Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson

Born: April 24, 1982
Age: 41
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Biography

Kelly Brianne Clarkson (born April 24, 1982) is an American singer, songwriter and children's book author. She rose to fame in 2002 after winning the first season of American Idol, and has since been established as "The Original American Idol". Her debut single, "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This", topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the best-selling single of 2002 in the United States. She became the runner-up of World Idol the following year. Clarkson's debut studio album, Thankful (2003), debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) while selling over 4.5 million copies worldwide. Its lead single, "Miss Independent," reached the top ten in various nations.

Trying to reinvent her own image, Clarkson decided to part ways with American Idol management and developed a rock-oriented sound for her second album, Breakaway (2004). It sold over 15 million copies worldwide and earned Clarkson two Grammy Awards. Taking creative control of her third album, My December (2007), she served as the executive producer and co-wrote the entire album's material. However, she fought with her label, in particular Clive Davis, who was dissatisfied with her musical direction. The feud resulted the reluctance of her label to promote the album. Clarkson's fourth album, All I Ever Wanted (2009), became her second album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Its lead single, "My Life Would Suck Without You", holds the record for the biggest jump to number one on the Hot 100.

Clarkson's fifth studio album, Stronger (2011), won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album, making her the only act to receive the award twice. The album scored her third number-one song on the Hot 100, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)". Clarkson's sixth album and first Christmas music release, Wrapped in Red (2013), became the best-selling holiday album of the year, making her the first American female artist to achieve this goal. In 2015, Clarkson released her seventh studio album, Piece by Piece, which was her third album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Its title track, became her eleventh top-ten entry on the Hot 100.

Apart from her work in music, Clarkson has also ventured into television and film, beginning with her leading role in the romantic musical From Justin to Kelly (2003). She is known for her vocal versatility and range. Her music has mainly dealt with themes of heartbreak, independence, and self-empowerment for women and young teens. Her musical work has also gained her numerous accolades, including three Grammy Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, twelve Billboard Music Awards, four American Music Awards, and two Academy of Country Music Awards. In a career spanning over a decade, Clarkson has accumulated 100 Billboard number-one hits and sold over 25 million albums worldwide. In 2012, she was ranked nineteenth on VH1's list of "100 Greatest Women in Music." Billboard also ranked Clarkson as the 14th-best-selling artist of the 2000s.

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Early life and career beginnings

Clarkson was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to Jeanne Ann (née Rose), a first-grade English teacher, and Stephen Michael Clarkson, a former engineer. Clarkson is the youngest of three children with a brother, Jason, who appeared in one of her music videos, and a sister, Alyssa. Clarkson also has two younger half brothers from her father's second marriage. Clarkson's parents divorced when she was six years old, following which her brother lived with their father, she stayed with their mother, and her sister went to live with an aunt. Clarkson's mother later remarried, to Jimmy Taylor. Her ancestry is Greek (from a maternal great-grandfather), Welsh, English, Irish, German, and Scottish. Her mother is a descendant of Republican state senator Isaiah Rose, whose life story was discussed on Clarkson's episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, in 2013. Clarkson was raised Southern Baptist. She has said: "I always grew up in church. I was the leader of our youth group. I’ve always grown up pretty close to church and with God. But I think I’ve just gotten a lot closer just because He’s the only One I can lean on." She later said of her upbringing: "My family was highly conservative; I had to go to church on Sunday and Wednesday."

Clarkson was educated at Pauline Hughes Middle School and in the seventh grade, the school's choir teacher, Cynthia Glenn, overheard her singing in a hallway and asked her to audition for the school choir. Clarkson told her that she had never received any professional vocal training. Clarkson graduated from Burleson High School, where she performed in several musicals, such as Annie Get Your Gun, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Brigadoon. She sang at her high school talent show, after which an audience member shared some inspiring words with her: "God has given you this gift. You've got to sing. You're destined to sing." Clarkson continued singing and soon started classical training, hoping that music would be her ticket to a college scholarship. Upon graduating from high school, Clarkson was offered full scholarships to The University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, and Berklee College of Music, but later declined them, explaining: "I've already written so much music and wanted to try a career on my own" adding, "you're never too old to go to college."

After graduation, Clarkson worked several jobs to finance a demo, recording material and trying to market it to record labels, but received little response. Clarkson turned down two recording contracts from Jive Records and Interscope Records, stating "They would have completely pigeonholed me as a bubblegum act. I was confident enough that something better would come along." In 2001, she traveled to Los Angeles, trying to pursue a career in music. She appeared as an extra in a few television series such as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Dharma & Greg and briefly worked with musician Gerry Goffin to record five demo tracks in trying to secure a record deal. According to Clarkson, her early attempts to launch her music career floundered when she was turned down by almost every US record label for sounding 'too black'. Lack of other career opportunities and a fire incident in her apartment forced Clarkson to return to Burleson, where she worked at a movie theater, promoted Red Bull energy drinks, and worked as a telemarketer and as a cocktail waitress in a comedy club.

