Kelly Clarkson was American Idol’s first winner and remains the TV show’s best-selling contestant ever. Critics charge that the show’s producers control the winners’ careers, signing them only to affiliated record and management deals. But Kelly, a two-time Grammy Award winner, has shown admirable artistry. “Kelly is not a puppet and does not like to be told what to do,” admitted Idol judge Simon Cowell. “She’s not a girl who got lucky in a talent competition. We got lucky to find her.”
Kelly scored a hit with “Miss Independent,” and her independent spirit found its full flowering on her 2007 album My December, a darker, rock-oriented affair. She then embraced her country roots, collaborating with Reba McEntire and signing with a management company owned by the country star’s husband. Reba praised Kelly, saying “she knows what she wants” and compared her take-charge attitude to that of the legendary Dolly Parton.
Now Kelly, 26, is once again taking aim at the pop charts. Her fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, finds her tackling songs by proven hitmakers like Max Martin, Kara DioGuardi and Katy Perry, ranging from the driving pop of “My Life Would Suck Without You” and “I Do Not Hook Up” to the tough rocker “Don’t Let Me Stop You.” But Kelly’s own songs with producer and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, including the electropop numbers “Impossible” and “If I Can’t Have You,” are among the album’s highlights. From Idol to icon, talented Kelly continues to do it her way.