Kelly Clarkson graces the cover of the current Elle magazine, which did an extensive and deeply revealing interview with her and and people who know her. They also took some smashing pictures of the singer. You can read it all here:
Kelly Clarkson has never been in love. She's not even sure she has been close. This will come as a shock to many people, particularly the millions of fans who have been belting the Grammy-winning megahit "Since U Been Gone" out of their car windows for the past three years.
"I know people probably think I've been heartbroken, because of the stuff I've sung and written," Clarkson acknowledges of her preferred milieu, the artful kiss-off song. It is an early spring afternoon in Los Angeles, and Clarkson is waiting in her dressing room at the 2007 American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Awards, where she is winning Song of the Year for "Because of You," a tune she penned when she was just 16.
"I love my friends and my family," she explains, taking a bite of a Triscuit, her lunch. "But I have never said the words 'I love you' to anyone in a romantic relationship. Ever."
For a self-professed goofy, down-home girl, Clarkson takes romance very seriously. "I am very old-school, conservative in my thinking when it comes to relationships," she says. "Love is something you work at. It doesn't come easily. There are going to be bad days. You are going to have to work at loving someone when they are being an idiot. People think they're just going to meet the perfect guy." She laughs. "Don't be ridiculous."
If there is one thing Kelly Clarkson, 25, is not, it's ridiculous. Nor is she foolish or thoughtless or rash. Clarkson, who first came to national attention in 2002 by winning the debut American Idol—a multimillion-person vote of confidence borne out when her second album went platinum six times—is something altogether different. Unlike Britney or any of those other girls going commando in limos between stints in rehab, she appears free of ego or crippling insecurity. She is a normal dress size. She smiles. She doesn't smoke, because it's "gross." She is "definitely not slutty." She drinks, "like, maybe twice a year." In sum, she seems less like an international superstar than like someone you'd trust to babysit your kid. She is, no caveats, a pop star you can feel good about liking.
American Idol judge Simon Cowell of Clarkson's big, earthy, heartrending voice. "As good as Whitney, as Mariah, as Christina. She isn't aware of how good she really is."
"I can't think of anyone who sings better than Kelly Clarkson," seconds Idol cocreator Simon Fuller. "She is the best young singer in the world right now," he continues, putting to bed any lingering rumors of their post-Idol falling out, a rift that both argue was manufactured by the press. "She is a global superstar. And fans really identify with her, because of her openness. You feel like she is a friend, that you know her. That sets her apart."
"She is the most popular pop vocalist in the country," echoes Clay Aiken, a friend and former touring partner. "And to be that girl and not mind being photographed with your hair messed up—that is something. Can you name any other singer who would dare do that? I mean, please."
"I'm fine with it," Clarkson says of the many unflattering paparazzi photos. "I just don't care. I don't wear makeup in public. I don't worry about what I'm wearing. Hell, I wore pajamas to high school."
"Vocally, I genuinely think she is up there with the top five in the world," says [missing type on Elle Web page]. In 2006, Clarkson was the most-played artist on American radio, her songs ranking in the top 40 for 111 weeks, a record. Her Grammy-winning Breakaway was the third- best-selling album in 2005, producing four No. 1 singles, most notably "Since U Been Gone," a song so infectious it counts both Dave Grohl and Reba McEntire as fans. The song won Clarkson a second Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. That year, she also took home two American Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, 11 Billboard Music Awards, and the People's Choice Award for Best Female Recording Artist, thus cementing her status as an artist with commercial and critical clout. This year she also won four ASCAPs for songwriting, putting her in the esteemed company of Melissa Etheridge and Mary J. Blige, an honor she "was shocked to receive."
Despite the accolades and the abrupt thrust into public life, Clarkson has remained sanguine, even ambivalent about her success. "It is weird when a 12-year-old tells me I am their favorite artist," she muses. "I'm always like, It's just because you're young and you haven't heard everybody yet. In time, I'll be weeded out. And that's cool. I know I'm a good singer, but I know who I am, too."
Which is Clarkson's way of saying she is no Patty Griffin or Emmylou Harris, or even Ryan Adams, artists she adores.