Career

2002-03: American Idol, Thankful and World Idol

Main articles: American Idol (season 1) and World Idol

Upon returning to Burleson, Clarkson was encouraged by her friends to audition for the inaugural season of the reality television series American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in May 2002. Despite receiving a golden ticket in the series premiere, Clarkson made her first appearance during the second episode. Clarkson went on to win the competition on September 4, 2002 at the then Kodak Theatre (now Dolby), earning 58% of the votes against runner-up Justin Guarini and without being sent into the bottom three throughout the season. In an interview in 2012, Clarkson referred the inaugural season as "ghetto", explaining: "On our season we were like kids in camp. Nobody knew what to do. The show was ever-changing every day. They did one season of Pop Idol in the UK but America is a very different market. They dropped us off in a mall and said 'find some clothes to wear on national television'. I am maybe the closest to white trash you can get. What do I buy? White pants I guess? I definitely looked like a cocktail waitress."

Immediately after winning American Idol, Clarkson was signed to a record deal with RCA Records, 19 Recordings, and S Records by talent manager Simon Fuller, who created American Idol; and music mogul Clive Davis, who was slated to executive-produce her debut album. On September 17, 2002, her debut double-A-side single, "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This", was released. Both songs were performed by Clarkson during the season finale of American Idol. After debuting at No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the single climbed to No. 52 the following week, and subsequently ascended to No. 1. It broke a 38-year-old record set by the British band The Beatles for the biggest leap to No. 1. It eventually went on to become the best-selling single of 2002 in the United States.

Clarkson's debut album, Thankful, was released on April 15, 2003. The album contained aspects of pop, contemporary R&B, and gospel music, with several established musicians such as Christina Aguilera, Diane Warren, The Underdogs, and Babyface contributing on to the tracks. Released during the urban-R&B dominance, the album was well received by several critics. AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised the album for its vocal ability: "throughout this record, (Clarkson) makes it seem effortless and charming. She can croon, she can belt out a song, she can be sexy and sassy while still being graceful and as wholesome as the girl next door." Henry Goldblatt of Entertainment Weekly remarked: "Clarkson glides through octaves with the masterful control of someone who's been doing this for decades." To support the album, Clarkson and Idol season two runner-up Clay Aiken co-headlined the 2004 Independent Tour throughout the U.S. Thankful debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and went on to become a commercial success. It was later certified double platinum by the RIAA, platinum in Canada, and gold in Japan and Australia.

Its lead single, "Miss Independent", became her first international hit—charting in the top ten in five national charts, including the U.S., and was later certified gold by the RIAA. It earned Clarkson her first Grammy Award nomination for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" at the 46th Grammy Awards. Its follow-up single, "Low", was released to moderate success. Its final single, "The Trouble with Love Is", was released as a promotional single for the British romantic film Love Actually and failed to chart in the U.S. Her first video album, Miss Independent, was released on November 18, 2003 and was certified gold by the RIAA.

Clarkson made her film debut with Guarini with the release of the musical romantic comedy film From Justin to Kelly in June 2003. The film was poorly received by critics and was unsuccessful at the box office, with Clarkson explaining that she was "contractually obligated" to do the film. Between 2002, Clarkson, along with American Idol judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson and hosts Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest, participated in the season premiere of the eighth season of the television comedy series MADtv. She also portrayed Brenda Lee in two episodes of the television drama American Dreams between 2003 and 2004. On December 25, 2003, Clarkson participated in the television special competition World Idol in London along with the inaugural winners of the several Idol television series around the world. Clarkson was contractually obligated to participate, and performed Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". She ended up as the runner-up behind the first Norwegian Idol Kurt Nilsen.

