Kelly Clarkson on Her Dark Side, The Vanilla Factor, and Turning 30
It's hard to believe that it's been almost 10 years since original Idol Kelly Clarkson--who incredibly turns THIRTY this week--stood on that Fox soundstage, showered in confetti and happy tears, as she belted out her winning anthem, "A Moment Like This." It was the finale that launched dozens of copycat reality shows and nine subsequent "Idol" winners, but a moment like that certainly won't happen again.
"I'm so looking forward to my thirties, you have no idea," Kelly gushed in a recent reflective interview with Yahoo!'s Reality Rocks. "Everyone's twenties are all about searching and finding yourself. Every year, I was different! My twenties were a rollercoaster ride, so I'm looking forward to smooth sailing in my thirties. My audience is growing up with me, and I think that's good. I don't know what my music will always sound like, but I know it will always change."
But something tells me two things about Kelly will never change: She will always be awesome, and she'll always be Miss Independent. As Kelly enjoys the success of her excellent fifth (yes, FIFTH!) effort, Stronger--an album so eagerly anticipated it was almost sabotaged by multiple unauthorized leaks, until Kelly finally decided to leak the tracks herself--she's as popular as ever. She's in fact a bona fide national treasure, right up there with Carrie Underwood atop the list of most successful Idols of all time. Which begs the question: How has Kelly managed to turn a three-month stint on a TV talent show into a decade-long, A-list pop career, when so many other Idols have been dropped from their labels and left to fade into footnote obscurity? It can't just be because she was the first, or because she's an amazing vocalist. There has to be something else.
"I think a lot of singers get into this business for the wrong reasons, and people see through that," Kelly mused. "I think they want to be really famous, and it's like, if you want to be in the music industry, that shouldn't be your goal. Your goal should be to make music. I don't want to be the most famous person in the world; I just want to make enough to pay my band, and to live, and then I'm good. I don't have this desire to be this huge megastar. I just love singing, and that's it. And I think a lot of other people get lost in the rest of it."
But that doesn't mean that Kelly thinks shows like "Idol" (which she still watches), "The Voice" (which she "looovvves" and guested on this season), and her own new show "Duets" can't still produce real pop stars, with real careers like the one she's enjoyed since 2002. "Most definitely they can, yeah!" she insisted. "This is just the new way. Like even Justin Bieber, he was discovered online. It's a new generation of how people are getting in the door of the music industry. I don't think it has anything to do necessarily with a show. I think it has to do with the artist. It's what you do with that 15 minutes. 'Idol' is the biggest show on television, so you're gonna get that spotlight--but it's what you do with it. But there's been a lot of success with Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert...there have been a ton of us who have done really well."
To say that Kelly Clarkson has "done well" is typical of a humble Southern sweetheart like Kelly, because that's quite an understatement. The girl (make that woman) has sold more than 11 million albums domestically, and has won two Grammys, 12 Billboard awards, three VMAs, and two American Music Awards...basically, she is what everyone who auditions for "American Idol" aspires to be. But it hasn't always been easy for Kelly. The media's invasion into her personal life and scrutiny of her physique has certainly been one hurdle. From Justin To Kelly was another. But she has also quite famously battled with her record label, RCA--most publicly regarding her "difficult" (and underrated) third album, My December, the 2007 release of which was surrounded by gossip about label honcho Clive Davis chewing her out in board meetings and offering her $10 million to replace five of the album's self-penned tracks with songs of his own choosing. (She refused.) Kelly told me recording the aptly titled Stronger was a "piece of cake," but pointed out that that was certainly a new experience for her.
"What's so funny is EVERY album has been difficult, NOT just My December," she revealed. "My first album was the hardest album I've ever made in my life! Oh my God, it was so hard! I had to cry to get 'Miss Independent' on there. They wanted me to just sing ballads, and I was like, 'I'm 20 years old! I wanna sing some fun stuff! I don't wanna sing ballads my entire career, that sounds boring!' That was a really big battle for me. The first four albums were all really difficult for me."