"It's pretty heavy, what happened to her," country great McEntire says of Clarkson's rapid ascent. "She was thrown into the ocean without a life preserver. And she handled it. I don't know that I could have."
Clarkson doesn't try to be a role model—"the idea makes me nervous," she says. But even when she attempts to point out her bad qualities, she comes off a bit Sandra Dee: "I tend to be early. I'm not patient. I have no tolerance for stupidity. I work too much."
Those are your fatal flaws?
"All my conversations revolve around my job. So I'm boring."
Her best friend and occasional makeup artist, Ashley, amends this contention, saying, "It's not her fault. Her career is all people ever want to hear about."
"Well, I used to be a better friend," Clarkson says. "How about that?"
"I got famous is what happened."
In person, the Texas-born-and-reared Clarkson has a cartoonishly sexy body. She is short, 5'4", with a flat stomach and a tiny waist that flares into a high, bee-stung bottom.
"I have no boobs," she says, laughing. Nor does she want any. "I go in and out," she explains pointing to her middle, then her hips. "Greek," she shrugs. Her personal style is casual. "I never try on clothes. I am all about sneakers and T-shirts."
It is days before her twenty-fifth birthday, and Clarkson is talking about the party she hosted last week, "in honor of my birthday and the release of my single 'Never Again.' It was held up, for like, ever."
The party, which had a white-trash theme complete with rented taxidermy and Cheez Whiz appetizers (Clarkson wore a mullet and acid-wash jeans tucked into her sneakers), was a raging success, though somewhat tainted by record label drama. Her album "My December," the first one on which Clarkson wrote every song, is due out this summer, having been delayed because of arguments about content.
"The label didn't even acknowledge her ASCAP awards," says Jeff Kwatinetz, Clarkson's manager and CEO of the Firm. "It's upsetting. They don't want her to be a songwriter. They just want her to shut up and sing. They want her to stay their little American Idol."
"Back in the day, female artists were told to perform and then go sit in the corner," McEntire says. "Thank God for people like Dolly Parton who took charge. Kelly is the same way. She knows what she wants. She's had a rough go of it in the music business. People think she just won Idol and everything else was easy. Not so. She's had to fight."
The battles were primarily with industry executives over record tracks and release dates. Apparently it's hard out there for a pop star, even if you are Kelly Clarkson.
"Kelly can sing the phone book," Cowell says. "She doesn't have to be told what to do."
"I've sold more than 15 million records worldwide, and still nobody listens to what I have to say," Clarkson groans, incredulous. "Because I'm 25 and a woman."
On "My December," there are the requisite female outrage songs, none more so than "Never Again," her stunned, oh-no-you-didn't rant to an ex-boyfriend. But most of the tracks are less poppy, more sophisticated. Clarkson has a habit of choosing unusual collaborators; for "My December," she asked seminal punk-rock bassist Mike Watt to play on three songs. Her voice on "Be Still" hints at Carole King, while "Irvine" echoes Chan Marshall. The sound ranges from rock to emo to folk. The lyrics are layered and complicated. "I don't need to be fixed and I certainly don't need to be found," she writes on "Maybe." She isn't angry, just world-weary. Unlike many female songwriters her age, Clarkson rarely blames anybody else for her broken heart, or, for that matter, her failures. She is Alanis Morissette without the finger-pointing. Avril Lavigne with a brain.
"My December's" disparity of themes and lack of an obvious hit were not lost on producer Clive Davis, who is said to have offered Clarkson $10 million to ditch five of her songs for more radio-friendly picks of his choosing. Clarkson declined.
"I am a good singer, so I can't possibly be a good writer," she says, bristling at the implication. "Women can't possibly be good at two things. I haven't lost my temper about it. It only drives me more. If your thing is to bring me down, cool. I'll just work harder."
"Her new album is a real departure. It's a risk," Aiken says. "Kelly is one of those people who really knows who she is. For better or worse, she is her own woman."
A short list of things Clarkson doesn't want:
A clothing line.
A fragrance with her name on the bottle.
A television show.
A movie role.
A toy dog in a leather jacket.
"I could give a crap about being a star," Clarkson says. "I've always just wanted to sing and write."
