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Kelly Brianne Clarkson (April 24, 1982) is an American pop rock singer-songwriter and actress. Clarkson enters the stardom after winning the inaugural season of the television series American Idol in 2002 and would later become the runner-up in the television special World Idol in 2003.
Clarkson has released four albums to date under RCA Records: her double-platinum debut album Thankful (2003), her multi-platinum second album Breakaway (2004) (which won two Grammy Awards), My December (2007), and her latest album All I Ever Wanted (2009) (which was nominated for a Grammy Award). Her albums have sold over 10.5 million copies in the United States. Clarkson is the only American Idol contestant to have reached number one in the UK. She claimed number one on March 1, 2009, when "My Life Would Suck Without You" debuted number one on downloads alone. Clarkson is also ranked on the top 200 album sellers of the Nielsen SoundScan era at number 187.
Eleven of Clarkson's singles became Top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Her single, "My Life Would Suck Without You", advanced from No. 97 to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in its first week of release, breaking the record for the largest leap to the top position in chart history.
Clarkson has toured extensively worldwide as a solo act. She has performed in other versions of American Idol such as Pop Idol, Swedish Idol, Canadian Idol, Australian Idol, as well as other singing competitions such as The X Factor and Superstar K. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Clarkson is the highest-selling Idol winner worldwide, with around 36 million singles and 23 million albums sold around the world.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Clarkson grew up in the small town of Burleson. She is the third and youngest child of Jeanne Rose, a first grade English teacher of Greek descent, and Stephen Michael Clarkson, a former engineer of Welsh extraction.
Clarkson's family struggled financially, and after her parents divorced, music became her refuge. Clarkson attended Pauline G Hughes Middle School and Burleson High School. In seventh grade, a teacher (Mrs. Cynthia Glenn) overheard her singing in a hallway and asked her to audition for the school choir. In high school, Clarkson performed in 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 high school graduation, Clarkson was offered full scholarships to The University of Texas, University of North Texas, and Berklee, but decided against college because she had already written so much music and wanted to try it on her own, and she figured "you're never too old to go to college."
Clarkson won the first season of American Idol on September 4, 2002, earning 58% of the vote. 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. When released as a single in October 2002, it set a record on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart when it rose from number 52 to number one. The CD single sold 236,000 copies in its first week in the U.S.
In December 2003, a competition titled World Idol was held at the Pop Idol stage in London, gathering the winners of the first seasons of Idol series around the world. Clarkson was contractually obligated to participate, and placed second behind Norwegian Idol Kurt Nilsen performing Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman".
Following the 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 and 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.
"Miss Independent" was released as the second single from Thankful. It reached the top ten of the U.S. and Canadian singles charts. When the single was released in the United Kingdom and Australia, it reached the top ten of the charts. "Low", the third single from Thankful, reached number two in Canada, but it was unable to make the top 40 of the U.S. chart. The final single, "The Trouble with Love Is", was not released in Canada, and failed to chart in the U.S. 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.
Distancing herself from her American Idol image, Clarkson took more creative control with her second studio album Breakaway, and developed a more rock-oriented image. Clarkson co-wrote six of the songs with songwriters such as former Evanescence band members Ben Moody, David Hodges and producer Max Martin; the title track was co-written by punk-pop singer Avril Lavigne.
Breakaway was released by RCA Records on November 30, 2004. The album debuted within the U.S. top five and Canadian top ten, but sales were initially low in comparison to Thankful. The singles from Breakaway were very successful, and the album become only the fourth album in history to stay in the Billboard 200 top 20 for a consecutive year, as well as being certified six times platinum in the U.S. in late 2007 and five times platinum in Canada in May, 2006. Breakaway spent 103 weeks on the Billboard 200, and was the tenth bestselling album of 2006 in the U.S.
"Breakaway" 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, and number 22 in the UK. The second single, "Since U Been Gone", which was produced by Max Martin, became the most successful release from the album. It reached 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 "Because of You" won the 2006 MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, her second consecutive win in that category (following "Since U Been Gone"). Clarkson was the most-played artist of 2006 on American radio, despite releasing only one single in the entire year, "Walk Away" (the fifth single from Breakaway). She was also the most radio-broadcasted artist of 2006 in Australia and "Because of You" was the third most broadcast song of the same year, despite being released in 2005.