American Idol season 1 performances and results
Week # Theme Song choice Original artist Order # Result
Audition Dallas "Express Yourself"
"At Last"
Madonna
Glenn Miller & His Orchestra
N/A Advanced
Top 121 Hollywood round 1 "Respect" Otis Redding
Top 65 Hollywood round 2 "I Say a Little Prayer" Dionne Warwick
Top 45 Hollywood round 3 "Save the Best for Last" Vanessa L. Williams
Top 30 Semifinal/Group 2 "Respect" Otis Redding 9
Top 10 Motown "You're All I Need to Get By" Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell 8 Safe
Top 8 1960s "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" Aretha Franklin 5
Top 7 1970s "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" Ben E. King
Top 6 Big Band "Stuff Like That There" Betty Hutton 6
Top 5 Burt Bacharach Love Songs "Walk On By" Dionne Warwick 1
Top 4 1980s
1990s
"It's Raining Men"
"I Surrender"
The Weather Girls
Celine Dion
3
7
Top 3 Idol's Choice
Judges' Choice
"Think Twice"
"Without You"
Celine Dion
Badfinger
3
6
Top 2 Finale "A Moment Like This"
"Respect"
"Before Your Love"
Kelly Clarkson
Otis Redding
Kelly Clarkson
2
4
6
Winner
World Idol performance and results
Song choice GER AUS GCC CAN NLD SOA POL USA BEL UK NOR Total Result
"(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" 9 9 5 9 9 8 8 12 9 9 10 97 Runner-up

2004-06: New management and Breakaway

Trying to distance herself from her American Idol image, Clarkson decided to part ways with Fuller and 19 Management and hired the services of talent manager Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm. She took more creative control and developed a more pop rock-oriented sound with the production of her second studio album, Breakaway. Executive-produced by Davis, Breakaway was released on November 30, 2004. Clarkson co-wrote six of the tracks with pop and rock songwriters such as former Evanescence band members Ben Moody and David Hodges, Kara DioGuardi, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. The title track was co-written by pop punk singer Avril Lavigne. The album received critical acclaim, with Erlewine of AllMusic remarking: "What gives Breakaway its spine are the driving, anthemic pop tunes, numbers that sound simultaneously mainstream and youthful, which is a hard trick to pull off, and they are the tracks that illustrate that Clarkson is a rare thing in the 2000s: a pop singer who's neither hip nor square, just solidly and enjoyably in the mainstream."

Breakaway became a commercial success and eventually became her most successful album to date. After debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in 2004, the album's chart longevity allowed it to become the third-best-selling album of 2005 in the U.S. and was certified sextuple platinum by the RIAA. The album also enjoyed success throughout the world; it topped the charts in the Netherlands and Ireland and became the world's seventh-best-selling album of 2005 and went on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide—becoming the most successful album by an Idol contestant in history. Clarkson supported Breakaway with the Breakaway World Tour—consisting of three sub-tours from 2005 to 2006. It also garnered Clarkson several accolades, including a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 48th Grammy Awards.

All singles from Breakaway became international hits: its titular lead single, "Breakaway", originally served as an original song for the Disney film The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement in 2004. The single became a commercial success—peaking at No. 6 on the Hot 100 and eventually became her longest-running No. 1 song, where it was No. 1 for 28 weeks on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Audience chart. The follow-up single, "Since U Been Gone", became the album's most successful release—peaking at No. 2 on the Hot 100 and eventually becoming her most successful single on the Hot 100 to date. It garnered Clarkson numerous accolades, including two MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 48th Grammy Awards. Furthermore, the single was critically acclaimed by both the pop music and the rock music scene by Ted Leo, Fall Out Boy, Simple Plan, Yellowcard, Switchfoot, and Evanescence. The third and fourth singles, "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Because of You", also followed suit—peaking at No. 6 and 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. "Because of You" also received critical acclaim and more success worldwide, by topping the charts in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland. Clarkson performed all the singles in various award shows. She performed "Since U Been Gone" at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards and at the 2006 BRIT Awards; and "Because of You" at the 48th Grammy Awards. The final single, "Walk Away", also enjoyed chart success, peaking at No. 12 on the Hot 100. Despite releasing "Walk Away" as her only single in 2006, Clarkson still became the most-played artist of 2006 in the U.S.

Clarkson's second video album, Behind Hazel Eyes, was released on March 29, 2005. In 2005, she performed and participated during the thirtieth season of the American sketch-comedy series, Saturday Night Live, and the reality series Damage Control with Simple Plan frontman Pierre Bouvier. She performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Game 2 of the NBA Finals. She also performed during the festivities All-Star Game and the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy; In 2006, Clarkson recorded a song titled "Go" as a free download for the Ford Motor Company advertising campaign. She has also performed "What Hurts the Most" with Rascal Flatts at the ACM Awards and "Cigarettes" with the country duo The Wreckers during one of their shows in Texas in 2006.

