American Idol alumni Jessica Clemmons returns with her sophomore album, Loving This Day. With a growing confidence, can Clemmons crack the big time?
We have all heard the old cliché: ’it’s not the winning that counts, but the taking part’, but when applied to television talent shows, it takes on a new depth. Fair enough, a handful of winners – Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis, Will Young, Carrie Underwood – have fared well post-win, but just as many alsorans have gone on to shine – One Direction, JLS, and Rebecca Ferguson, have all proven the point for this side of the Atlantic. Over on the other side of the pond, the biggest act to have been produced by American Idol is Jennifer Hudson, who, with her Oscar and Grammy Awards, has outshone all her fellow contendors. She has become so much more than a talent show has-been.
And so it is in these footsteps that Houston-based, singer/songwriter, and American Idol 2006 contestant, Jessice Clemmons, should seek to follow. Having blown both Simon Cowell (‘The only thing stopping you going all the way is your nerves’) and Paula Abdul (‘We will see your name in lights one day’), Clemmons failed to make it to the live shows, but has never lost heart. Instead of her wistfully wondering what might have been, Clemmons built up her confidence on the live circuit and in 2010 unleashed her début album, Permanent, to positive reviews. Post touring with The Soldiers and Stylistyics, and a judging role on Queer As Talent, Clemmons teamed up with a host of co-writers in Chicago, New York and London, to pen her sophomore release, Loving This Day.
At first listen, it would be easy to write Clemmons off as an aspiring Kelly Clarkson. The album opens with power pop akin to Clarkson’s signature. The opening of ‘Keep On Moving’ is so Clarkson, that it could easily have been lifted from Clarkson’s Breakaway period. However, there is so much more to this big-vocal talent. It would be wrong to call Clemmons an original act, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While a large portion of her radio friendly songs take inspiration from the first American Idol winner, she romps through the numbers flawlessly. The formula is far from flawed as it produces the anthemic ‘Beautiful’, which is a signature song any artist should be proud to have written.
Equally, Clemmons’ biggest blunders arrive as a result of her clear desire to be more than Kelly Clarkson 2.0. The 12-track album would function better as a 9 track package – the soft pop of ‘Wait’ and ‘Sometimes It’s Too Late’ prove too bland to be noteworthy, and while ‘More Than Friends’ has potential, it fails to capitalise on it. Sounding immediately dated, ‘More Than Friends’ boasts cheesier lyrics than the majority of 90s cheesy pop, and its slow burn delivery sounds more like karaoke than an album track.
When her vocal is the focal point, Clemmons proves that she can cause the spine tingle without ever having to rely on Aguilera-esque vocal tricks. The wonderfully honest ‘Ready To Fall’ is a ballad that the late Whitney Houston would have been proud to deliver. Sung by Clemmons in a measured understated manner, it is touching, tender and real.
But Clemmons shines most when she slips effortlessly into a mould of her own making. Album standout, ‘Awake’, is bold, playful and memorable. The slow-step blurs the line between balladry and power pop, ensuring that the listener is instantly drawn into a mesmerising song. Jessica Clemmons may not have crafted the perfect album, but what she has created is more than worthy of attention.
Though at times Loving This Day frustrates through its lack of originality, there is no denying that Clemmons’ lush vocal and passion win out. Paula Abdul was not wrong when she said that Clemmons deserves to have her name in lights – there is plenty on Loving This Day to help Clemmons become the star she ought to be.
Go Get It: ’Awake’ / ‘Ready To Fall’
Forget It: ’More Than Friends’