Kelly Brianne Clarkson (born April
24, 1982) is an American singer-songwriter and occasional actress.
Clarkson made her debut under RCA Records after she won the first season
of the television series American Idol in 2002.
Clarkson has released four albums to date: her double-platinum debut album
Thankful (2003), her multi-platinum second album Breakaway (2004) - won
two Grammy Awards, My December (2007), and her latest album All I Ever
Wanted (2009). Her first four albums have sold over 10.4 million copies in
the United States.
Eleven of Clarkson's singles became Top Twenty hits on the Billboard Hot
100. Her single, "My Life Would Suck Without You", advanced from No. 97 to
No. 1 on the Hot 100 in its first week of release, breaking the record for
the largest leap to the top position in chart history.
In addition to her music, Clarkson had the lead role in the movie From
Justin to Kelly (2003) along with Justin Guarini. She played Brenda Lee in
the television drama American Dreams and appeared in the sitcom Reba. She
also participated in sketch comedy on MADtv (2002) and Saturday Night Live
Clarkson has toured extensively worldwide as a solo act. After Clarkson's
appearance on the CMT Crossroads and her duet version of "Because of You"
(2007) with Reba McEntire, they co-headlined the 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour
Clarkson held the distinction of having the highest-selling American Idol
album in the United States until November 2009, when Carrie Underwood
claimed that title by a narrow margin of 100,000 albums. Clarkson,
however, remains the highest-selling American Idol alum overall, with over
23 million albums sold worldwide.
Kelly Brianne Clarkson was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in the
small town of Burleson, a suburb of Fort Worth. She is the third and
youngest child of Jeanne Rose, a first grade teacher, and Stephen Michael
Clarkson. Clarkson's siblings include her older brother and sister, Jason
and Alyssa. When Clarkson was six years old, her parents divorced after
seventeen years of marriage. The family settled in Burleson, where
Clarkson's mother married her second husband, Jimmy Taylor.
Clarkson's family struggled financially, and after her parents divorced,
music became her refuge. Clarkson attended Pauline G Hughes Middle School
and Burleson High School. She wanted to become a marine biologist but
changed her mind after seeing the movie Jaws. In seventh grade, a teacher
(Mrs. Cynthia Glenn) overheard her singing in a hallway and asked her to
audition for the school choir; Clarkson told the teacher that she had
never received professional vocal training.
In high school, Clarkson performed in 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 high school graduation, Clarkson was offered full scholarships to The
University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas, and Berklee, but
decided against college because she had "already written so much music and
wanted to try it on her own," and she figured "you're never too old to go
Clarkson won the first season of American Idol on September 4, 2002,
earning 58% of the vote to 42% for Justin Guarini. Choking back tears,
Clarkson performed the ballad "A Moment Like This", the song written for
the winner of American Idol, which would subsequently appear on her debut
album, Thankful. The song's music video was filmed at Pantages Theater in
Hollywood, and incorporated short scenes of Clarkson performing on Idol.
When released as a single in October 2002, it set a record on the U.S.
Billboard Hot 100 chart when it rose from number 52 to number one. This
achievement was largely due to the impact from Idol as the CD single
managed to sell 236,000 copies in its first week of sales in the U.S.; it
spent five weeks at number one in Canada.
Soon after the first season of American Idol ended, Clarkson starred with
Idol runner-up Justin Guarini in the movie From Justin to Kelly (2003).
The film was poorly received by critics and grossed only $5 million at the
North American box office, less than half its reported budget. Clarkson
has mentioned in interviews that she is shocked when people send her
scripts after From Justin to Kelly, often citing contractual obligation as
her sole reason for involvement in the film. Clarkson was quoted telling
People "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." The script was written by Kim Fuller, Simon Fuller's brother.
In December 2003, a competition titled World Idol was held in London,
England, gathering the winners of the first seasons of Idol from across
the globe. Clarkson was contractually obligated to participate, and placed
second behind Norwegian Idol Kurt Nilsen. She performed Aretha Franklin's
"(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman". Because she left immediately
after the competition, she was criticized by some in the media for what
they saw as poor sportsmanship. Clarkson later explained to fans that she
was not feeling well.
