“It was very much on purpose to have the album not be a divorce or breakup album—it was more of a relationship album,” Kelly Clarkson tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe of chemistry, the belter and TV host’s 10th album and first non-holiday release since her marriage ended in 2020. Instead, Clarkson took a wide-screen look at love and its effects, with her strong voice leading the way.
Chemistry opens with “skip this part,” a sweeping ballad that shows off Clarkson’s voice—still as strong as it was when she became the inaugural American Idol more than two decades prior, but now tinged with the sort of wisdom that comes with going through it. But the strength of chemistry lies in how Clarkson refuses to fast-forward through any of the complex emotions that come with love. “It is a heavy topic,” she says. “I do like the idea of taking a quirky, pop, happy sound melodically, and then putting a dark lyric with it.”
Those emotions are all there, and amplified by her singular voice, which has gotten so many listeners through parts of their own lives over the last 20-plus years; as heavy as the subject matter may feel, Clarkson makes a point to find lightness. “Love makes you do really incredible things and incredibly stupid things,” she says. “You have to find humor. Even the dark, deep, sad ones—I have to find humor. I have to have a little tinge of that.” You can find it in the giddy first-crush feelings of the effervescent “favorite kind of high” (which peaks with Clarkson soaring into her head voice); the irritable post-breakup emotions that are outlined in the sardonic, Steve Martin-assisted “i hate love”; and the wounded vulnerability of “lighthouse,” which uses the sea beacons as a metaphor for the moment when one realizes a relationship has become unmoored.
With chemistry, Clarkson offers listeners a picture of her life as it is now, scars and all. It’s a stirring statement from one of pop’s most powerful voices that doesn’t flinch from the hard parts of life and love, instead looking at them head-on and creating something beautiful out of the tumult. “Hopefully, people connect and don’t feel isolated and alone,” she says. “That’s the worst part when you’re going through something—you can’t experience full-on what someone else is experiencing. And it’s very isolating.”