It is a half hour before a round of entertainment television interviews, and Clarkson is again backstage at the Kodak Theatre, falling asleep in her makeup chair.
"My thing is hanging out," she says, tugging up her stretch slacks, simple black pants she confesses to wearing "every single day." Her hairstylist runs a mascara wand down her hair, coating stray blond strands. Clarkson removes her bra, junior-high style, and slides it out from her shirt, handing it to Ashley to stow in her handbag.
"My resistance upsets a lot of people, because we could make a lot of money," Clarkson says. "And I'm not hatin' on money. But you know in "Funny Girl," when they make Barbra Streisand sing the 'beautiful girl' song, and she is singing these lyrics, and she knows she's not that person?" Clarkson sighs. "I'm just not comfortable doing things that don't feel like me."
She then tells a story about Idol Gives Back, the special episodes of "American Idol" that aired in late April to raise money for Africa and charities at home. Her appearance marked her much anticipated return to the show that spawned her, singing with the likes of Annie Lennox and Celine Dion.
"My label wanted me to sing 'Never Again,'" she says. "And I was like, To promote yourself on a charity event is beyond crass. People are starving and dying and I'm up there singing some bitter pop song? And believe me, everyone wanted me to sing it. Because they are jaded and they have no soul. Imagine sitting in a room full of people totally against you. Can't they hear themselves speaking? Capitalize on AIDS? Are you kidding? Insulting an entire nation of people? I just refused."
Instead, she sang Griffin's "Up to the Mountain," a folkie spiritual that left many listeners in tears. Clarkson asked the British guitar legend Jeff Beck to accompany her, and she showed not only stylistic growth, but a fresh confidence.
"It was the depth of her voice that struck me," Beck says of her performance that night. "She's got this maturity, you know, this fully developed soul voice that I wasn't expecting. It just knocked me out. It was quite riveting to listen to. At one point, the audience started to stand up. They were so moved by her. She's got that quality that demands attention, which is rare."
"She was incredible. When you let her come back on the show it makes everybody else look like an amateur," says Cowell, who believes Clarkson is the best winner yet "without question."
If Clarkson is evolving as an artist, it is because she is trying to.
"Kelly wants to learn; she's soaking all this stuff up," says McEntire, who has become something of a mentor to Clarkson. "But she still knows what's not right."
"If I were to make Breakaway II, I would have failed myself," Clarkson says. "I don't mind sucking, as long as it is my decision. I have literally been told one of the reasons this record took so long to come together is because I am a girl. This is 2007! We aren't in the '50s anymore. Wake up and smell the Folgers."
Clarkson wasn't always a nouveau feminist spitfire. Her parents' divorce when she was 6 transplanted her from California to small-town Texas, leaving her father and her older siblings, Jason, then 15, and Alyssa, then 13, behind. The move left her family broke and Clarkson deeply lonely.
"My mom and I are like sisters. We kind of grew up together," Clarkson says. "She always treated me as an adult. I never had curfew. She's a workaholic, like I am. We're not super family-oriented people, you know?"
Clarkson was not raised hanging Christmas stockings and having sit-down casserole dinners. "My mom was Mrs. PTA and then she got divorced after 17 years. She had put her whole life into that. I think she felt, Enough already."
Clarkson grew up fast. She learned the value of hard work, self-reliance. "We were living from last paycheck to last paycheck," she says. Clarkson worked multiple jobs—at a movie theater concession stand, as a phone solicitor, and as a waitress. There was no time for idleness, no money for hobbies. Clarkson felt the strain. "I had a really big issue with self-consciousness when I was young. I was highly emotional. I worried so much. For most of my childhood I was walking on eggshells trying to make everybody happy." Then she turned 14. "And I was like, Okay, I'm done."
The people-pleaser was put to death, replaced by "Miss Independent." Clarkson joined student council, drama club, and, after some prodding, choir. "I was singing in the hallway in junior high and the new choir director heard me. She asked me to join and then people started telling me I was really good, and I kind of just went with it."
Soon enough, her voice started to bring her local renown.
