Life and career
1982–2001: Early life and career beginnings
Kelly Clarkson was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to Jeanne Ann (née Rose), a first grade English teacher, and Stephen Michael Clarkson, a former engineer. She is the youngest of three children with a brother named Jason and a sister named Alyssa. Clarkson also has two younger half brothers from her father's second marriage. Her parents divorced when she was six years old, whereupon her brother went to live with their father, her sister went to live with an aunt, and the singer stayed with her mother. Clarkson's mother later remarried, to Jimmy Taylor. Her ancestry is Greek, Welsh, 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. Clarkson was raised Southern Baptist. She has said: "I always grew up in church. I was the leader of our youth group. I’ve always grown up pretty close to church and with God. But I think I’ve just gotten a lot closer just because He’s the only one I can lean on." She later said of her upbringing: "My family was highly conservative; I had to go to church on Sunday and Wednesday."
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 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 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. According to Clarkson, her early attempts to launch her music career floundered when she was turned down by almost every US record label for sounding 'too black'. 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.
2002–2003: American Idol, World Idol, and Thankful
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," a pass to the Hollywood rounds, in the series premiere, Clarkson made her first appearance during the second episode. 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." 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.
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. 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. After debuting at number 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the single climbed to number 52 the following week, and subsequently ascended to number one. It broke a 38-year-old record set by the British band The Beatles for the biggest leap to number one. It eventually went on to become the best-selling single of 2002 in the United States. 
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 Rhett Lawrence, 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. 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." Thankful was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and went on to sell over 4.5 million copies worldwide. 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 US., 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. It was followed with two moderately successful singles, "Low" and "The Trouble with Love Is"; the latter was used on the soundtrack of British romantic film Love Actually. Her first video album, Miss Independent, was released on November 18, 2003, and was certified gold by the RIAA. To support Thankful, Clarkson and Idol season two runner-up Clay Aiken co-headlined the 2004 Independent Tour throughout the US.
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. 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". She ended up as the runner-up with 97 points, behind the first Norwegian Idol Kurt Nilsen.
2004–2006: New management and Breakaway
Clarkson during her Hazel Eyes concert tour on November 15, 2005, Canberra
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 reinvented her musical direction by developing a more rock-oriented sound with her second studio album, Breakaway. Davis served as the executive producer for the record, while 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. Breakaway 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 was released on November 30, 2004, and became Clarkson's most commercially successful album. After debuting at number three on the Billboard 200, its longevity allowed it to become the third-best-selling album of 2005 in the US 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 12 million copies worldwide. Clarkson supported Breakaway with the Breakaway World Tour—consisting of three sub-tours from 2005 to 2006.
Five singles were released to promote Breakaway. Its title track, "Breakaway", was originally released in July 2004, as the soundtrack for Disney film The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement and was later re-released as the album's fifth single in May 2006. It became Clarkson's third top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 with a peak of number six. It was a major success on adult contemporary radio, topping the Billboard Adult Contemporary for 21 weeks and the Adult Contemporary Audience chart for 28 weeks (her longest number one on any charts). "Since U Been Gone" was released as the album's lead single in November 2004 and became Clarkson most successful single on the Hot 100, despite peaking at number two. The second and third singles, "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Because of You", also followed suit—peaking at number six and number seven on the Hot 100, respectively. "Because of You" became Clarkson's biggest single worldwide, reaching number one on the European Hot 100 Singles chart and the national charts in Brazil, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland. The fourth single, "Walk Away", peaked at number twelve on the Hot 100. According to Mediabase, Clarkson was the most-played artist of 2006 in the U.S.
Breakaway garnered Clarkson many accolades, including two trophies at the 48th Grammy Awards—the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Since U Been Gone" and the Best Pop Vocal Album. She also won Best Female Video two years in a row, each for "Since U Been Gone" and "Because of You", at the MTV Video Music Awards. Clarkson's second video album, Behind Hazel Eyes, was released on March 29, 2005. In 2005, she performed and participated during the thirtieth season of the American sketch-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. Clarkson began venturing into country music by performing "What Hurts the Most" with Rascal Flatts at the 41st Academy of Country Music Awards and "Cigarettes" with the country duo The Wreckers during one of their shows in Texas in 2006.
