, More Than A Game, and feels overwhelmingly melodramatic and stripped of its potential anthemic power because of that association.
Artist: Britney Spears, “Stronger” (Watch the video)
Album: Oops … I Did It Again (2000)
Refrain: “You might think that I won’t make it on my own / But now I’m stronger than yesterday / Now it’s nothing but my way / My loneliness ain’t killing me no more.”
Analysis: Brit Brit’s “Stronger” starts off with a distorted guitar clang and the most-accomplished melismatic delivery of her career, but her version of an empowerment anthem suffers against the competition because of her limited vocal range. Her baby-voiced coos took the song to #11 on the Billboard charts, but we think that was mainly due to the song’s cheekily meta line “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more,” a self-referencing shout-out to the Britney origin story that began with “Baby One More Time.”
Artist: Faith Hill, “Stronger” (Watch the video)
Album: Cry (2002)
Refrain: “So cry for me baby / And I’ll cry for you / And we’ll both break down and we’ll both break through / We’ll find our way you will face the truth / We both will be stronger.”
Analysis: Now we’re talking! Unless you’re a cold-hearted miser, you’ve probably experienced a difficult breakup or two during the course of your lifetime. Faith Hill’s “Stronger” is about the emotional fallout that occurs after a split, but rather than taking a “Woe is me” approach, she’s candid and honest about being hurt while also reaffirming to herself and her ex that this split is for the best. When she sings “And man, that hurts like hell,” you feel her pain, but also her inner fortitude. That’s strength!
Artist: Kanye West, “Stronger” (Watch the video)
Album: Graduation (2007)
Refrain: “N-n-now that that don’t kill me / Can only make me stronger / I need you to hurry up now / Cause I can’t wait much longer.”
Analysis: Louis Vuitton dons, blonde dykes, and black Kate Mosses will all agree that Yeezy goes HARD on this track that’s built on top of Daft Punk‘s “Harder Better Faster Stronger.” We don’t doubt Kelly Clarkson’s ability to BRING IT with the best of them, but we can’t see Kelly’s Stronger playing in the same ballpark as the song that turned Kanye from a hip hop prodigy into an aural auteur.
Artist: Dead By April, “Stronger” (Watch the video)
Album: Dead By April (2009)
Refrain: “Answer me it’s all that I’m asking / Taking back what I’ve been missing / Looking back making me stronger / My despair breaks me no longer / My despaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrr!”
Analysis: WHOA. We confess to never having heard of this song or this band before writing this list, but YIKES. Dead By April sounds what like Linkin Park might sound like if Chester Bennington had grown up in the death metal obsessed country of Sweden instead of suburban Phoenix. We can’t really make out what this guy is screaming about, but whatever it is, we’re scared! And, by default (and fear), we’re just going to declare Dead By April’s “Stronger” the strongest of the strong songs!