Shortly following the completion of the first season of American Idol,
Clarkson was accused of working with a record company. American Idol's
rules stated that a contestant was not allowed to compete on the program
if they had been linked to a record company. However, she was cleared of
all allegations, as she had only had a contract in order to conduct
Clarkson is currently the only American Idol contestant to have reached
number one in the UK. She claimed number one on March 1, 2009 when "My
Life Would Suck Without You" debuted number one on downloads alone. She
has sold over 10.2 million albums in the United States, and over 20
million albums worldwide, becoming the highest-selling Idol winner.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, Clarkson is also ranked on the top 200
album sellers of the Nielsen SoundScan era at number 187.
Following the release of "A Moment Like This", Clarkson's full-length
debut album Thankful was released in North America by RCA Records on April
15, 2003. It debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200. The album
was certified double platinum by the RIAA for sales of two million copies
on December 8, 2003 and platinum by the CRIA for sales of 100,000 copies
on February 10, 2004. Reviews for the album were generally favorable.
However, several critics noted that her early achievement was established
due to her performances on American Idol. 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". Rachel Kipp of JS Online criticized
Clarkson for not having the same personality on Thankful that she had on
American Idol, and wrote: "on American Idol, Clarkson showcased a great
voice and an endearing, 'aw-shucks' personality. That personality is
missing on Thankful, and there lies the album's greatest fault". Kipp
blamed the producers behind the album for not allowing Clarkson to be
"Miss Independent" was released as the second single from Thankful. It
reached the top ten of the U.S. and Canadian singles charts, and earned
Clarkson a 2004 Grammy Award nomination for "Best Female Pop Vocal
Performance". When the single was released in the United Kingdom and
Australia, it reached the top ten of the charts; however, Thankful
received less attention. It peaked at number forty-one on the UK albums
chart and at number 33 on the Australian albums chart.
"Low", the third single from Thankful, reached number two in Canada, but
it was unable to make the Top 40 of the U.S. chart. The final single, "The
Trouble with Love Is", was not released in Canada, and it peaked at #101
on the U.S. Charts. Clarkson attributed the under performance of both
releases to poor management and relieved her manager Simon Fuller, who she
felt was not completely focused on her career. Clarkson also covered
Danielle Brisebois' "Just Missed the Train" on the album.
Distancing herself from her American Idol image, Clarkson took more
creative control with her second studio album Breakaway, and developed a
more rock-oriented image. Breakaway was released by RCA Records on
November 30, 2004. The album debuted within the U.S. top five and Canadian
top ten, but sales were initially low in comparison to Thankful. However,
the single releases from Breakaway proved very successful, and allowed it
to become only the fourth album in history to stay in the Billboard 200
Top 20 for a consecutive year, as well as, being certified 6x platinum in
the U.S. in late 2007 and 5x platinum in Canada in May, 2006. In
Australia, the album reached number two and spent 52 weeks in the top 10
and was certified 6x Platinum; however, it experienced a delayed release
in the UK. Clarkson co-wrote six of the songs with several songwriters,
such as former Evanescence band members Ben Moody, David Hodges and
producer Max Martin; the title track was co-written by punk-pop singer
Avril Lavigne. Breakaway received different responses from critics;
Rolling Stone commented that "on Kelly Clarkson's second album, ... she
embraces her rock side rather than the pop pageantry that put her on top
of the American Idol heap". TeenInk noted the strength of her vocals on
Breakaway, and praised the change from pop music to contemporary rock:
"Clarkson retains the incredible power and beauty of her voice while
switching to rock". Stylus magazine also enjoyed Clarkson's foray into
rock music, however, she was called out because of her American Idol
image, which reviewer Charles Merwin believed she had yet to lose. He
praised the non-singles and wrote that they "maintain a quality high".
Allmusic called the album "a nice, low-key relief".