2007–2009: My December and All I Ever Wanted
Clarkson's third studio album, My December, was released on June 22, 2007. The album relied on darker themes. Clarkson replaced Davis as the executive producer and co-wrote all the tracks. 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. He noted the album's lack of professional production input and wanted her to re-record tracks with a more mainstream appeal, which she refused. Clarkson defended, "I've sold more than 15 million records worldwide, and still nobody listens to what I have to say. I couldn't give a crap about being a star. I've always just wanted to sing and write." The album received positive response, 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 was the husband of country artist Reba McEntire, of whom Clarkson is a close friend. Clarkson later issued an apology to Davis, citing him as "a key advisor" in her success.
My December debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified platinum by the RIAA. The album went on to sell over 2.5 million copies worldwide. It featured only one major hit single, "Never Again", which debuted and peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100—her highest debut on the chart ever. On July 7, 2007, Clarkson performed on the American leg of Live Earth concert. 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.
Clarkson collaborated with Reba McEntire for filming an hour-long CMT Crossroads special at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on February 22, 2007. Introduced by Dolly Parton, Clarkson performed "Why Haven't I Heard from You" and "Does He Love You" with Martina McBride on the television special CMT Giants: Reba McEntire. She 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 country version of "Because of You", which also became the lead single from the album Reba: Duets. It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Throughout 2008, Clarkson and McEntire embarked on the 2 Worlds 2 Voices Tour to support Reba: Duets and My December.
Clarkson's fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, was released on March 10, 2009. Clarkson continued to co-write her own material, but this time she returned 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 was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 and staying there for two weeks. The album has sold over a million copies in the U.S. and garnered Clarkson a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 52nd Grammy Awards.
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 the top position the following week, breaking the record for the biggest jump to number one on a single week previously held by Britney Spears' "Womanizer". It also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada and Hungary. It was followed with two more top-twenty singles, "I Do Not Hook Up" and "Already Gone". The release of "Already Gone" became a subject of another dispute between Clarkson and RCA, after she realized its similarities with Beyoncé's song "Halo", both of which were produced by Tedder. Further promotion for the album was abruptly ended with the limited success of its fourth and final singles, "All I Ever Wanted" and "Cry". Clarkson supported All I Ever Wanted with the All I Ever Wanted Tour from 2009 to 2010. She also 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.
2010–2012: Stronger, Duets and Greatest Hits – Chapter One
Clarkson in Sudbury, Canada, in 2011
Clarkson recorded a country duet with Jason Aldean entitled "Don't You Wanna Stay" for his 2010 album My Kinda Party. It became her first number-one song on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and has sold over 2.7 million copies, making it the best-selling country collaboration in history. It received numerous country-related accolades, including a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the 54th Grammy Awards. Clarkson incorporated country vibe into her fifth studio album, Stronger, which was also influenced by Prince, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, and Radiohead. She worked with several producers including Greg Kurstin, Ester Dean, Darkchild, Toby Gad, Steve Jordan and Howard Benson. Released on October 21, 2011, Stronger debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the RIAA. It was also critically applauded and won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards, making her the first artist to win the award twice.
Stronger's lead single, "Mr. Know It All", was released in September 2011. It reached number one in Australia and South Korea and attained a top-ten position in seven countries, including the U.S., where it became her ninth top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also became a crossover hit to the country charts, prompting RCA to reissue a country version. "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" served as the second single in January 2012, and topped sixteen Billboard charts, becoming her third number one on the Hot 100. It also reached number one in Poland and Slovakia and reached the top ten in many other charts worldwide. It remains Clarkson best-selling single, with 4.9 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. The song was nominated for three Grammy Awards—Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. "Dark Side" was released as the third and final single in June 2012, but it achieved a modest success. Nevertheless, it became her eleventh top-ten hit on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart, surpassing Sheryl Crow and Katy Perry as the female artist with the most top-ten songs on the chart.