2007-10: My December and All I Ever Wanted

Clarkson's third studio album, My December, was released on June 22, 2007. The album relied on darker themes and features a heavier rock sounds. All tracks were co-written by Clarkson, and she opted to collaborate with her band members rather than her previous producers and collaborators. Its production and release became a subject of a dispute with RCA, particularly with Davis (who ultimately decided not to executive produce the album) and Kwatinetz. Davis noted the album's lack of professional production input and wanted her to re-record tracks with a more mainstream appeal, which she refused. The album received substantial positive reception and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but lack of promotion due to reluctance of RCA led Clarkson to dismiss Kwatinetz and Live Nation to cancel its accompanying tour, the My December Tour, and reschedule it into a smaller scale with supporting acts Jon McLaughlin, Sean Kingston and Mandy Moore. Clarkson later hired the services of talent manager Narvel Blackstock of Starstruck Management. Blackstock was the husband of country artist Reba McEntire, of whom Clarkson is a close friend. A month after the album's release, Clarkson issued an apology to Davis; she remarked: "He has been a key advisor and has been an important force in my success to date. He has also given me respect by releasing my new album when he was not obligated to do so. I really regret how this has turned out and I apologize to those whom I have done disservice." My December was certified platinum by the RIAA and has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.

Its lead single, "Never Again", became a commercial success due to its promotion on American Idol. It debuted and peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100, becoming her highest debut on the chart. The subsequent singles, "Sober", "One Minute", and "Don't Waste Your Time", failed to follow suit by charting in a single chart. In 2007, Clarkson, along with Jeff Beck, performed a cover of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" on the Idol Gives Back charity special, which was released as a promotional single and charted at No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100. She later performed "Never Again" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (with Joe Perry) at the sixth season finale of American Idol. On July 7, 2007, Clarkson performed on the American leg of Live Earth concert. Clarkson partnered with NASCAR during their 2007 season, appearing in televised advertisements, performed at pre-race concerts, promoted NASCAR Day, and appeared at the Champions' Banquet in December. In April 2008, Clarkson participated in a Papal Youth Rally at the campus of St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie in Yonkers, New York, performing a mini-concert for those in attendance. That was the Papal visit of Pope Benedict XVI. She performed Schubert's "Ave Maria" for the Pope later in the day following the Pope's speech.

Throughout 2008, Clarkson began venturing into country music by pairing with Reba McEntire, recording an hour-long CMT Crossroads special at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on February 22, 2007. Introduced by Dolly Parton, she performed "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and "Does He Love You" with Martina McBride on the television special CMT Giants: Reba McEntire. Clarkson also appeared on an episode of McEntire's sitcom Reba, that aired on January 14, 2007. At the Academy of Country Music Awards on May 16, 2007, Clarkson and McEntire sang a duet version of "Because of You", which also became the lead single from McEntire's album Reba: Duets, the song peaked at No. 2 on the Hot Country Songs chart. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. In 2008, Clarkson and McEntire also embarked on the 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour to support Reba: Duets and My December.

Clarkson's fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, was released on March 10, 2009. Its production oversaw Clarkson returning to a mainstream-oriented sound by reuniting with previous collaborators Dr. Luke, Martin, and DioGuardi, and new collaborators Howard Benson, Claude Kelly, Ryan Tedder, Glen Ballard, Matt Thiessen and Katy Perry in contributing tracks for the album. The release of All I Ever Wanted was met with positive acclaim from music critics for its lighter themes. The album also became a commercial success; it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for two weeks. Clarkson supported All I Ever Wanted with the All I Ever Wanted Tour from 2009 to 2010. The album has sold 960,000 copies in the U.S. and garnered Clarkson her second nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Its first single, "My Life Would Suck Without You", became an international hit. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 97 and rose to No. 1 the following week—breaking the record for the biggest jump to No. 1 on a single week previously held by Britney Spears's "Womanizer". It also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada and Hungary. The second single, "I Do Not Hook Up", continued the chart success by peaking at the No. 20 on the Hot 100. The third single, "Already Gone", reached No. 13 on the Hot 100. The release of "Already Gone" became a subject of another dispute with RCA—particularly with its similarities with Beyoncé's song "Halo", both of which were produced by Tedder. Further promotion for the album was abruptly ended at the release of its titular fourth and final singles, "All I Ever Wanted", which peaked at No. 96 on the Hot 100; and "Cry", which saw a limited release.

Clarkson performed as one of many main artists for the return of VH1 Divas in September 2009. She also became a guest mentor on the Dutch television series X Factor in November 2009. Clarkson continued her country ventures by pairing with Jason Aldean to record the duet "Don't You Wanna Stay" for his album My Kinda Party in November 2010. It received numerous country accolades, including a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards. The song has sold over two million digital downloads, making it the best-selling country collaboration in history.

