Piece by Piece
Piece by Piece is the seventh studio album by American recording artist Kelly Clarkson. It was released on February 27, 2015, through RCA Records. The follow-up to her first Christmas album, Wrapped in Red (2013), it is her first studio album to completely contain original material since Stronger (2011), and her final studio album under her recording contract after winning the first season of the television singing competition seriesAmerican Idol in 2002.
Piece by Piece sees Clarkson reuniting with frequent collaborators Greg Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Jason Halbert, Eric Olson, and Chris DeStefano. Her pregnancy hurdled her efforts to write more than five songs for the album. As such, she gathered material from songwriters such as Sia, Matthew Koma, MoZella, Bonnie McKee, David Jost, Semi Precious Weapons lead singer Justin Tranter, and former Cobra Starship member Ryland Blackinton, among others.
Inspired by the orchestral production on Wrapped in Red, Clarkson wanted for all the songs on Piece by Piece to resonate like its own film soundtrack, taking a cue from the soundtracks of the feature motion pictures Cruel Intentions (1999) and Love Actually (2003) and commissioning orchestral arrangements by Joseph Trapanese. The album is illustrated as a concept record telling a single story, using themes of heartbreak, personal struggles, peace, and empowerment.
The music of Piece by Piece consists of electropop, orchestral pop, power pop and electronic dance music, marking a departure from the predominant pop rock sound of her previous studio albums. It also features guest vocals by John Legend.
Piece by Piece was released to positive reception by music critics, who applauded Clarkson’s vocal performances. Criticism mainly targeted the album’s production, as well as its belaboring on midtempo arrangements. Commercially, it became her third album to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 chart with 97,000 units sold. The album was preceded by the release of its lead single «Heartbeat Song» in January 2015, which became a top 30 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The record’s second single, «Invincible» was released in May 2015, while its supporting tour, the Piece by Piece Tour, began on July 11, 2015. On December 7, 2015, Piece by Piece received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. Being her fourth nomination in the category, Clarkson broke her previous record of the most nominations in which she once shared with Madonna, P!nk, Sarah McLachlan and Justin Timberlake. The albums lead single, «Heartbeat Song», also received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance.
In 2013, Clarkson released her first Christmas album, Wrapped in Red, which to her represented a beginning for a second phase for her career. In the midst of recording it, she also collaborated with recording artists Robbie Williams, Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood in their respective albums Swings Both Ways (2013), Everlasting (2014) and PrizeFighter: Hit After Hit (2014). In an interview with Billboard magazine, she announced intentions to release a set of pop and country records, as well as a potential Broadway album, as a follow-up to Wrapped in Red.
RCA Records chief executive Peter Edge also revealed in their 2014 mid-year assessment that they were in a process of finding new music and directions for some of the their established acts — primarily with Clarkson. Early stages of development for a follow-up studio album began as early as June 2012, with Clarkson commissioningRodney Jerkins in recording a potential track She remarked, «We’re already working.