Clarkson appeared on numerous television programs during the promotional
tour for Breakaway, some of which included Saturday Night Live, The Oprah
Winfrey Show and The View; she performed the first two singles "Breakaway"
and "Since U Been Gone" on Saturday Night Live, which became her first
major telecast appearance in order to support the album. "Breakaway",
co-written by Avril Lavigne, served as the original song for The Princess
Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) and achieved considerable success
across the world; it became Clarkson's third top-ten single in the U.S.
and fourth top-ten single in Canada. It reached number ten in Australia,
and number 22 in the UK. The song's contemporary pop-rock ambiance was one
of the several tracks including a stronger rock-influenced sound that had
not been heard on Thankful. The second single "Since U Been Gone", which
was 'produced' by Max Martin, became the most successful release from the
album. Its music video presented Clarkson singing to an underground
audience with a full band; cut scenes of Clarkson destroying a former
boyfriend's apartment were incorporated. The song's strong rock ambiance
allowed it to reach number two in the U.S. and the top five across the
world. It also earned Clarkson her first Grammy Award for "Best Female Pop
Vocal Performance"; she won a second award for "Best Pop Vocal Album".
The third and fourth single releases, "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and
"Because of You", also followed with chart success. The video for "Behind
These Hazel Eyes" broke the record for days at #1 for a female artist with
33 out of 50 days #1 on TRL. The video for "Because of You" won the 2006
MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, her second consecutive win in
that category (The first being from "Since U Been Gone"). The fifth single
from Breakaway was entitled "Walk Away". Breakaway spent 103 weeks on the
Billboard 200. It fell out of the Billboard 200 in late November and was
moved to Billboard's Pop Catalog. Breakaway was the tenth best selling
album of 2006 in the US, adding nearly 2 million additional sales to the
2005 and 2004 sales. As a testament to Clarkson's continuing popularity,
she was the most-played artist of 2006 on American radio, despite
releasing only one single in the entire year, "Walk Away". On December 23,
2006, American Top 40 radio show host Ryan Seacrest announced during a
countdown of 2006's most popular songs that Clarkson had had a song in the
American Top 40 for 111 weeks, making her "the most successful female
artist in AT40 history". She was also the most radio broadcasted artist of
2006 in Australia and "Because Of You" was the third most broadcast song
of the same year, despite being released in 2005.
In 2005, Clarkson made a performance during the 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend
as part of the festivities leading up to the All-Star Game Later that
year, she performed the Star-Spangled Banner at Game 2 of the NBA Finals
between the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons She also performed that
spring as part of the 2005 NCAA Final Four festivities in St. Louis,
In the summer of 2006, Clarkson lent Ford Motor Co. a song titled "Go",
written by Clarkson and Rhett Lawrence ("Miss Independent"). The song was
used in the company's advertising campaign in 2006, "Bold Moves" and the
song, along with its music video, was made available free at Ford's
AddictedtoKelly.com website (website now defunct).
While on tour in Europe in 2006, Clarkson began writing and composing
songs for her third album, My December. During the Addicted Tour, Clarkson
debuted two of her songs: "Maybe" and "Yeah". The first single from My
December was "Never Again", which made its radio debut on April 13, 2007.
The song was released on iTunes on April 20, 2007, but was taken down and
replaced with a notice that said that the song was not available until
April 23, 2007. The single peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #8 and on
the Pop 100 at #5. Following "Never Again", Clarkson released "Sober" as
her next single from My December on June 6, 2007. The singles were
promoted with appearances on Good Morning America and The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno. Clarkson also returned to American Idol on the May 23, 2007
season 6 finale for the first time since its third season, performing
"Never Again" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with Aerosmith
guitarist Joe Perry during a Beatles medley.
Clarkson parted with her management, The Firm, on June 11, 2007, after the
controversy surrounding My December. Clarkson would then sign with
Starstruck Entertainment, run by Narvel Blackstock — the husband of Reba
McEntire - on July 2, 2007. On June 14, 2007, Live Nation announced that
Clarkson's summer tour—her first nationwide arena tour—had been canceled
due to underwhelming ticket sales, to be rescheduled after the release of
the My December album at smaller, more intimate concert environments.
