Born in 1982, in TX; daughter of Jeanne Taylor (a school teacher); stepdaughter of Jimmy Taylor (a contractor). Addresses: Record company--RCA Records, 6363 Sunset Blvd., #429, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Website--Kelly Clarkson Official Website: http://www.kellyclarksonweb.com.
Texas native Kelly Clarkson became a household name in September of 2002 when she took first prize in American Idol: The Search for a Superstar, a weekly talent/elimination contest that aired for several weeks on the Fox television network. Clarkson's impressive ability to belt out rhythm-and-blues standards won over judges as well as millions of viewers, who phoned each week to cast their votes. Critics noted that despite the manufactured nature of the contest, Clarkson's sincerity gave her the added boost over the equally talented unknowns she competed against. "I just try to be as real as I can be," the then-20-year-old said in a 2002 interview with Andrew Marton of the Houston Chronicle, "the kind of person who doesn't really care if she is caught without makeup, not some ultra-professional musician who is only 'on' when in front of the camera."
Born in 1982, Clarkson grew up in Burleson, a town outside of Fort Worth. Her mother, Jeanne, was an elementary-school teacher, and her stepfather worked as a contractor. A performer for her family and friends from an early age, Clarkson was a standout in her high school choir and regularly won the lead parts in school musicals. Her Burleson High music teacher told the Houston Chronicle's Marton that even as a teen, "Kelly could do any and all musical styles," Philip Glenn said. "She could sing the classical literature but didn't sound like a rhythm-and-blues singer trying to sing classical."
Already writing her own songs, Clarkson was determined to forego college and concentrate on a career in music. After graduating from Burleson High in 2000, she worked as a waitress in a comedy club and as a clerk at a pharmacy. In January of 2002 she moved to Los Angeles, California, with a friend. There, Clarkson's talent caught the attention of legendary singer-songwriter Gerry Goffin, but Goffin became ill, and there was a fire at Clarkson's apartment. Her roommate moved out and a dejected Clarkson decided to return to Texas as well. She found work passing out samples of the Red Bull energy drink, and had to be convinced by a friend to try out for American Idol. Known to be a late sleeper, Clarkson was worried enough about missing her chance that she stayed up all night before driving to Dallas for the open audition. The lack of sleep did not hamper her chances, however, and she made the first cut. After several more auditions, Clarkson and the other top 30 finalists were flown to Los Angeles and given a rented mansion of their own on the posh Mulholland Drive neighborhood of the stars. Once the show began airing in late June of 2002, contestants who did not make the cut had just a few hours to pack and leave.
American Idol proved the surprise television hit of the summer of 2002. Based on a successful British show, it featured contestants dueling onstage by singing standards from the pop canon, and then enduring sometimes-harsh critiques from a trio of judges. Their decisions eliminated Clarkson's competitors one by one. Singer Paula Abdul and music producer Randy Jackson were two of the panel, but audiences tuned in to listen to Simon Cowell's sometimes-barbed comments. The British record-company executive was known for his ability to reduce finalists to tears, but Clarkson won him over with renditions of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" from Aretha Franklin and "Walk on By," once a Dionne Warwick hit. Viewers also registered their approval, via special call-in phone numbers, for Clarkson's powerful voice; it was a set of pipes which seemed to belie her diminutive frame, and she was predicted early on to be the winner on fan Internet sites for the show. Marton of the Houston Chronicle believed that it was her genuineness that showed through and helped her advance to the finals. Clarkson, he noted, seemed to perform "her songs with the nakedly smoldering gaze of someone utterly invested in her material's primal emotion."
As the show neared its grand finale, just Clarkson and Justin Guarini of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, remained. Before the final show, which aired on September 4, Clarkson had to drink olive oil before taking the stage to sooth her strained vocal cords. Some 15 million viewers called in to register their votes that night, and her victory netted her a recording contract from RCA. Her first single, "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This," was released on September 17, 2002. Within the first week, it sold 236,000 copies--an impressive figure given what had been described as the moribund state of the record industry of late. "The music business, which is anxiously seeking out new ways to sell records as a way of boosting its flagging revenues, is watching closely," Financial Times journalist Peter Thal Larsen wrote of the American Idol phenomenon. "In theory, Ms Clarkson should be a godsend for the record business. The program's judges have done the expensive and time-consuming work of weeding out potential talent from thousands of applicants. And millions of people have already endorsed the winner."
Clarkson embarked upon a whirlwind publicity tour along with her studio recording sessions and a video shoot, at times logging in 20-hour days. At the same time, she filmed scenes for From Justin to Kelly, a musical set at a beach which co-starred Guarini; the film was scheduled for release in June of 2003. In Las Vegas, Nevada, she performed with other the American Idol finalists at the MGM Grand Hotel, and despite the demands of her newfound celebrity, she remained upbeat. "I've always been busy, and this is just a different kind of busy," she confessed to Los Angeles Times writer Greg Braxton. "I don't feel that much pressure," she told the paper.