2011-14: Stronger and Wrapped in Red

Clarkson's fifth studio album, Stronger, was released on October 21, 2011. Clarkson revealed that the album "was influenced by Prince, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, Radiohead and there's a little bit of a country vibe/influence on a couple of songs." Clarkson collaborated with several producers including Greg Kurstin, Ester Dean, Darkchild, Toby Gad, Steve Jordan and Howard Benson. Stronger became a commercial success, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and has sustained chart longevity. The release of the album was accompanied by a limited release of her first extended play, The Smoakstack Sessions, which featured alternate versions of tracks from Stronger and All I Ever Wanted. Stronger was certified Platinum by the RIAA and won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards, making her the only artist to win the award twice.

Its lead single, "Mr. Know It All", was released on September 5, 2011. It reached No. 1 in Australia and South Korea and attained a top ten position in seven countries, including the Billboard Hot 100. It also became a crossover hit to the country charts, prompting RCA to reissue a country version. Its second and titular single, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)", became the album's most successful release, and her most successful single overall. It topped sixteen Billboard charts, including the Hot 100. It also reached No. 1 in Poland and Slovakia and became her biggest hit in over 18 other countries. It eventually sold over five million copies worldwide, and was nominated for three Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. Its third and final single, "Dark Side", was released to substantial success.

Clarkson had promoted Stronger in several countries, including 2011 NRL Grand Final, and the British, American, German and, Australian versions of The X Factor. She supported Stronger with two concert tours—the Stronger Tour and the co-headlining the Kelly Clarkson / The Fray Tour with the alternative rock band The Fray. Her second extended play, iTunes Session, was released on December 23, 2011. it debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 85, and was preceded by the release of a cover of "I'll Be Home For Christmas". Clarkson co-wrote "Tell Me a Lie" with Tom Meredith and Shep Solomon, which was recorded by the boy band One Direction for their debut album, Up All Night (2011).

On February 5, 2012, Clarkson performed The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XLVI to widespread critical acclaim. She also became a guest mentor to Blake Shelton's contestants on season two of the American television series The Voice and a resident mentor on the reality television series Duets. She later released a promotional single, "Get Up (A Cowboys Anthem)", for use in Pepsi's NFL advertising campaign.

Clarkson's first greatest hits album, Greatest Hits - Chapter One, was released on November 19, 2012. As with the release of Stronger, Chapter One was accompanied by a limited release of her third extended play, The Smoakstack Sessions Vol. 2. Three songs recorded for the compilation: "Catch My Breath", "Don't Rush", and "People Like Us", were all released as singles. "Catch My Breath", the first single, was released on October 2012 peaked at No. 19 on the Hot 100, and concluded as the No. 3 AC song of 2013. "Don't Rush", featuring country musician Vince Gill, was also released in October 2012, peaking at No. 87 on the Hot 100 and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. "People Like Us", the third and final single, was released in April 2013, charting at No. 65 on the Hot 100. She supported Chapter One on the 12th Annual Honda Civic Tour, where she performed as the special guest to the pop rock band Maroon 5. Chapter One was certified Gold by the RIAA.

In October 2012, Clarkson collaborated with Shelton on a cover of "There's a New Kid in Town", which was included on his Christmas album, Cheers, It's Christmas. They both performed it on his Christmas television special, Blake Shelton's Not So Family Christmas, in December 2012. She also collaborated on recording artist Jewel on a duet of "Foolish Games", which was included on her first compilation, Greatest Hits (2013). On January 21, 2013, Clarkson performed "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at the second inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama. In February 2013, she performed "Tennessee Waltz" and "Natural Woman" at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards as a tribute to Patti Page and an homage to Carole King.

In April 2013, Clarkson revealed that she was in the midst of recording her first Christmas album, titled Wrapped in Red, and later announced its release date as October 29, 2013. She also released a non-album single, "Tie It Up", exclusively to country music stations in June 2013. While on the 12th Annual Honda Civic Tour, Clarkson revealed that "Tie It Up" is actually the lead single from a future studio album, which will mostly consist of country songs. In September 2013, it was announced that Clarkson collaborated with singer Robbie Williams on the song "Little Green Apples" for his album Swings Both Ways.

On November 7, Wrapped in Red debuted at the top of the Billboard Top Holiday Albums and at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 Chart. On December 5, 2013, Wrapped in Red was certified platinum by the RIAA, eventually becoming the best-selling Christmas album of the year and making her the first American female artist to achieve this feat. However, the single "Underneath the Tree" did not fare as well, and despite predictions from music critics that it would become a hit, the single entered the Hot 100 at No. 78. According to Mediabase, Clarkson was ranked 9th place of top artists on the Hot AC 2013 Year-End Chart. On December 11, her first Christmas special debut, Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale, garnered over 5.3 million viewers. On December 26, 2013, Clarkson announced that she recorded a song with Martina McBride, which will be featured on McBride's album Everlasting. Later, it was revealed that the song is "In the Basement", originally by Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto.

