Still an Idol

Seven years after becoming the first ‘American Idol’ winner, Kelly Clarkson remains a top pop icon

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 8, 2009

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Kelly Clarkson comes to the Taj Mahal on Saturday.

When Kelly Clarkson became the first American Idol winner back in the summer of 2002, it looked like a snap. Win Idol, become a major pop star. However, as we’ve seen in the years since, that’s not always the way it works. You need talent, determination and some luck to retain your popularity in the Internet-fueled quicksand that is today’s music industry.

Kelly Clarkson has done just that. It was her second album, Breakaway, in 2004, that broke her as a major, well respected pop star. It has gone on to sell 10 million copies and features the hit singles “Because of You,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” and her signature song, “Since U Been Gone.” That song and the album earned Grammys for best female pop vocal performance and best pop vocal album.

Clarkson is currently on tour in support of her fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, featuring the hit singles “Already Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You,” the latter of which broke a record on the Billboard Hot 100, with the largest leap to No. 1 in the chart’s 50-year history. With All I Ever Wanted, Clarkson has returned to her pop and dance song roots. Her 2007 release, My December, was more introspective and darker than her previous work, and Clive Davis, the chairman of her record label RCA, publicly chastised her for not listening to him about her song selections. However, she stuck to her decision and although the album wasn’t as commercially successful as hoped, she jumped right back in and produced her latest album, which tries to balance the maturity of the former with the more commercial sound of the latter.

Talking with MTV about her new album last spring, Clarkson said that the title track “Is one of my favorite songs. I love the soulful rock vibe. It’s the kind of song I love performing and recording and writing.”

Working with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, who co-wrote and produced some of the tracks on the new album, Clarkson noted, “We hit it off and wrote five or six songs together, several of which made it to the album. You meet new people and you vibe together. There are a lot of different sounds on the album but they are all me.”

In a chat with Popeater, she talked about how she saw her new album. “It’s kind of like a roller coaster, because 1) I’m a woman, but 2) I love that ride through an album because it tells a story. But there’s some really fun stuff on here that I’ve never done before — like this one song I did with Tedder called ‘If I Can’t Have You.’ It’s very like Eurythmics meets the Killers — very different for me. It’s a lot sexier. Then there’s other stuff like ‘Cry,’ which is the most personal song on the album and is about betrayal. Anyway, [the album] is very personal and all over the place. All my albums always have been. I don’t know about you, but I get really pissed off when I buy an album and every song’s the same.”

Clarkson is friends with last year’s new Idol judge, singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardio, who co-wrote, with Katy Perry, “I Do Not Hook Up” from Clarkson’s new album. In an interview with VH-1, Clarkson talked about making the video for the song. “It’s about a good girl who in her fantasies is being bad. I write a lot of my treatments for my videos. When it came to filming this, I said, ‘Why did I write this? I have to crawl across a table and I’m making out with a guy I don’t know and throw him down on the table.’ I got very nervous.”

Clarkson also admitted in the interview that she is a big fan of Twilight. “I’m a nerd about Twilight. I want to get a song on the new Twilight film soundtrack but I am such a nerd about soundtracks and Twilight in particular.”

Clarkson had a big response recently for her blog in regards to the Kenye West incident on the MTV Music Awards. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, she said, “I’m never on-line. I don’t Facebook or My Space or Twitter or anything because I’m just lazy. I didn’t know that many people would read my blog. It was just kind of funny. This industry is all about fun. I’ve been on awards shows for other genres of music and been accepted. It was a little unsettling to [see West] make a teenager cry.”

She added in the same interview when asked about Ellen Degeneres joining American Idol, “I’m a huge fan of Ellen, so I think she is going to bring something funny to the table. It’s something fresh for the show. It’s cool to change things up a bit.”



Since She’s Been Here

In doing research for this article, I came across Clarkson’s first interview for American Idol. Here are some of her answers as a wide-eyed 20-year-old from Burleson, Texas.

Why do you want to be an American Idol?

Being on a stage in front of millions is the biggest rush for me. It’s like I’m kind of nervous at first, but once I get out there I never want to leave the stage. I also think that the industry could use a little class.

If you couldn’t sing, what talent

would you want?

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