Clarkson reinstated plans to tour the US during 2007, with a much smaller
tour than the one she canceled in June. Clarkson began her My December
Tour on October 10 in Verona, New York in venues significantly smaller
than those previously booked.
My December was officially released in the U.S. on June 26, 2007. On the
date of the album's release, Clarkson appeared on Good Morning America to
promote her new album. Clarkson performed songs from this new album,
including the single "Never Again". Despite the controversy surrounding My
December, the album debuted at #2 in the U.S. with 291,000 albums sold.
This is a slightly higher debut than Clarkson's previous album, Breakaway,
which debuted at #3.
On July 7, 2007, Clarkson performed on the American leg of Live Earth. Her
five-song performance set included: "Walk Away", "How I Feel", "Never
Again", "Sober", and "Since U Been Gone".
Clarkson was the celebrity coach for Canadian Idol during its Top 5 week
of the fifth season, aired on the CTV network on August 20, and she
performed on the results show the next night. She was also awarded a
Platinum Certification for shipments of more than 100,000 copies of My
December in Canada. Clarkson also performed at the 2007 NFL opening
kickoff where she sang the national anthem and performed songs from My
December including "Never Again", "Maybe" and "Don't Waste Your Time".
Clarkson also performed in the halftime show for the Dallas Cowboys and
New York Jets game on Thanksgiving Day.
My December was certified both gold and platinum on December 12, 2007, by
the RIAA. It has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.
Clarkson performed during the festivities of the 2006 Winter Olympics in
On April 25, 2007, Clarkson appeared on Idol Gives Back and performed
Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain". After the performance, the audience
who watched Clarkson perform live gave her a standing ovation. American
Idol judge Simon Cowell described her as "incredible", saying, "When you
let her [Clarkson] come back on the show it makes everybody else look like
In addition to her roles as spokeswoman for the acne treatment Proactiv as
well as Vitaminwater, Clarkson partnered with NASCAR for the 2007 season.
She appeared in televised advertising spots, performed at pre-race
concerts, promoted NASCAR Day, and appeared at the Champions' Banquet in
December. The August 2007 issue of Blender included a feature on Clarkson
and her new album, as well as her music label woes Clarkson also appeared
at the NFL's opening night performance in Indianapolis for the kickoff of
the new season.
Clarkson also performed at half-time during the 2007 Thanksgiving Day
football game between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.
On April 19, 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. This 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. Clarkson, raised a Baptist, was said
to be honored by the invitation and appreciative of the rosary given to
her and her band by the Pope, who were invited over by the Pope
immediately following the performance for the rosary honor.
Clarkson performed "What Hurts the Most", with Rascal Flatts, at ACM
Awards in 2006 and returned again to sing a duet with Reba McEntire in
2007. This was her second performance on a country music award show, even
though she is in the pop/rock genre. Along with her performance with
Rascal Flatts, Clarkson also performed "Cigarettes", with the country duo
The Wreckers during one of their shows in Texas.
Building on her country music status, Clarkson and Reba McEntire who first
met after Clarkson won the first season of American Idol recorded an
hour-long CMT Crossroads special at Nashville's famed Ryman Auditorium on
February 22, 2007. It aired on CMT and Palladia (then known as MHD) on
June 24, 2007. Previously, Clarkson was a performer on CMT's Giants: Reba
McEntire. where she sang McEntire's hit song "Why Haven't I Heard From
You", introduced Dolly Parton, and later also sang Reba's hit "Does He
Love You" with Martina McBride. 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 of Clarkson's own 2005 single, "Because of You",
which also became the lead single from McEntire's album of all-star duets.
The music video for this version of the song later debuted on June 20,
2007. This collaboration with McEntire earned Clarkson a CMA Award
nomination for "Musical Event of the Year" in 2007 and a Grammy Award
nomination for "Best Country Collaboration With Vocal" in 2008.