The release of Stronger was accompanied by two EPs, The Smoakstack Sessions and iTunes Session. The latter debuted at number 85 on the Billboard 200, and was promoted by its only single, a cover of "I'll Be Home For Christmas". Clarkson co-wrote "Tell Me a Lie", which was recorded by British boy band One Direction for their debut album, Up All Night (2011). Clarkson promoted Stronger with two concert tours—the Stronger Tour and the co-headlining the Kelly Clarkson / The Fray Tour with the alternative rock band The Fray. On February 5, 2012, she performed The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XLVI to widespread critical acclaim. She later released a promotional single, "Get Up (A Cowboys Anthem)", for use in Pepsi's NFL advertising campaign. Clarkson served as a mentor and judge, alongside John Legend, Jennifer Nettles and Robin Thicke, on the ABC television show Duets which premiered on May 24, 2012. The show concluded on July 19, 2012, with Clarkson's contestant Jason Farol finishing as the second runner-up. She also became a guest mentor to Blake Shelton's contestants on season two of the American television series The Voice. The two latter collaborated on a cover of "There's a New Kid in Town" for Shelton's 2012 Christmas album, Cheers, It's Christmas.
Commemorating the 10th anniversary of her career in music industry, Clarkson released her first greatest hits album, Greatest Hits – Chapter One, on November 19, 2012. Three new songs recorded for the compilation—"Catch My Breath", "Don't Rush" (featuring country musician Vince Gill) and "People Like Us"—were all released as singles. "Catch My Breath" became her 14th top-twenty hit on the Hot 100 chart as well as her 13th million-selling single in the United States. According to Billboard, it was the third biggest adult contemporary song of 2013. However, its follow-up singles performed moderately on the charts. Clarkson earned more nominations from country music industry, including Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Don't Rush" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards and Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2012 Country Music Association Awards. Chapter One was eventually certified gold in Australia, the UK and the U.S.
2013–2015: Wrapped in Red and Piece by Piece
In January 2013, Clarkson performed "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at the second inauguration of the U.S. President Barack Obama. Her live rendition was acclaimed by critics, who contrasted it with Beyoncé's pre recorded performance during the same event. In February 2013, she performed "Tennessee Waltz" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards as a tribute to Patti Page and Carole King. She also released a non-album single, "Tie It Up", exclusively to country music stations in June 2013. Clarkson and Maroon 5 performed on 24 concerts as part of the 12th Annual Honda Civic Tour, starting on August 1, 2013 and ending on October 6, 2013. She was featured on the re-recorded version of "Foolish Games" for Jewel's first compilation, Greatest Hits (2013). Clarkson also collaborated with singer Robbie Williams on the song "Little Green Apples" for his 2013 album Swings Both Ways.
Clarkson's sixth studio album and first Christmas record, Wrapped in Red, was solely produced by Greg Kurstin. She co-wrote all five original songs, and recorded eleven cover versions of Christmas standards and carols. Released on October 25, 2013, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums and at number three on the Billboard 200 chart. By December 2013, Wrapped in Red had already been certified platinum by the RIAA and eventually became the best-selling holiday album of the year, making her the first American female artist to achieve this feat. The album's lead single, "Underneath the Tree", was an adult contemporary number-one hit in both the U.S. and Canada. Clarkson subsequently became Billboard's ninth top adult contemporary act of 2013. On December 11, 2013, her first Christmas special debut, Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale, garnered over 5.3 million viewers. Retaining her relationship with country music acts in 2014, Clarkson collaborated with Martina McBride on "In the Basement" (originally by Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto) for McBride's album Everlasting, and with Trisha Yearwood on "PrizeFighter" for Yearwood's compilation PrizeFighter: Hit After Hit. In addition, Clarkson performed a rendition of "All I Ask of You" with Josh Groban on in his seventh studio album, Stages, and its companion television special. She was also featured on Ben Haenow's song, "Second Hand Heart", which was issued as the lead single from his debut studio album.