2015-present: Piece by Piece

Clarkson's seventh studio album, Piece by Piece, was released in February 2015. Her final album under her recording contract with RCA and 19, it became her third studio album to debut at the top on the Billboard 200 chart. Featuring collaborations with Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Sia, John Legend, and Shane McAnally, among others, it received a fairly positive response from music critics. Its lead single, "Heartbeat Song", became an international top 40 hit in over 17 regions; while its follow-up "Invincible", failed to achieve a similar success. Its titular track, "Piece by Piece", was issued as its third single seven months after its release. Piece by Piece charted at No. 8 on the Hot 100 chart becoming her 11th Top 10 hit and her first since "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)." In addition, the song charted No. 1 on the Billboard Digital Songs Chart bringing her total Billboard number ones to 100, more than any other American Idol alumni. The song is personal to Clarkson, she wrote it about her father leaving her when she was young."

To promote Piece by Piece, Clarkson appeared in televised performances during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, The Voice, and American Idol, with the latest one dedicating a competing week in its fourteenth season featuring her discography. She also supported the Piece by Piece Tour throughout 2015, which was cut short of its worldwide visits following medical recommendations for a vocal rest during the year. In addition, Clarkson performed with Josh Groban on a recording of "All I Ask of You", which was included in his seventh studio album, Stages, and its companion television special. She was also featured on Ben Haenow's song, "Second Hand Heart", which was issued as the lead single from his debut studio album.

For the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, "Heartbeat Song" was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance and Piece by Piece for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Clarkson was the performer and guest judge on the February 25, 2016, episode of the fifteenth season of American Idol. Clarkson's emotional performance of "Piece by Piece" garnered positive reviews and the song debuted at No. 8 on the Hot 100. On February 26, Piece by Piece was certified Gold by RIAA.

On March 15, 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama released "This Is for My Girls", a collaborative track featuring vocals from Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Kelly Rowland, Lea Michele, Zendaya and Missy Elliott to coincide with Barack Obama's SXSW speech and to promote the First Lady's third-world educational initiative "Let Girls Learn".

Clarkson pre-recorded a medley of her hits to be used in the series finale of American Idol on April 7. She ended the medley with an a cappella version of her Idol coronation single "A Moment Like This".

Artistry

Voice

"Dark Side" Clarkson displaying her powerful upper soprano range, displaying variations in vibrato as well as her noted dynamic and emotive delivery
"Don't Rush" Clarkson displaying a softer, breathier timbre to her vocal whilst also demonstrating her harmonizing capabilities in her duet with Vince Gill
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Clarkson possesses the vocal range of a soprano, spanning from E♭3 - G6, which has been described as dynamic, robust and emotive. Clarkson has also been noted for her vocal versatility and technically skilled delivery, in reviewing a live performance of Clarkson's Jon Caramanica of The New York Times stated she "showed off a voice that moved in all sorts of ways, without ever appearing to strain" continuing "Ms. Clarkson, who has a malleable voice and a boatload of vocal confidence, might be a soul siren in the making". However, in a separate review of Stronger Caramanica stated that Clarkson's voice is "too huge, too violent" for warmer and sweeter vocal stylings, stating "she's on a par with Taylor Swift when it comes to vengeance, and she'll do it louder and with more brutality in comparison to her contemporary." In a live review as part of her Stronger Tour, Sophie Sinclair of Hit The Floor claimed "Kelly's strong and powerful voice was flawless throughout the night and some may even say she sounds better live than she does on her albums".

"Sometimes, I can't listen to really old school songs...because they just use so much autotune when it's not needed that it kills me. I can't listen to it. What I love about that though is on songs like 'Miss Independent,' not only was it autotune, I just sounded different. I sounded so young."

—Clarkson on her experiences of using autotune on previous material, stating her now dislike of the practice in an interview with CNN.

Regarding the quality of Clarkson's voice, Arion Berger of Rolling Stone commented that "her high notes are sweet and pillowy, her growl is bone-shaking and sexy, and her midrange is amazingly confident for a pop posy whose career is tied for eternity to the whims of her American Idol overlords." Dr. Luke, a songwriter and producer of some of Clarkson's hits, stated that "She has powerful lungs. She's like the Lance Armstrong of vocal cords." In an interview with Good Morning America, Simon Cowell was asked of the then six American Idol winners, who he thought had the best voice. Cowell immediately answered that Clarkson did "by a mile", noting that she was "up there" with other great singers such as Celine Dion. Esquire wrote that Clarkson has "the best voice in the history of pop music". Reviewing Stronger, Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone states, Clarkson has, "One of music's most remarkable voices." Regarding the controversial practice of lip-syncing, Clarkson claims that she never has, and never will lip-sync, elaborating in an interview with Cory Myers; "I've actually never done that because I'm terrified, if I ever did that, something horrible would happen, the track would skip. I have a really unhealthy fear about it. So no, I've never done that".

