Kelly Clarkson returns with a fresh sound rooted in classic pop.

Can you believe nearly sixteen years have passed since Kelly Clarkson won American Idol? In that time the pop songstress has had to quite literally fight to maintain her place in music. She has butted heads with label folks over her sound, defended her appearance when tabloids made jokes, and through it all kept her focus squarely on her audience. Her latest single is no exception, though it does mark the start of a bold new chapter in her career.

“Love So Soft” was released late last week. The song is the first off Clarkson’s next studio album, as well as the first track to showcase her new soul-inspired sound. The track bops with the kind of energy you would expect from a future Top 40 competitor, but it’s the ebb and flow and the song that will keep you coming back for more.

The video for “Love So Soft,” which you can view above, was directed by Dave Meyers. You might not know his name, but you no doubt remember his bold aesthetic from the videos he directed for Kendrick Lamar (“HUMBLE.”) and Katy Perry (“Swish Swish”). This video at the top of this page is nothing like his previous works, but it does show continued growth for one of today’s best music video auteurs.
You can view the song’s official video above.

“It’s been a record I’ve been dying to make since I was a kid. It’s very much a modern take on that ’90s urban R&B pop. In the last 10 years I feel like we’ve lost a bit of that in music,” Clarkson told EW recently of her upcoming eighth album, Meaning of Life, out October 27.

We’ve always believed in Kelly Clarkson, but she still find a way to surprise us with each new album cycle. “Love So Soft” has us excited not just about her future, but the future of pop music as a whole. Comment below and let us know your thoughts.