In February 2015, Clarkson released Piece by Piece, her seventh and final studio album under her recording contract with RCA Records. Musically, it is a electropop and dance album, featuring collaborations with Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Sia, John Legend, and Shane McAnally, among others. Piece by Piece received a fairly positive response from music critics, and became her third album to debut at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. To promote the album, Clarkson appeared in several televised performances, including the fourteenth season of American Idol, where she became the only alumnus ever to be dedicated with a competing week featuring her discography. She also supported the Piece by Piece Tour throughout 2015, which was cut short of its worldwide visits following medical recommendations for a vocal rest during the year.
Piece by Piece spawned three singles. The first one, "Heartbeat Song", peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became a top-ten hit in the UK, Austria, Poland and South Africa. However Clarkson failed to achieve a similar success with the second single, "Invincible". The third and final single, "Piece by Piece", debuted and peaked at number eight on the Hot 100 chart, following Clarkson's emotional performance on the final season of American Idol. It became her eleventh U.S. top-ten hit and matched "Never Again" as her highest debut on the chart. At the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, the album and "Heartbeat Song" was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance, respectively. The following year, the title track also received nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance.
2016–present: Children's books, Meaning of Life and The Voice
In February 2016, it was announced that Clarkson had signed a book deal with HarperCollins. Her first children's book, titled River Rose and the Magical Lullaby was released on October 4, 2016. The book features an original lullaby written and performed by Clarkson. On the possibility of writing anymore books in the future Clarkson told Publishers Weekly, "I've got a few ideas – there could be a lullaby for each book. We've got a plethora of stories, and I've already written seven songs, full out, so we'll just have to see which ones might pan out to be a book. But yes, there will definitely be more." The second book featuring the character of River Rose titled River Rose and the Magical Christmas was released on October 24, 2017, and included a new original song written and sung by Clarkson, titled "Christmas Eve".
On March 15, 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama released "This Is for My Girls", a collaborative track featuring vocals from Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, Kelly Rowland, Lea Michele, Zendaya and Missy Elliott to coincide with Barack Obama's SXSW speech and to promote the First Lady's third-world educational initiative "Let Girls Learn". Clarkson recorded a solo version of "It's Quiet Uptown" for The Hamilton Mixtape. Her version was released on November 3, 2016, as a promotional single for the album. She also recorded a duet called "Love Goes On" with Aloe Blacc for the original soundtrack of The Shack which was released in the United States on March 3, 2017. On May 11, 2017, it was announced that Clarkson would join The Voice as a coach for the series' fourteenth season.
On June 24, 2016, Clarkson announced she had signed a long-term worldwide deal with Atlantic Records, with the intentions of releasing a soul-influenced eighth studio album in 2017. In November 2016, Clarkson announced her intentions of releasing a new single in April 2017, with the album to follow in June. On September 4, 2017, Clarkson announced her new lead single "Love So Soft", which was released on September 7, 2017, along with the song "Move You" as well. On September 6, 2017, Clarkson announced that her album, Meaning of Life, would be released on October 27, 2017. Clarkson opened the 45th American Music Awards with P!nk; together they performed R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" to honor first responders. Later in the show she performed "Miss Independent" and "Love So Soft". "Love So Soft" was nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. She now holds the record for the most nominations in that category with four.
Clarkson lent her voice in the computer-animated film, The Star alongside Oprah Winfrey, Steven Yeun, Tyler Perry and others, which is based on the Nativity of Jesus. Developed by Sony Pictures Animation, the film was released on November 17, 2017. This was the first film in which Clarkson performed a voice role. Clarkson also had a guest voice role in the Netflix animated series Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh, portraying herself in the series' 2017 animated Christmas special, Home for the Holidays, alongside Ben Schwartz. In March 2018, Clarkson released "I've Loved You Since Forever", a ballad version of the children's book by Hoda Kotb.