It's Simply Impossible to Not Like Kelly Clarkson
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 1, 2015
It's pretty impossible to dislike the OG and forever queen of American Idol. After all, the Texas-bred pop singer is funny and accessible and isn't afraid to tell the media to shove it when it comes to the incessant body-shaming she (and other pop stars) have dealt with. And that truly likable quality was something she drove home, time and time again, during her show at The Woodlands Pavilion last night.
But I'm not really talking about Clarkson's music. While there are certainly millions who love it, what really makes her interesting to me is that while you may not love, love her music, chances are good you still like her public persona. And that, to me, is a pretty unique quality for a pop singer to have. Clarkson is successful not only because of those pipes, but because of her ability to appear accessible and likable, too.
And I suppose if we're being frank here, I'm one of the people who like Kelly Clarkson's attitude but not really her music. To be clear, I really like Clarkson; I think any woman brave enough to essentially tell the press to fuck off with their fat shaming is worth her weight in salt, but I've just never been a huge fan of Clarkson's music. It's fine, but the peppy, girl-power songs are not really up my alley. Which, you know, is also fine.
But as Kelly proved onstage, me not love, loving her music doesn't really matter when it comes to enjoying her performance, because she can still put on a hell of a show even while in the heat and pregnant.
That's right. Clarkson recently announced her second pregnancy — how she was up there working that stage in this Houston humidity right after it rained, I'll never know — and she somehow still managed to belt out those impeccable high notes she became known for on the first season of American Idol.
Just try singing along to "My Life Would Suck Without You," which Clarkson played early in her set. I dare you. And now turn down the radio and continue to sing. You sound like shit, right? And you're not even pregnant and battling with the lack of airflow to your lungs. Even pregnant (again), she sounds impeccable, even if the songs are kind of repetitive. (I know, I know, and I'm sorry! But they do feel repetitive to me. But I really do like her, so...)
Those undeniably strong vocals are part of why Clarkson is this brilliant little pop anomaly who can somehow drag in even the most pop-wary of us. And she seals the deal with self-effacing commentary on everything from her current pregnancy — "It's weird performing with something inside you," she said — to her own fashion choices out in that Houston heat.
"Remind me again why I have a jacket on? Jesus."
Nobody knows, Kelly. You should have called me before you went onstage to get a weather check.
And you know what? She seems like the type of unassuming pop singer who would have done just that. Clarkson is on the level of her fans — and perhaps even her skeptics — and probably the type of person who would FaceTime prior to a show to ask if her outfit was dumb. I like that.
And I like her. So the unfortunate dissonance between that and my distaste for her songs gets a pass, now and forever. She can kill any and every song, no matter the tempo or genre it's pulled from — a skill she likely gleaned an eternity ago, when she was forced to sing bad covers on Idol — which makes a seamless transition from the higher energy of "Mr. Know It All" to pulled-back, sadder songs like "Dark Side." (If you don't recognize either one, just know they're both songs you can attempt to sing but will never conquer because of notes and all.)
I could have probably done without a cappella openers Pentatonix, though. While Kelly may slay the stage thanks to her Energizer batteries, Pentatonix — who are masters of other people's songs at the moment — are the cheap generic counterpart. Dear Lord, are they boring. But luckily, we had Clarkson to turn it up to 100 out there, which made the rough Pentatonix set a thing of the past even when they joined her onstage for "Heartbeat Song." Kelly + Pentatonix, I'm okay with. Pentatonix + Michael Jackson cover, I loathe.
Clarkson closed the show with an amalgam of "Miss Independent" and "Since U Been Gone," what I would assume is a very Kelly Clarkson move. She remained a ball of endless energy until the very last note. Impressive, impressive, impressive.
I liked her Tuesday night. I kind of even want to find a From Justin to Kelly T-shirt to commemorate this newfound admiration. And while her songs will probably remain (mostly) off my regular playlist, I can definitely see why she's a staple on other people's. She's pretty badass indeed.
Personal Bias: It's pretty well-stated above, but I am not what you would call a super-fan of Kelly Clarkson's music.
The Crowd: Young, pretty, tan and female. Kind of expected.
Overheard In the Crowd: ERMEHGEEEEEEH SHE'S PREGNAAAAAAANT. (Sure she appreciates the gawking.)
Random Notebook Dump: If there is a music-writer purgatory, I am bypassing that thing so hard and going straight to the holy land, based on the dues my eardrums have paid over the years. Piercing screams are not the one.