11. Kelly Clarkson, 'Meaning of Life'
The inaugural American Idol's
live shows have always been electric affairs, with the Texas-born singer and
her backing band tearing through soulful throwdowns. Her eighth album – and
first on Atlantic Records, her new label now that she's fulfilled her Idol prize's contractual obligations –
is her first to truly capture that vibe. The torch-y "Meaning of Life"
and the enchanted "Slow Dance" show that she can still own a ballad,
but it's the upbeat tracks – the refractions of Nineties R&B like the
jittery "Heat" and the sinewy "Medicine," the Earth Wind
& Fire-assisted statement of feminine intent "Whole Lotta Woman"
– that put her still-formidable vocal power and forthright charm on full