As American Idol celebrates it’s 10th anniversary (season premiere TONIGHT 8EST/7CST on Fox with live-blogging threads for each show here at YakkityYaks!), the Yak thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and look back and the previous nine contestants America voted as their Idol. Of course, we’ll begin with our look at America’s original Idol beauty, Kelly Clarkson. Don’t forget to check out the Yak’s Top 10 Idol Auditions as we gear for yet another wacky (and surprising) audition season.
One question before we begin…Brian Dunkelman who? Good decision by the Idol gods to not invite him back, no? OK, back to Kelly. Compared to the other 9 Idol winners, Kelly Clarkson is usually held on a higher pedestal alongside another Idol alum, Carrie Underwood. Many fans argue that Clarkson is still Idol’s best and most loved winner. To each his/her own. That’s not what we’re here to debate. There is no doubt that Kelly Clarkson paved the way for future Idol seasons giving us contestants that will eventually take the music industry by storm. Kelly graced the Idol stage in 2002 and defeated lady favorite Justin Guarini for the top spot. Afterwards, she went on the represent the United States on the international stage, at World Idol in 2003. To date, Clarkson has released four studio albums: double-platinum debut album Thankful (2003), multi-platinum Breakaway (2004), My December (2007), and All I Ever Wanted (2009). Clarkson is working on her 5th album, titled May, likely scheduled for a May 2011 release (or a rumored March release). Selling over 10.5 million copies in the United States, Clarkson proved she would be a force to be reckoned with and that Idol could be a viable springboard for hopefuls in years to come. Based on downloads alone, Kelly Clarkson is the only American Idol to have reached number one in the UK with her single “My Life Would Suck Without You.” She has sold 36 million singles and 23 million albums worldwide.
Earning 58% of the vote (to Guarini’s 42%), Clarkson won the hearts of America with her Texas charm. Her first released single, “A Moment Like This,” rose from 52 to 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The single, subsequently tacked on to her debut album, helped propel Thankful to sell more than 236,000 copies in its first week alone. Some of her biggest performances on Idol have been tapped over and over again on YouTube and around the internet. Wowing America and the judge’s with her rendition of “RESPECT” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, Clarkson showed she was here to stay, even with no audience to feed off of. “A Natural Woman” propelled Kelly to runner-up at the World Idol competition a year after her Idol victory, placing second behind Norway’s best, Kurt Nilsen.
But Kelly’s success wasn’t without it’s drama. Shortly after winning the competition, Kelly was accused of working with a record company, against Idol’s rules. She was eventually cleared of any allegations, as she she only had a contract in order to conduct demonstration work. Her debut album, Thankful, premiered at number one on Billboard’s 200 and reached double-platinum by the end of 2003. Critics were quick to say this would be Kelly’s only success, living off of her recent Idol victory, and that her album was missing the personality she showed on screen. Clarkson earned her first Grammy nomination in 2004 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance with the album’s second, and arguably biggest, single, “Miss Independent.” But Kelly wasn’t going to stop there.
Moving a bit away from the Idol springboard, Kelly wanted to take a little more creative control with her second album, Breakaway, as the title alludes to. She took on a more rock-oriented image, which was actually very well received by her fans. Initially the sales were low, but fans came out in droves when singles from the album were released. The album eventually became the fourth album in Billboard history to stay on the Billboard 200 top 20 for a consecutive year. The first single, “Breakaway,” used for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, achieved considerable success. However, it was “Since U Been Gone” that propelled Kelly’s second album to fame. Leading to Kelly’s first Grammy Award (Best Female Pop Vocal Performance), the single also helped the album pick up a win for Best Pop Vocal Album. Breakaway propelled Clarkson to participate in a number of festivities including NBA games, the Torino Olympics, NCAA Final Four and the MTV Video Music Awards, where she picked up Best Female Video for “Because of You.”
Clarkson then went on to part ways with her management after low airplay for singles from her third album, My December. The same month, word went around that her first nationwide arena tour was cancelled due to underwhelming ticket sales and that she will rather be performing at smaller, more intimate venues. My December still sold enough and reached platinum in December 2007. In early 2007 when Clarkson appeared at the charity event Idol Gives Back, she refused to follow her label’s demands in performing her own single, “Never Again.” “My label wanted me to sing ‘Never Again,’ and I was like, to promote yourself on a charity event is beyond crass. People are starving and dying and I’m up there singing some bitter pop song? And believe me, everyone wanted me to sing it. Because they are jaded and they have no soul. Imagine sitting in a room full of people totally against you. Can’t they hear themselves speaking? Capitalize on AIDS? Are you kidding? Insulting an entire nation of people? I just refused.” Clarkson is still widely respected in the Idol circles, with Cowell commenting everyone around her still seems amateur when she returns to the Idol stage.
Clarkson’s 4th album, All I Ever Wanted, earned her another Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2009. Her first single, “My Life Would Suck Without You,” also featured on Glee, climbed from #97 to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in just one week, breaking the record for largest leap to the top previously held by Britney’s “Womanizer.” And that brings us to today…Clarkson’s latest single from her 5th studio album is expected to drop sometime in January, perfectly coinciding with the premiere of Idol during it’s 10th anniversary. In addition to her pop days, Kelly has done collaborations with Rascal Flatts, Reba McEntire and most recently, Jason Aldean, diving into the country music realm. And she’s been more than welcome, receiving top nod nominations with the Country Music Association.
One little point in Clarkson’s career I’m almost certain she’s trying to forget was her film debut in From Justin to Kelly. As part of her contractual obligations after winning American Idol, Clarkson starred in this musical film with Guarini. It was poorly received by critics, fans, and even Kelly herself. “I knew when I read the script it was going to be real, real bad, but when I won, I signed that piece of paper and I could not get out of it.”
Even in the midst of all of this, Kelly Clarkson is still one of the show’s most memorable superstars. Dabbling on the small screen, the big screen, the radio, internet and even from genre to genre, Kelly is still arguably one of the mega-hit’s biggest and best mega stars. Rivaling the likes of other Idol winners and should-have-been winners (cough*Daughtry*cough), Kelly hasn’t given any indication she’s ready to leave the music business. In fact, breaking away from the main stream seems to be her mainstay and a successful one at that. We’re not expecting anything different with her upcoming album and her future ventures.
Kelly Clarkson, your original American Idol, crowned just 8 years ago. Relive Kelly’s winning performance of “A Moment Like This” below to relive her biggest Idol moment. And don’t forget to let us know your thoughts on Kelly Clarkson by commenting below or joining our FORUMS for free to discuss her success (or lack thereof if you’re not a fan)! Also, be sure to check out our feature on Season 2 winner, Ruben Studdard, tomorrow!