The Impact

8 Kelly Clarkson Songs to be Thankful For

"I sing songs that I have lived or I write them because I have lived them. I think the believability factor is key."

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“What this is really about is the American dream,” was the quote Mr. Cowell told executives at the defunct TV network UPN about Simon Fuller’s and his idea for a music competition show, according to an article in the New York Times adapted from “Desperate Networks” by Bill Carter.

American Idol: The Search for a Superstar as the show American Idol was originally titled in its first season when it first premiered in 2002. A show where people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four sing in front of a panel of judges with the dream they would become a famous singer.

American Idol would go on for fifteen seasons, before coming to an end in 2016. Over those years, it launched the careers of Katharine McPhee, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood and many others. However, few who appeared on the show have had a career launch like Kelly Clarkson, the first winner. While some winners and contestants have had some good years, ups and downs, a hit single or two, or faded soon after, Clarkson has outlasted them all with hit after hit with songs that continue to resonate.

Here are eight of her songs that continue to make us thankful she auditioned for the show in Dallas, otherwise, these songs may have never been made. Clarkson never imagined how that one day would change her life and the same could be true for some when American Idol returns to ABC this Sunday.

Breakaway

The song originally co-written by Avril Lavinge for her debut album Let Go was passed on to Clarkson to sing for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement soundtrack. The pop song with folk undertones was so successful it was included in her second album, with the song’s title used as the album’s title. The song’s extremely relatable message of empowerment and finding contentment mixed with its memorable guitar intro made it a hit both in the U.S. and internationally. Not to mention, a song to put on your summer driving playlist. The song foreshadowing several other songs that would follow and become hits on this one album. Breakaway remains Clarkson’s most successful album.

Catch My Breath

The song was released with Clarkson’s Greatest Hits – Chapter One. The electropop-dance song deviates from Clarkson’s usual pop-rock sound or country and folk undertones. The song celebrating where Clarkson finds herself in her career after managing the rollercoaster start of her career and insecurities she has overcome. A message she sends clear from the opening verse lyrics of “I’ve spent most of my life / Riding waves, playing acrobat / Shadowboxing the other half.” The song maintaining an uplifting and upbeat tone, which is at its climax with the lyrics, “Now that you know, this is my life / I won’t be told what’s supposed to be right.” A pick me up song we all need some days when we face people trying to dictate how we should live our lives.

Dark Side

A major theme of Clarkson’s music is empowerment and fulfillment, yet, she turned it up a notch by exploring it through the lens of seeking vengeance and overcoming heartbreak with a slightly darker undertone. The darker undertone reminiscent of her therapeutic rock album My December. “Dark Side” captures this tone masterfully mixing it with lyrics of inner beauty and demanding acceptance of all our qualities, good, bad and in between. The song gives Clarkson space to explore synth-pop and a break from her usual use of guitar. The different sound beautifully fits the theme of Clarkson asking for acceptance of her “dark side.”

Since U Been Gone

Who doesn’t love a good “F**K You” power song to listen to when a relationship ends. The song was originally written for P!nk who turned it down and turned again by Hillary Duff, but Kelly Clarkson proves she was the right singer for it. Clarkson captures the essence of the pop-rock song’s power with the lyrics, “But since you been gone / I can breathe for the first time.” The lyrics found in the song’s chorus when Clarkson lets it all out. Reminiscent of the yelling and screaming we want to do at her ex, but more importantly, when we free ourselves and let them go.

Stronger

The song’s title is inspired by a quotation by German philosopher, poet, and composer Friedrich Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” A quote fitting of the song’s message of recovery and healing after heartbreak. The electropop song part of Clarkson’s exploration of electric, synth, and dance music seen in the album Stronger and “Catch My Breath.” The song, one of Clarkson’s best-selling songs of all-time, has transcended her vocals in being covered on the TV show Glee and used as the song in a lip sync for your life between Darienne Lake and Ben DeLa Crème on season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Whole Lotta Woman

Clarkson should be recognized for her ability to explore other genres and sounds of music, such as synth-pop and solely rock, but knowing how to stay true to her style and themes. “Whole Lotta Woman” is a classic example of this in her newest album Meaning of Life. In her first album with Atlantic Records, she set out to create a soul-infused album and “Whole Lotta Woman” screams it in spades. The song continues Clarkson’s signature theme of empowerment with blaring confidence more explicit than in her previous work. “Hold on tight, little country boy / I ain’t no girl, I’m a boss with orders.” While no music video was released the live-for-video performance with live band and background singers makes up for it for the better.

Heartbeat Song

Kelly Clarkson spent much of 2014 out of the public eye and music following the birth of her daughter, River Rose. However, she belted out the anthem that is “Heartbeat Song” in full force. The song was the lead single of her last album with RCA, Piece by Piece. The song and subsequent music video follows the story a person meeting someone who revives their belief in love. The music video received generally positives reviews with critiques noting the music video’s ability to elevate the cliché music concept of restoration of belief in love with a deep story of several individuals meeting someone they fall in love with after thinking they can no longer.

A Moment Like This

Clarkson’s debut single was originally written as the coronation song for the winner of the first season of American Idol. Clarkson, at the time a finalist on the show, recorded a version of the song, along with, fellow finalists Justin Guarini, Nikki McKibbin, and Tamyra Gray. The song about finding love that everyone dreams about finding one day and overwhelmed it is finally happening to them was first performed on American Idol by top finalists Clarkson and Guarini. Clarkson would perform it again after she was announced as the winner. There are times a song’s lyrics perfectly sum up a feeling and this was no more true when she performed it as the winner. Throughout, her performance of the song Clarkson was unable to hide her emotions of joy, astonishment, and being overwhelmed by the moment. The most poignant moment of the performance as she looked up singing “Oh, I can’t believe it’s happening to me.” The raw intensity of the moment barely edging out her bursting into tears near the end as she was joined by her fellow finalists. Her singing the final lyric of “A moment like this,” with Gray and McKibbin. The finale fading out with that performance and Clarkson has gone onto a career that was started with a performance of Etta James’ “At Last” and Madonna’s “Express Yourself” in Dallas.

About the Writer
Matt Reich, Associate Editor
Matt Reich is a guy constantly on the go who can’t let a minute go unused. Born in a city in Texas, raised in rural Connecticut, and now he’s trying to make it in New York. An avid comedy fan who follows too many dog Instagrams, he currently is a social media intern for the...
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8 Kelly Clarkson Songs to be Thankful For