Kelly Clarkson‘s decade-plus career has been marked by such tidily constructed hits that it feels like she can conjure radio play at will. Now 32 years old and a new mother, Clarkson has returned in style after the release of a greatest hits compilation and a Christmas album; “Heartbeat Song” is the sound of a reinvigorated artist embracing the opportunity to re-prove herself. Re-teaming with “What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)” mastermind Greg Kurstin, Clarkson has snatched that smash single’s driving tempo and added the warm, synthetic heart of the producer’s work on Tegan and Sara‘s 2013 pop opus Heartthrob. The production here never dulls: midway through the second verse, a racing guitar line is flattened out by a walloping collection of drums, and Clarkson confidently strides over the rubble.
“Heartbeat Song” is less of a reinvention than a reassertion, following the longest break between standard studio albums in Clarkson’s career. She can still deftly handle a crescendo, deliver a sturdy vocal hook and know when to let her backing music breathe, all while keeping her carbonated charm intact. Clarkson’s “Heartbeat Song” represents another surefire hit for one of pop’s most reliable architects, and a welcome return for an artist who had taken a well-deserved personal break.