I made fun of my best friend mercilessly when she purchased Kelly Clarkson's latest album. Once the third highly addictive single came out, I promptly ate my words when I borrowed her CD and added Clarkson to my iPod. So when I saw the January/February issue of Blender featuring Kelly Clarkson and the headline "America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure," let's just say the cover spoke to me.

Blender is published by Dennis Publishing, the same folks behind laddie mags Maxim and Stuff. I expected Blender to be just a laddie mag focusing on music, but was pleasantly surprised by its content. While its core audience may be men, this publication is read by a healthy dose of women (whether they care to admit that is another story).

The front of the book, called Burner, is chock full of quick, gossipy snippets involving musicians. I enjoyed the fast-paced way this section flowed. One minute you're looking at a set of three pictures of an intoxicated Ashlee Simpson climbing atop a counter at McDonald's and the next you're reading a quote from Ted Nugent describing Sharon Osbourne as someone that "oughtta be slapped silly." This is Us Weekly, but only highlighting musicians and packaging it so guys don't realize it's Us Weekly-ish.

Blender has an interactive section called "Dear Superstar" where readers send questions about their favorite musicians and said musician replies. Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of Weezer, answered questions about his two year vow of celibacy (he's now going on two and a half years), how he became interested in meditation and how he spent his youth playing in a KISS cover band (he sang Paul Stanley's lines).

Like the January issue of most music magazines, the cover story is a series of best-of lists from 2005.

The first list again speaks to the readers--it's the best and worst of everything in 2005, selected by the readers. Billie Joe Armstrong (hero of the year); Michael Jackson (loser of the year). Overexposed blonde of the year (Paris Hilton); commercial sellout that was actually kinda cool (Gorillaz, "Feel Good Inc." for iPod).

The mag also published a list of the 50 greatest CDs of 2005. I preferred the readers' poll since the top 50 CDs could be found in any other magazine (hint: if you name is M.I.A., Kanye West, 50 Cent, Fiona Apple or Mariah Carey, you're listed).

The list of 100 greatest songs of 2005 had a more eclectic feel, introducing me to artists I've never heard of (Kathleen Edwards, Magic Numbers, and Veronicas) while keeping some expected names in rotation (Fall Out Boy, The White Stripes, and Coldplay).

The cover story on Kelly Clarkson described one of her hit singles as "catchy and globally prevalent as Avian Bird Flu" and likened her concert persona as "part Tori Amos, part Tori Spelling."

The magazine has its stereotypical booty shots when interviewing Juelz Santana, but mentioned Tori Amos at least twice in one issue. I don't know many men that listen to Tori, so I'm guessing those nods of recognition are for her female fans (like me).

That's not a bad thing: Blender effortlessly pleases both sexes with its publication. It's not too girly, not too gratuitous, and this balance might be the perfect mix to keep Blender relevant in a brimming shelf of music magazines.

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