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Kelly Brianne Blackstock (née Clarkson; born April 24, 1982) is an American singer-songwriter and occasional actress. In 2002, she rose to fame after winning the first season of American Idol, and has since been established as "The Original American Idol." Her debut single, "A Moment Like This", topped the US Billboard Hot 100 and broke the record for the biggest jump to number one in the chart's history; it became the best-selling single of the year in the country. She became the runner-up of World Idol the following year.
Clarkson's debut studio album, Thankful (2003), has been certified 2× platinum and sold over 4.5 million copies internationally. Its lead single, "Miss Independent," became an international hit, earning Clarkson her first Grammy nomination. She developed a rock-oriented sound with the release of her sophomore album, Breakaway (2004). It has been certified 6× platinum and sold over 12 million copies worldwide, earning Clarkson two Grammy Awards, including one for the hit single "Since U Been Gone." She later took full creative direction of her third album, My December (2007), which has been certified platinum. Its lead single, "Never Again," became a top ten hit. Clarkson's fourth album, All I Ever Wanted (2009), debuted at number one, and became a critical and commercial success. Its worldwide hit single, "My Life Would Suck Without You", surpassed "A Moment Like This" for the biggest leap to number one on a single week in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart from number 97, a record it still holds today. Her fifth album, Stronger (2011), generated international chart-topping singles, "Mr. Know It All" and "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," with the latter being the best selling American Idol single to date with over five million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album, making Clarkson the first and only artist to win the award twice. In 2012, Clarkson released Greatest Hits – Chapter One; its lead single, "Catch My Breath," became her twenty-fourth entry on the Hot 100 and eleventh million-selling single. Clarkson's sixth album and first Christmas-themed release, Wrapped in Red (2013), became the best-selling holiday album of the year, making her the first American female artist to achieve this feat.
In a career spanning over a decade, Clarkson has accumulated ninety-one number ones on the Billboard charts and eleven international number one singles, and has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. 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. Apart from her work in music, Clarkson has also ventured into television and film. Clarkson's film debut was in the romantic musical From Justin to Kelly (2003) and she also appeared in American Dreams as Brenda Lee, in Reba, on The Voice as a guest advisor, on Duets as a mentor and judge. Clarkson's 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, two Academy of Country Music Awards, two American Country Awards, and a Women's World Award. In 2012, Clarkson was ranked nineteenth on VH1's list of "100 Greatest Women in Music." In 2013, Clarkson was ranked number 105 on Joel Whitburn's "Top 500 Artists Of All Time," number 5 on both "Top Billboard 200 Female Artists" and "Adult Contemporary Artists," number 27 on "Top Billboard 200 Artists," and number 75 on Billboard's "Hot 100: Top 100 Artists." Billboard also ranked Clarkson as the 14th-best-selling artist of the 2000s and one of the top 200 album sellers of the Nielsen SoundScan era at number 187.
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's parents divorced when she was five 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 re-married, to Jimmy Taylor. Clarkson was raised Southern Baptist. Her ancestry includes Greek (from a maternal great-grandfather), 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.
According to Clarkson, her family struggled financially, and after her parents divorced, music became her refuge. She initially wanted to become a marine biologist, but changed her mind after viewing the film Jaws. 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. 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.
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. Clarkson was later accused of working with a record company prior to winning American Idol. 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 only had a contract in order to conduct demonstration work. 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. The single debuted at the Billboard Hot 100 chart on the week ending September 21, 2002 at number 60. The following week, it climbed to number 52, and subsequently ascended to number 1, breaking a 38-year-old record set by the British band The Beatles for the biggest leap to number one after their single "Can't Buy Me Love" rose from number 27 to number 1 in April 1964. It became her first number one single in the United States and Canada and eventually went on to become the best-selling single of 2002 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
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". On January 1, 2004, she became the runner-up behind the first Norwegian Idol Kurt Nilsen.
Executive produced by Davis, 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. 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." Henry Goldblatt of Entertainment Weekly remarked: "Clarkson glides through octaves with the masterful control of someone who's been doing this for decades." Clarkson supported Thankful by performing in different locations around the world, such as 2003 NRL grand final, the first season of Australian Idol, and the second series of Pop Idol. She and American Idol season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken co-headlined the Independent Tour throughout the United States in 2004. Thankful debuted at number 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 United States, 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. And 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 United States. 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.