Influences

Clarkson has often cited soul musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and Etta James and rock musicians Radiohead, Garbage, Aerosmith, and Jimi Hendrix as her influences. She has also listed Reba McEntire, Bette Midler, and Rosemary Clooney. Her audition performance of James' song "At Last" and her final performance of Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" on American Idol garnered critical praise from both the judges of the program and the public. Clarkson also said that she has been influenced by Tina Turner and Annie Lennox. At age eight, Clarkson was first inspired to venture into music during a visit to an African-American church in Fort Worth. She recalled: "I was like, 'Wow, whatever they're feeling, I want to feel it too'."

Other ventures

Greeting cards

In April 2015, Clarkson debuted a line of greeting cards that she created with American Greetings. About the line, Clarkson said, "We designed them with all of my fans in mind: it's a little of my voice and personality, but the real point is to share sweet experiences and important times in your life with your friends and family." The line includes a variety of cards, an illustrated version of Clarkson, and two custom versions of Clarkson singing "Happy Birthday". The cards are sold exclusively at Walmart.

Book

In February 2016, it was announced that Clarkson had signed a book deal with HarperCollins. Her first children's book, entitled, River Rose and the Magical Lullaby will be available on October 4, 2016. The book will feature an original lullaby written and performed by Clarkson.

Personal life

Family

Clarkson began dating talent manager Brandon Blackstock in February 2012. Blackstock is singer Reba McEntire's stepson through her marriage to Narvel Blackstock, who is Clarkson's manager. In a May 2012 interview, Clarkson told the Daily Mail, "Brandon is my manager's son. I've known him for six years, but he was married. Then, suddenly, there he was at the Super Bowl and he was single." Clarkson and Blackstock became engaged in December 2012, and married on October 20, 2013, at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. Upon her marriage, Clarkson became a stepmother to Blackstock's son and daughter from his previous marriage. Their first child, a daughter named River Rose Blackstock, was born on June 12, 2014. Their second child, a son named Remington Alexander Blackstock, was born on April 12, 2016.

Political views

On December 29, 2011, Clarkson posted on Twitter that she would vote for U.S. Congressman Ron Paul as a 2012 presidential candidate, saying, "I love Ron Paul. I liked him a lot during the last Republican nomination and no one gave him a chance. If he wins the nomination for the Republican Party in 2012, he's got my vote. Too bad he probably won't." After stating her support for Paul, she came under fire on Twitter, due to the controversy over racist and homophobic newsletters that were sent out under Paul's name in the 1980s. She later apologized for the tweet, saying she did not intend to offend anyone. On November 14, 2015, she tweeted her support for Hillary Clinton as a 2016 presidential candidate, but also showed support for Bernie Sanders. This tweet received mixed reactions, causing Clarkson to further tweet about the importance of respecting other people's opinions and having open discussions about politics, rather than being hateful.

Philanthropy

In April 2007, Clarkson took part in "Idol Gives Back", a fundraiser for people in poverty in both Africa and the U.S., performing "Up to the Mountain" along with Jeff Beck. She would also perform a five-song set later that year on the American leg of Live Earth concerts opting for environmental awareness about climate change. She has served as ambassador for the March of Dimes since she was on American Idol, raising money regularly and assisting in volunteer service, having walked for "March for Babies", for the cause of improvement of the health of mothers and babies. Clarkson, additionally, got involved in the organization "Houses of Hope", who take care and build orphanages for children in South Africa who have been affected by HIV/AIDS, abuse and poverty. She has visited those children and also participated in "A Night for Hope" fund-raiser concert (held by Clarkson's background vocal singers, Jill and Kate), where she performed a song she wrote after her trip to South Africa, "You Still Won't Know What It's Like". Clarkson also supports the charities Save the Children, UNICEF, "Do Something" and "STOMP Out Bullying" and music causes like the Save the Music Foundation. She has a ranch in Texas for unwanted animals, which includes amputee goats, blind dogs, and horses with colic; there are more than 80 animals at the sanctuary. She helps provide veterinary care for them and finds them an adoptive family. Clarkson performed in a benefit concert on March 1, 2013, supporting the Omaha based Opportunity Education Foundation, an organization that provides access to education for children around the world, stating "Education was a key part of my childhood, and I am better for it. Anything for education I am really into and especially for kids. A lot of people don't have computers, and they can't afford them. Without education, you get far behind. As long as they have a chance, you know, I think that's important. I want every kid to have a chance.". In 2013, Clarkson teamed up with State Farm Insurance to support teen safe driving as a part of Celebrate My Drive program. In 2013, Clarkson supported Feeding America, The Ad Council and their Child Hunger PSA Campaign, which provides food for children facing hunger. Also in 2013, Clarkson participated in Green Mountain Coffee's Great Coffee, Good Vibes, Choose Fair Trade campaign by traveling to coffee farms in Peru to draw attention to the importance of being Fair Trade Certified. In December 2013, Citizen Watch Co. announced that Clarkson is their newest Brand Ambassador.