"I sang 'Vision of Love' at this dessert theater. I remember being onstage and this old guy came up to me afterward. It was someone's grandpa. And he told me, 'You have a very touching voice. You are meant to be a singer.' And I was like, Cool, if I can move someone enough to have them come tell me that. Wow. So I went home and told my mom I wanted to be a singer. And being Realistic Rita, she was like, Honey, there's a lot of people who can sing that aren't making it; you should probably have a fallback. And I was like, No. That would mean I don't believe I'm going to make it."
The night of her ASCAP honors, Clarkson tries on three dresses, eventually choosing the first selection, a Monique Lhuillier green chiffon bubble halter, which she pairs with jeweled sandals. She puts on earrings and a bracelet, then pulls them off. She eyes her reflection for approximately three minutes, makes one turn to see the back, then walks away.
"Making this album was really hard," she says, removing the dress and settling into a chair in a white bathrobe. "I remember having this horrible day, and a friend sent me this link to a website with all my private information on it—my phone numbers, my addresses, my bank card numbers. I read it and I was in this tiny little bathroom in this rented house and I was sobbing. It felt like I had nothing for me. I bawled. I felt naked."
In her off time, Clarkson flees Los Angeles for Texas, where she owns a ranch. Once there, she doesn't talk to anyone. She shops for groceries. Sees the occasional movie.
"I am very open. I don't want to lie. But I want something for myself."
As such, she does not want children. Not now, anyway. "My point of view is that I shouldn't be a mother at all, because I'd be horrible. I'm not willing to be that selfless."
Nor does she want a man. "I'm not keen on marriage. I don't let many people in. Men come and go. Friends are what I care about." If she did want a guy, she'd pick a funny charmer. "I can't stand pretty boys. The guys I date are the just-rolled-out-of-bed, scruffy type. Baseball cap, flannel shirt. Like Luke on Gilmore Girls."
"Kelly is the type who will wait until the right guy, and when she finds him it will happen really fast," Ashley says. "I can see her getting married, even if she can't."
Clarkson has had only three boyfriends; none are famous, and two remain her close friends. The third is the inspiration for "Never Again," and Clarkson refuses to mention him by name. "When it comes to certain parts of my life, I won't allow myself to be vulnerable at all," she explains. "I have a lot of trust issues. Most people are like that, I think."
In a few minutes she will re-don the dress and discover that she left her brassiere on too long.
"Oh, crap. You can see the strap marks," she says, curling up her lip. "Sorry, y'all."
In the gown, strap marks and all, she looks older. Could be her hair, styled in a straight, shoulder-skimming bob. She looks, perhaps for the first time publicly, like a woman, not a girl.
Later, Clarkson will seduce the press with her unmitigated honesty. She will share self-deprecating stories, including one about her high school prom, where she confesses that due to an overpacked social and church schedule, she slept in her formal updo for several days, eventually being photographed for her senior class picture in "three-day-old prom hair." She will tell the truth reflexively, even imprudently.
"Everybody goes through crap, Terri," she says to Terri Seymour, a TV entertainment show correspondent and Cowell's girlfriend. "You can't just write a bunch of happy songs because somebody is telling you they'll sell."
When the press preamble is finished and she finally hits the red carpet to the accompaniment of a thousand blinking flashes, she will not just hear her name called, like every other celebrity. She will be cheered. Because loving Kelly Clarkson is easy. Even if she won't say it back.
LAKISHA JONES HONORED IN MICHIGAN
The Associated Press reports that Flint, Mich., native and "American Idol" performer LaKisha Jones was greeted by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and hundreds of other fans Monday at the state Capitol, where she continued a homecoming trip through Michigan before leaving to rehearse for an upcoming tour.
Jones wowed the crowed by singing "And I'm Telling You" from the film "Dreamgirls" and "God Bless the Child" — both songs she performed on the top-rated Fox TV show. Fans held signs, snapped photos and cheered her along.
Jones said "never in a million years" did she dream she would be on the Capitol steps with the governor.
"My life is at a complete 360," Jones, 27, told reporters. "I was struggling really bad last year, and I moved. ... God has really blessed me tremendously."