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 number 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 United States 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 of the 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 number 6 on the Billboard 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 number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually becoming her most successful single on the Billboard 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 number 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 number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite releasing "Walk Away" as her only single in 2006, Clarkson still became the most-played artist of 2006 in the United States.
Clarkson's second video album, Behind Hazel Eyes, was released on March 29, 2005. In 2005, she performed and participated in the thirtieth season of the American 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.
On June 22, 2007, Clarkson's third studio album, My December, was released. Unlike Breakaway, the album relied on darker themes and was more rock-oriented. All of the album's 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 to her to re-record tracks with a more mainstream appeal—to which she refused. The album received substantial positive reception and debuted at number 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 is 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 had 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 number 8 on the Billboard 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 American Idol Idol Gives Back charity special — which was released as a promotional single and charted at number 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 also performed on the fifth season of Canadian Idol (where she became a guest mentor), the fourth season finale of Swedish Idol, 2007 NFL opening kickoff festivities, and at the halftime show for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets game on Thanksgiving Day. 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 her musical endeavor in 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 number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 2 on the Billboard Country Chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals at the 50th Grammy Awards. Clarkson and McEntire also embarked on the 2 Worlds, 2 Voices Tour 2008 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 number one on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for two weeks. Clarkson supported All I Ever Wanted with the All I Ever Wanted Tour from 2009–2010. The album has sold 960,000 copies in the United States 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 number 97 and rose to number one the following week—breaking the record for the biggest jump to number one on a single week previously held by Britney Spears's "Womanizer". It also marked the second time Clarkson broke the record, the first being the ascent of "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This" in 2002. 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 number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, "Already Gone", reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The release of "Already Gone" became a subject of an 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 number 96 on the Billboard 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. They performed it together on the tenth season of American Idol, at the 2010 CMA Awards and at the 54th Grammy Awards. 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.
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. The album has received positive acclaim, with several music critics noting the album's predominant R&B and country influences and newly developed dance-pop themes. Stronger became a commercial success, debuting at number 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 number one 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 number one in Poland and Slovakia and became her biggest hit in over 18 other countries. It eventually selling 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 2012 Summer 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 number 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 number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, and concluded as the number 3 AC song of 2013. "Don't Rush", featuring country musician Vince Gill, was also released on October 2012, peaking at number 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 number 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, on 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 United States President Barack Obama. On February 2013, she performed "Tennessee Waltz" and "Natural Woman" at the 55th 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 her seventh 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 number 3 on the Billboard Top 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 fair as well, and despite predictions from music critics that it would become a hit, the single entered the Hot 100 at number 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.
On January 31, 2014, Clarkson revealed on Twitter that she prepared songs for her new album and that the recording would start soon. She also said that her new album could possibly be released at the end of 2014. In early 2014 a producer was looking for songs for Clarkson. The songs were supposed to be "positive, concept-driven songs with big melodies and soulful songs in the vein of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)."
Clarkson possesses the vocal range of a soprano, 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 then she does on her albums".
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".
Clarkson has often cited soul musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Etta James and rock musicians Radiohead, Garbage, Aerosmith, and Jimi Hendrix as her influences. 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 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'."
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 two children from his previous marriage, daughter Savannah and son Seth, and Clarkson legally changed her last name to Blackstock. On November 19, 2013, Clarkson announced that she is expecting her first child due in June 2014. Clarkson announced in January 2014 that she is expecting a baby girl.
On December 29, 2011, Clarkson posted on Twitter that she would vote for US 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 her pro-gay rights views. She later apologized for the tweet, saying she did not intend to offend anyone. In 2012, Clarkson stated she would, again, vote for President Barack Obama. Clarkson stated, "I can't support Romney's policies as I have a lot of gay friends and I don't think it's fair they can't get married." She also cited women's rights issues by saying, "I'm not a hardcore feminist, but we can't be going back to the '50s."
In April 2007 Clarkson took part on the "Idol Gives Back", a fundraiser for people in poverty in both Africa and the United States, 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 is currently an ambassador of "March of Dimes", 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 the "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 Omaha's 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 and its 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.
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 Sothebys, 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.
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