Clarkson's first full-length record, Thankful, was released on April 15, 2003. Despite the safe, and almost bland feeling of "A Moment Like This," (which was included on her debut) the rest of Thankful's tracks had more vigor and life, which thoroughly displayed Clarkson's amazing vocal range. Making a dent on radio and MTV, Thankful's debut single, "Miss Independent," could have easily been confused for a Christina Aguilera pop tune. It was no surprise to Clarkson when she found out that Aguilera had almost recorded the song herself (and therefore received a co-writing credit). The hit track reintroduced Clarkson to a newer, younger, hipper audience rather than only those who voted for her on American Idol. Clarkson co-wrote four songs on the album, including the title track with soulful crooner Babyface. "My mom cries when she listens to it," Clarkson told MTV.com about the heartfelt tune. "It's about my mom and my friend and fans and everybody I'm working with. Knock on wood, I have the best luck with working with people." Rolling Stone's Arion Berger gave Thankful the attention it merited. "Her high notes are sweet and pillowy, her growl is bone-shaking and sexy, and her midrange is amazing confidant for a pop posy whose career is tied for eternity to the whims of her American Idol overloads." Later that year, "Miss Independent" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
In the summer of 2003, From Justin to Kelly was released to a less than stellar reception. The campy movie, which garnered a load of bad press, had the two singers running carefree on the beach, holding hands and breaking out into song and dance. Clarkson was portrayed as an all-American girl, all smiles and Southern hospitality. At the very end of a busy year, Clarkson nabbed second place in a World Idol competition.
Late November of 2004 saw the release of Clarkson's sophomore effort, Breakaway. Despite a handful of ballads---including the title track, co-written by Avril Lavigne and used as the theme song to Disney's The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement--many of the tracks were sexier, more rock-influenced and full of edge. And so was Clarkson's look. The anthemic pop nature of "Since U Been Gone," was as catchy as any decent rock song on the radio, and in the smash-song's video, Clarkson wrapped herself in skintight leather, topped off with a subtle nose piercing. E! Online noted Clarkson's adult maturity and overall song improvement. "Miles away--and ahead--of her lean R&B-influenced debut, Clarkson shows attitude, has a little fun and reminds us why her voice took it all in the first place. With a helping hand from hitmakers such as Clive Davis, Max Martin, and Chantal Kreviazuk, one minute she's evoking a more polite Pat Benatar for the catchy good-riddance anthem 'Since U Been Gone,' then wailing away on the title track. Even better, she proves to be no Ashlee Simpson on a stellar live version of piano ballad 'Beautiful Disaster.' Winner and still champ..."
by Carol Brennan and Shannon McCarthy
Kelly Clarkson's Career
Worked as a waitress in a Texas comedy club and as a pharmacy clerk, 2000-01; relocated to Los Angeles, CA, and worked with songwriter Gerry Goffin, 2002; won the first prize in the American Idol: The Search for a Superstar televised talent search, September, 2002, and with it a contract from RCA Records; released first single, "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This," 2002; filmed scenes for first film, 2003; appeared at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas; first full-length album, Thankful, released, 2003; contributed to The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement soundtrack, 2004; released sophomore album Breakaway, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Thankful RCA, 2003.
- (Contributor) Love Actually (soundtrack), J-Records, 2003.
- (Contributor) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (soundtrack), Disney, 2004.
- (Contributor) Ella Enchanted (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2004.
- Breakaway RCA, 2004.
November 22, 2005: Clarkson won the American Music Award for favorite adult contemporary artist. Source: 2005 American Music Awards, http://abc.go.com/primetime/ama05/index.html, November 27, 2005.
December 5, 2005: Clarkson was declared favorite pop artist in the XM Nation Music Awards voting. She also received the Dashboard Anthem award for favorite pop sing-along, for "Since U Been Gone." Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/digest.htm, December 5, 2005.
February 8, 2006: Clarkson won two Grammy Awards, including best female pop vocal performance for "Since U Been Gone," and best pop vocal album for Breakaway. Source: Grammy.com, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Annual_Show/48_nominees.aspx, February 9, 2006.
- Entertainment Weekly, December 20, 2002, p. 24; April 25, 2003, p. 67.
- Financial Times, September 14, 2002, p. 15.
- Houston Chronicle, September 9, 2002, p. 3.
- Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2002, p. F14.
- New York Post, December 13, 2002, p. 149.
- New York Times, September 6, 2002, p. C1.
- People, September 9, 2002, p. 52.
- Rolling Stone, May 15, 2003.
- San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2002, p. D1.
- E! Online, http://www.eonline.com (February 17, 2004).
- "Kelly Clarkson Crowd-Surfing Diva," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com (February 17, 2004).