The single mother said she plans to live in Houston, where she lived more than six years before moving to Baltimore for a bank-teller job. She made the semifinals in February, got an on-camera kiss from sometimes-churlish judge Simon Cowell and remained in the running until May 9, when she was outpolled by Melinda Doolittle, Blake Lewis and eventual winner Jordin Sparks.
Jones will participate in the "American Idol" tour this summer. She leaves Tuesday for rehearsals in Los Angeles.
When asked about working at the bank, Jones said: "I'll just be going to make deposits and withdrawals."
Granholm, who said she voted for Jones on the show, told the crowd that the state is proud of Jones and she "gave our spirits a boost at a time we are very challenged."
Jones sang the national anthem Friday before the interleague game between the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets. She also was honored in Flint Saturday with "LaKisha Day."
The Lansing celebration featured a performance by the youth choir from Jones' Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
CONSTANTINE'S ALBUM DROPS AUG. 7
According to BroadwayWorld.com, Broadway and "American Idol" star Constantine Maroulis will release his debut solo album on August 7th. The album is on the Sixth Place Records / Sony RED label.
Maroulis debuted "Everybody Loves," the first song off the album, on "The Bold & The Beautiful" on Wednesday, May 15th 2007. "Everybody Loves" is currently available on iTunes.
Since his departure from "American Idol," Maroulis has starred on Broadway in "The Wedding Singer," as well as in the critically acclaimed off-Broadway revival of "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris." In between, he devoted time and effort into finding the right band, assembling a group of musicians that meshed into a cohesive and rockin' ensemble.
Maroulis co-wrote several songs on the record and songwriters who lent their skills to the release include seminal singer/songwriter Willie Nile; Angie Aparo (Faith Hill), Marcel (Rascal Flatts) and Grammy nominated Kevin Kadish (Jason Mraz). Maroulis recently became a featured star on "The Bold and The Beautiful," which throughout his thirteen-week stint, will incorporate his music.
"The album was cut live with my own band," Maroulis explains. "No programming, minimal overdubs. We've been playing these songs on the road and chose the tunes that got the best feedback from our audiences."
Visit Maroulis MySpace page for more on the singer.
CLAYMATES WAR OVER AIKEN'S ORIENTATION
The New York Post sez there's a civil war among the Claymates in Claynation. Clay Aiken's rabid fans -- who call themselves "Claymates" and say they live in "Claynation" -- are at odds with each other over their former Idol. An insider said, "The war is between the batty members that are still clinging to their heterosexual fantasies of him and others that don't harbor such illusions."
Aiken's sexuality has been a subject of speculation ever since several men came out publicly and said they'd met him in gay chat rooms and had relations with him. Aiken has always refused to discuss his inclinations.
The Claymates' clash got so bad that the Official Fan Club com-
pletely suspended its message board and noted, "Due to reports of extensive unrest and disrespect amongst members that has been carrying on for several weeks, the Official Fan Club Message Board will be shut down until further notice. Please note that should tensions continue on other areas of the fan club, severe consequences may occur."
FANTASIA SINGS PRAISES OF LITERACY AND EDUCATION
According to PRNews-
wire.com, Fantasia Barrino is teaming up with Suave beauty line and Dollar General stores to award scholarships to students who are dedicated to education, as well as to recognize their invaluable role models -- especially mom's who have encouraged others to pursue their dreams through education.
The "Suave Essay Contest" invites students to write about how someone has helped them improve their life through education for the chance to win a $10,000 scholarship and a trip to New York to meet Fantasia.
"I am thrilled to partner with Suave and Dollar General on a program that delivers such a vital message about literacy and education," said Fantasia. "Having struggled with literacy, I know the importance of reading skills and how important a good education is. I encourage all students to think about bettering their literacy skills to realize their dreams."
The "Suave Essay Contest" program asks people 5 years of age or older to submit an essay about how a role model (mother, parent, teacher, relative or friend) helped them improve their life through education. Beginning Monday, June 18, students can enter online here or here or by picking up an official entry form at any Dollar General store.
