Kelly Clarkson - Biography

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Brianne Clarkson (born April 24 1982) is a Grammy Award-winning American pop rock singer and actress. Clarkson made her debut under RCA Records after she won the highly-publicized first season of the television series American Idol in 2002. She was originally marketed as a pop musician with her debut album Thankful (2003). With the release of her multiplatinum second album Breakaway (2004), Clarkson moved to a more rock-oriented style of music. She is arguably the only American Idol winner who has achieved worldwide stardom to date.

Early life

Clarkson was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in the small town of Burleson, Texas. She is the third and youngest child of Jeanne Ann Rose, a first grade English teacher of Greek and Irish descent, and Stephen Michael Clarkson, a former engineer of Welsh extraction. Clarkson's siblings include her brother Jason, and her sister Alyssa. When Clarkson was six years old, her parents split up after seventeen years of marriage; her brother went to live with her father, her sister went to live with an aunt, and Clarkson remained with her mother. Following the separation, Clarkson frequently moved around Texas while her mother managed several professions in order to support the family. Clarkson has since stated that, being six years old at the time, she did not understand why her family had been constantly moving. Eventually, the family settled in Burleson, Texas where Clarkson's mother married her second husband, Jimmy Taylor.

Clarkson attended Pauline Hughes Middle School when she reached seventh grade. She had originally wanted to become a marine biologist, but during the same school year, a teacher 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 before. Following middle school, she attended Burleson High School and performed in musicals such as Brigadoon.

Upon graduation in 2000, Clarkson worked several occupations to finance her demo CD that she had been hoping to market toward record labels. She received few responses though, and eventually decided to move to Hollywood to seek out other opportunities in music, one of which was a mentorship under songwriter Gerry Goffin. However, Goffin fell ill, and to make ends meet, Clarkson appeared as an extra on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and played a small role in the film Issues 101, which was released in 2002. Following four months in Hollywood, Clarkson was discouraged and returned to Texas, where she worked at a cinema, and as a cocktail waitress, telemarketer and a Red Bull promoter.

American Idol

Once Clarkson returned to Burleson, several of her friends encouraged her to audition for the 2002 debut of the reality television program American Idol. She entered the competition with ten thousand others, and the judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson were impressed with her voice. She earned a position in the top thirty finalists and week-by-week performed a song on live television to North America. When American Idol concluded each week, the viewers would vote based on the performance they enjoyed the most. Clarkson sang a rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Respect" which garnered her a top ten position. Other songs Clarkson performed on American Idol include Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman, Badfinger's "Without You", and Céline Dion's "I Surrender".

Clarkson had made it to the final two on American Idol, and on September 4 2002, she won the competition and earned 58% of the audience vote over 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 in an abandoned theatre and incorporated short scenes of Clarkson performing on Idol. When released as a single in October 2002, it set a still-standing record on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart when it rose from number fifty-two 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, and remains Clarkson's only number-one there.

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 demonstration work.

Soon after winning American Idol, Clarkson starred with Idol runner-up Justin Guarini in the movie From Justin to Kelly. 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 not taken any acting roles since, and says 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.

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 placed second behind Norwegian Idol Kurt Nilsen. She performed Aretha Franklin's "A Natural Woman". Because she left immediately after the competition, she was chided by some in the media for what they saw as poor sportsmanship. Kelly later explained to fans that she was suffering from illness.

2003–2004: Thankful

Following the successful 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. Eventually, 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 success was established due to her performances on American Idol. All Music Guide 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 herself.

"Miss Independent" became a success when 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".[14] 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 thirty-three on the Australian albums chart. Further singles released outside North America would appear even less successful.

The third single taken from Thankful "Low" reached number two in Canada, but was unable to make the top forty of the U.S. chart. The final single "The Trouble with Love Is" yielded low peak positions on both charts. Clarkson attributed the underperformance of both releases to poor management and relieved her manager Simon Fuller, who she felt was not completely focused on her career.

2004–2006: Breakaway

Clarkson's second studio album Breakaway, distancing herself from her American Idol image, Clarkson took more creative control, and through considerable experimentation, developed a rock-oriented image for the release of her second album (2004), which yielded four U.S. top ten singles and won two Grammy Awards. The album released by RCA Records on November 30 2004. Unlike her previous effort, it debuted within the U.S. top five and Canadian top ten, and 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 five-times platinum in the U.S. on January 18, 2006 and 5x platinum in Canada in May, 2006. In Australia, the album reached number two; 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 and David Hodges, and producer Max Martin. 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".

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" 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, however, is only receiving a UK release at present. The song's contemporary pop-rock ambience 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; cutscenes 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. "Because Of You" became Clarkson's biggest worldwide hit, her first to reach the number one position on the world chart show, where it held for two consecutive weeks in 2006. 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, "Walk Away", was a top 20 hit in the U.S. and a top five hit in Canada.

In the summer of 2006, Clarkson lent Ford Motor Co. a song titled "Go," written by Clarkson and Rhett Lawrence (Miss Independent). The song is being used in the company's new advertising campaign, "Bold Moves."

While on tour in Europe in 2006, Clarkson began writing and composing songs for her third album. Three possible new songs from her upcoming CD were performed during the Addicted Tour, including "Maybe," "Anymore," and "Yeah".

Clarkson will headline her first HBO concert event on February 3rd, 2007 live from Wembley Arena in London. She will perform her greatest hits as well as material from her third album, which, according to Clarkson, will be "more rock, more soulful."

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