Why did My December, Kelly Clarkson's latest CD, cause such a stir? Because it was better than anyone anticipated. Clarkson, of course, smooched fame thanks to American Idol, and while many of her subsequent recordings — particularly "Miss Independent" and "Since U Been Gone" — were mighty catchy, they remained fairly standard commercial fare. She tried to change this equation with December, and on songs such as "Never Again," she raised her game from a creative standpoint. But Clive Davis, her label head and mentor, didn't want her stretching so far that sales suffered, and when Clarkson reacted to his grandfatherly advice with public defiance, he took his revenge, under-promoting December to such a degree that her summer tour had to be canceled. Clarkson subsequently fired her management firm and is currently attempting to rebuild her popularity with a small-venue tour co-starring Jon McLaughlin — something she probably could have avoided had she been satisfied making disposable radio bonbons for the rest of her career. There's a lesson in her story, and it's not very pleasant.