One grand-prize winner will receive a $10,000 grant toward a college savings plan and three first prize winners will receive a $5,000 grant. All four winners will travel to New York City with a guest to see Fantasia star in "The Color Purple" on Broadway and meet her after the show. In addition, 2,000 second-place entrants will win a $50 Visa Gift Card. Entries submitted by mail must be postmarked by Friday, July 20, 2007 and received by Friday, July 27, 2007. Online entries must be received by Friday, July 20, 2007.
WHAT TAYLOR LOOKS FOR IN A WOMAN
A short People magazine video in which Taylor Hicks discusses his perfect woman: Funny and looking like Bo Derek "after she did that swimsuit picture." Well, so far Hicks and Caroline Lyders got the beach part right. Watch video here.
KATHARINE McPHEE'S NEW SEX KITTEN IMAGE
Pantagragh.com interviewed Katharine McPhee recently about her new sound and sex-kitten image: Q. What can we expect from you?
What can we expect from you?
I'll be singing four to five songs. You'll get to know me a little bit more as a personality and as performer. Because on "Idol" you didn't get to see us perform; it was like one two-minute song and then you were finished. This gives you a chance to let the nerves subside.
We're not going to hear "Over the Rainbow," I take it.
No, you're not. I'm sorry.
When was the last time you performed that?
Gosh, I don't even remember. On the "Idol" tour, I sang it every night.
People look at your album cover and wonder if you're going to wear the over-the-knee boots and sweater for this performance.
Is that an outfit you wear very often?
Oh, yeah. I wear it out all the time. Heh-heh-heh.
You had a glamorous image on "Idol." What kind of image are you looking for now?
It's more about what's in right now. I like little dresses. I still like the long dresses as well. It's summer so a little bit more cute, sexy. An album cover is really different from what you wear every day. At least this album cover.
Your album had a big first week of sales (116,000) and then has slowed down. How do you feel about the reaction to the album so far?
It's what I predicted it would be with the current single. I don't think it was one of those songs that was going to drive record sales up to crazy numbers. It's a good introduction to the new sound. It wasn't my favorite song off the new record; so I'll be candid about that. More important, I'm really excited about the next single, which is "Love Story."
There are a lot of different musical styles on the album. What were you trying to do?
My initial approach for the record was to have it in the vein of "Love Story," "Not Ur Girl," "We've Got Each Other." Then a few ballads made it on. There are a lot of politics that go on with the first record and a lot of things that you don't think you have control over and then later you realize 'oh, I had a little bit more control than I thought.' ... I think it'll be a little more my way on the second record.
Your album hasn't been a block-
buster and either has Taylor's. How do you feel about that?
I think the record industry is in a weird place right now. Considering that Taylor didn't have anything on the radio, he's done pretty well for himself.
I have to say I'm very satisfied where I am right now. Coming off a show where everything happens so fast and you rise to the top so quickly, [it's good] being able to kind of be on the other side now and see how other artists have to start out. I can certainly say now that I've had to do things to try to work my way to the top; it wasn't just all handed to me. I kind of appreciate this way my music is evolving. We have three more singles to go. As far as sales go, I don't pay attention to the weekly reports nor do I want to know about them.
You have said that "American Idol" saved your life. Could you explain what you mean by that?
I was able to be more focused on my career and the possibilities of what could happen as opposed to an eating disorder.
Was being runnerup a blessing or a curse?
Everything has been a blessing. Chris will tell you that being fourth is a blessing; he's doing great. We're all doing great in our own way. We're all hitting different markets. If I had won, I'd probably be in the same situation right now. That's fine with me.
When you appeared on Tyra Banks' show in February, people wonder about what you thought when she grabbed your breast to determine if it was real or enhanced?
Well, she asked me. It was just a fun, cute little show. I didn't realize that people would make such a big deal about it for weeks to come. That's how I'm with with my girlfriends — I'm really playful and fun. That's what it was like with Tyra. I was just having her help me clarify a rumor.
You appeared on the sitcom "Ugly Betty." What's your future with acting and dancing?
I'm taking ballet. Just kidding. I'm not like: "Oh, the door's open; I have to get into a movie." [But she did!] I'd rather take some time to find the perfect project than to just rush into something. [But she did!]
e-mail Idol Addict