Clarkson performed during the festivities of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. In mid 2006, Clarkson lent Ford Motor Co. a song titled "Go", written by Clarkson and Rhett Lawrence ("Miss Independent"). The song was used in the company's advertising campaign in 2006, "Bold Moves" and the song, along with its music video, was made available free at Ford's AddictedtoKelly.com website (now defunct).
During her tour in Europe in 2006, Clarkson began writing songs for her third album, My December. The first single from My December was "Never Again", which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at number eight. Clarkson released "Sober" as the second single. She returned to American Idol for the season 6 finale, performing "Never Again" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry during a Beatles medley.
Clarkson parted with her management, The Firm, in June 2007, amid low radio airplay for "Never Again" and low ticket sales for her then-upcoming tour. Clarkson would then sign with Starstruck Entertainment, run by Narvel Blackstock — the husband of Reba McEntire – on July 2, 2007. The same month, Live Nation announced that the tour—her first nationwide arena tour—had been canceled due to underwhelming ticket sales, Clarkson reinstated plans to tour the U.S. during 2007, with a much smaller tour than the one she canceled in June. She began her My December Tour in October 2007 in venues significantly smaller than those previously booked. The August 2007 issue of Blender included a feature on Clarkson and her new album, as well as her music label woes.
My December was released in the U.S. on June 26, 2007. The album debuted at number two in the U.S. with 291,000 albums sold a slightly higher debut than Clarkson's previous album, Breakaway, which debuted at number three In Canada, the album was awarded a platinum certification for shipments of more than 100,000 copies. My December was certified platinum in December 2007 by the RIAA. It has sold more than three million copies worldwide.
In April 2007, Clarkson appeared on the Idol Gives Back charity show aimed at raising money for tackling poverty, hunger and AIDS in Africa, as well as the Hurricane Katrina appeal. Clarkson noted that she was in a dispute with her record label bosses and executives as to which song to perform for the event. Clarkson refused to perform her new single "Never Again" viewing it as simple self-promotion through a charitable event. In addition to her roles as spokeswoman for the acne treatment Proactiv as well as Vitaminwater, Clarkson partnered with NASCAR for the 2007 season. She appeared in televised advertising spots, 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. This 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. Clarkson's fourth album, All I Ever Wanted, was released on March 10, 2009. During recording of the album, Clarkson worked closely with producer-songwriters Ryan Tedder, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Howard Benson, among others. All I Ever Wanted received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Pop Vocal Album”. She was ranked second on Billboard Magazine's Best of 2000s: Pop Song Artist, behind Pink.
The first single from All I Ever Wanted, "My Life Would Suck Without You, it broke the record for the largest leap to the top spot, formerly held by Britney Spears' "Womanizer". It was Clarkson's first number one on the UK singles chart. Clarkson performed as one of many guests for the return of VH1 Divas in September 2009. Clarkson was announced as one of the VH1 Save the Music Foundation ambassadors for 2009–2010. She began her 32-date All I Ever Wanted tour in October, following a string of summer concerts around the United States. Clarkson toured all over the world with the album, reaching territories such as Europe, South Africa, Oceania and Asia.
In November 2009, Clarkson gave an interview to MTV.com saying that she was currently writing songs for her fifth studio album, and hoped for a late 2010 release. In late-February 2011, Clarkson announced via Twitter that her last song before the album's completion was being produced by Darkchild. Clarkson, in an announcement to her fans stated 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”.
On March 15, 2011, Clarkson announced via Facebook that "I recently found out that my album won't be coming out until September...The album has been recorded but I can't release it until then. I realize that is a long time but that's the best time to release it apparently, so I'm sorry for the wait but I promise you it sounds great!" Claude Kelly, Clarkson's producer and co-writer, said to MTV news that "They (the record company) want to make sure that the arena is clean for Kelly Clarkson's return, 'cause when she comes back, she always comes back pretty big. They want to make sure when her first single comes out, there's nothing out there that's competing with it. I don't know for sure, but Kelly always does it big, so when it comes out, the fans will be happy and she'll sing her butt off and it'll be good times”.