Additionally, the song was featured on Now That's What I Call Country,
which was released in August 2008.
Clarkson was a surprise guest at the 2007 CMA Music Festival in Nashville
on June 7, 2007, where she performed "Does He Love You" and "Because of
You" with Reba McEntire during the internationally-renowned annual event.
The performance of "Because of You" was taped and aired as part of the
"CMA Music Festival: Country's Night To Rock" television special that
aired on ABC on July 23, 2007.
On January 17, 2008, Clarkson embarked on the 2 Worlds, 2 Voices Tour
2008, a co-headlining tour with Reba McEntire. Reba and Clarkson have
since stayed in touch and Clarkson is now managed by Reba's husband Narvel
On May 18, 2008, Clarkson performed on stage at the Academy of Country
Music Awards All-Star Jam with Reba McEntire and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and
Dunn. The All-Star jam is the final event of the week taking place
immediately after the awards show. Clarkson was not announced ahead of
time for an appearance.
Clarkson's fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, was released March 10, 2009.
During recording of the album, Clarkson worked closely with
producer-songwriters Ryan Tedder, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Howard Benson,
among others. The album’s recording was completed on October 23, 2008. The
first single off the album, "My Life Would Suck Without You", was sent to
radio on January 13, 2009, and was available to download thereafter. The
single first entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #97. The following week, the
single shot to #1, breaking the record of largest leap to the top spot,
formerly held by Britney Spears' "Womanizer" This marks the second time
Clarkson has broken the record, her first being the American Idol victory
ballad "A Moment Like This", which shot from #52 to #1 in 2002. In March
2009, Clarkson reached #1 in the UK singles chart with "My Life Would Suck
Without You", and became Clarkson's first UK #1 single. In its first week
of sales, it moved 255,000 copies in the USA, and debuted at number 1 on
the Billboard 200. The album sold 90,000 copies in its second week and
remained at #1. The album's second single is "I Do Not Hook Up." It was
sent to U.S. Radio on April 14. It debuted in the Billboard Bubbling Under
Hot 100 at #20, entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts at #88, and has
climbed to #20. In July 2009, "Already Gone", which already charted on the
Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian Hot 100 at #70 early in 2009, was confirmed
as the album's third single. The music video for the song premiered that
month and the 32 date tour for North America was announced as well. The
single drop date for North America was announced for August 11, 2009.
"Already Gone" has peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Clarkson performed as one of many guests for the return of VH1 Divas on
September 17, 2009.
Clarkson has been announced as one of the Vh1 Save the Music Foundation
ambassadors for 2009–2010.
Clarkson gave an interview on MTV.com saying that she is currently writing
songs for her fifth studio album, and hopes for a late 2010 release.
Clarkson's album, All I Ever Wanted, received a Grammy Award nomination
for "Best Pop Vocal Album".
Clarkson landed in the Top 8 of Billboard Magazine's Top Female Artists of
2009 and also landed in Top 9 of Billboard Magazine's Top Hot Artists of
Clarkson's vocal talents and abilities have been met with praise from
critics and celebrities alike. On an interview with Good Morning America,
Simon Cowell was asked of the 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
Reflecting back on Clarkson's performance during the Idol Gives Back
special, Jeff Beck described Clarkson as having a "soul voice" that
After attending a rehearsal for American Idol's season six finale (in
which Clarkson was scheduled to perform), Blender magazine described
Clarkson's voice as follows:
"The Texas native has one of the great voices in pop music, a powerful and
versatile instrument that's steeped in the rhythm and blues and country
music she grew up with in the South. If Mariah Carey's five-octave voice
is the equivalent of an expensively bred poodle, then Clarkson's is a
bloodhound: friendly, earthy, but fierce just the same."
Arion Berger of Rolling Stone has said of Clarkson 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 Clarkson's hits stated that
"She has powerful lungs. She's like the Lance Armstrong of vocal cords."