The lucky 13 "American Idol" contenders who made it through to tonight's live show would do well to take a few minutes out of their hectic day and listen to Season 1 champ Kelly Clarkson as she rehearses for her appearance. After all, she is the prime example of how to handle the sudden success that can come with appearing on this TV talent contest.
Tonight, Kelly Clarkson will be belting out her smash hit "My Life Would Suck Without You." Back in January, that single broke the Billboard record as it jumped from No. 97 to the top spot in just one week. It was the first cut off her new album, "All I Ever Wanted," which is out today. And while this is only her fourth album, it is being touted as her comeback.
After being crowned the first "American Idol" winner back in the summer of 2002, Clarkson's debut disc "Thankful" went double platinum but met with only moderate critical approval. Her sophomore effort — "Breakaway" — was her breakthrough, selling 6 million copies and winning her Grammys in 2006 for best female pop vocal performance ("Since U Been Gone") and pop album. However, third time was not the charm as her introspective 2007 release "My December" barely went platinum and failed to impress the critics as well.
With this new album, Clarkson is said to have hit her stride once more. Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times called the disc "a masterful rapprochement with the mainstream, full of cheerfully ear-snagging tunes, inventive production, exhilarating vocals and enough inherent Kelly-ness to put aside fears that her label bosses implanted blond electrodes in her brain to make her behave." And Leah Greenblat of Entertainment Weekly found, "the introspection Clarkson favored so heavily on 'December' is still there; now, though, she has perspective." However, there were those reviewers who were disappointed like Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, who bemoaned that this album, "allows no room for the down-to-earth voice that Clarkson brings to her blog entries, the plainspoken charm she evinces in her concerts. She deserves better."
Among the other "American Idol" alumni, Season 4 champ Carrie Underwood has hauled home the most music awards hardware. She won the 2007 Grammy as best new artist and another for female country vocal performance ("Jesus, Take the Wheel") and she repeated in that category in both 2008 ("Before He Cheats") and 2009 ("Last Name"). Underwood has also won five American Music Awards, five Country Music Assn. Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards, and six CMTs.