Two days after Kelly Clarkson debuted her fifth album "Stronger" (RCA), the Texan singer and original "American Idol" brought together diehard fans, journos, Sony and VH1/MTV personnel, and her own kin for her "Unplugged" taping. Between self-deprecating remarks about her looks and love life -- jokes about: wearing two pairs of Spanx, flashing her cleavage a la Erin Brockovich, staying in relationships longer than she should -- Clarkson and her band ran through five songs for the live audience at Highline Stage on NYC's west side. When she spotted Eric Hutchinson -- who toured with Clarkson in 2009 and penned "Why Don't You Try," an iTunes bonus track off "Stronger" -- in the audience, she was clearly caught off-guard but sang his praises on high. The taping was full of goofy Clarkson moments sure to be toned down in the final package (hey, it's only a one-hour show), which will debut on VH1.com on Nov. 17 and will air on VH1 the next day at 11 p.m. EST. Clarkson's longtime relationship with VH1 gets even cozier when she returns to the network for the 2012 incarnation of "Divas Live," alongside Mary J. Blige.
Backbeat caught up with VH1 President Tom Calderone at the taping, where he explained why the Facebook-addicted Clarkson was an ideal choice for VH1 "Unplugged." "What's funny is back when she first started in the 'American Idol' days, message boards was as advanced as technology was!" Calderone joked. Why she's important for VH1 and 'Unplugged' is because she is a social networking fiend, which I say lovingly. There was even something she did with Spotify, where she talked about each of the new tracks. She understands what it's like to be attached to her fans, and her fans have this craving to be attached to her. So we look at her as the type of artist we'd like to nab for 'Unplugged.'"
Given the legacy of "Unplugged" (started in 1989), we had to ask Calderone to dish on a few of his faves through the years: "Old-school favorite was Nirvana's, which is kind of obvious. This was even before I worked for MTV; I was there as a fan watching. I witnessed a historic moment, one that you couldn't really duplicate. I was in radio and I was lucky enough to get a ticket. My jaw dropped as I sat there. Current artist, my favorite is Mumford and Sons. It was so intense, you could hear a pin drop in that room. It was authentic and they talked about their inspirations. But not only that -- they nailed it and sounded so incredibly big for a very stripped-down performance."
And of course, Calderone was quick to sing the praises of the lady of the moment, Miss Adele Atkins. "She was a 'You Oughta Know' artist back when no one cared," he said. "People tell me, 'the only way I would have found out about Adele is through VH1,' and that's such a compliment. Her fans are what you call 8 to 80; she has fans everywhere. We're very proud to call her one of 'our' artists."