Just over two years ago, Kelly Clarkson took some licks for My December, an unapologetic antithesis to her usual mainstream pop that was slagged for being hopelessly uncommercial. In hindsight, it was much ado about nothing, yet that mini-controversy seems to have influenced the singer's return to familiar places.
All I Ever Wanted finds a balance between Clarkson's melancholia and aggression and bright, commanding voice. While not perfect, her fourth is full of upbeat (and pretty damn good) guitar-driven pop like I Do Not Hook Up and the title track, as well as a few requisite (and equally decent) ballads that make use of her impressive range. It'd be easy for your average music snob to write this one off or dig it ironically, but all in all, it's just fun without being flaky.
Top track: All I Ever Wanted