Jane Austen

In 2013, Clarkson purchased a turquoise and gold ring that had belonged to the British novelist Jane Austen. Clarkson paid £152,450 ($231,227) for the ring at auction house Sotheby's, against a reserve price of £30,000. Clarkson is a fan of Austen's work and also bought a first edition of Austen's 1816 novel Persuasion. The ring is one of only three surviving pieces of jewelry known to have belonged to the author, and had remained in her family until the sale. The British government placed an export ban on the ring owing to its historic importance, describing it as a "national treasure". Jane Austen's House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, eventually raised the money with the aid of an anonymous donor, to buy the ring by the export deadline. It was placed on display at the museum in February 2014.

Clarkson had intended to wear the ring as her engagement ring. Clarkson's then-fiancé (now husband), Brandon Blackstock, commissioned a replica of the ring for her, which she has been seen wearing on many occasions, most notably during the 2013 Grammy Awards and the Second inauguration of Barack Obama.

Discography

Main article: Kelly Clarkson discography
  • Thankful (2003)
  • Breakaway (2004)
  • My December (2007)
  • All I Ever Wanted (2009)
  • Stronger (2011)
  • Wrapped in Red (2013)
  • Piece by Piece (2015)

Bibliography

  • Clarkson, Kelly (2016). River Rose and the Magical Lullaby. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-0624-2756-4.

Tours

Main articles: List of Kelly Clarkson concert tours and List of Kelly Clarkson promotional tours
Headlining
  • Breakaway World Tour (2005-06)
  • Hazel Eyes Tour (2005)
  • Addicted Tour (2006)
  • My December Tour (2007-08)
  • All I Ever Wanted Tour (2009-10)
  • Stronger Tour (2012)
  • Piece by Piece Tour (2015)
Co-headlining
  • American Idols LIVE! Tour 2002 (2002)
  • Independent Tour (2004)
  • 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour (2008)
  • Kelly Clarkson / The Fray Tour (2012)
  • 12th Annual Honda Civic Tour (2013)
Promotional
  • Kelly Clarkson in Concert (2003)
  • Kelly Clarkson: Live in Concert (2009)

Filmography

Film and television roles
Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2002 That '80s Show Dancer (extra) Episode: "Valentine's Day" (uncredited)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch Girl (extra) Episode: "The Whole Ball of Wax" (uncredited)
American Idol Herself/contestant Season 1 (winner)
MADtv Herself Episode 8.1
2003 From Justin to Kelly Kelly Taylor Leading role
2003
2004
American Dreams Brenda Lee "And Promises To Keep"
"Tidings of Comfort and Joy"
2004 King of the Hill Herself (voice) Episode: "Stressed for Success"
  • 2005
  • 2009
  • 2012
Saturday Night Live Herself/musical guest
  • "Jason Bateman/Kelly Clarkson"
  • "Tracy Morgan/Kelly Clarkson"
  • "Charles Barkley/Kelly Clarkson"
2005 Damage Control Herself Episode: "Damage Control"
2007 Reba Kelly Episode: "As We Forgive Those"
2011 Phineas and Ferb Herself Episode: "A Phineas and Ferb Family Christmas" (voice)
2012 The Voice Mentor Season 2 - Battle Rounds
Duets Judge/Mentor 9 episodes
Blake Shelton's Not So Family Christmas Herself Christmas special
2013 Who Do You Think You Are? Herself Documentary series; season 4, episode 1
The Crazy Ones Herself Episode: "Pilot"
Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale Herself Christmas special
2014 Nashville Herself Episode: "I'll Keep Climbing"
2015 American Idol Mentor/Performer Episode: "Top 8"
Josh Groban: Stages Live Guest performer PBS special
2016 American Idol Guest Judge/Performer Episode: "Top 10"

Accolades

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Kelly Clarkson

Clarkson has won 3 Grammys and numerous other awards.

Charities

Kelly Clarkson supports the following charitable causes: Birth Defects, Underprivileged Children, Children.

[ Source: Wikipedia ]


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