Kelly Clarkson's 15 Best Songs: Critic's Picks
After months of teasing new music, Kelly Clarkson finally gave fans what they've been patiently waiting for on Sept. 7 with not one but two new songs, "Love So Soft" and "Move You." As she hinted prior to the release, Clarkson is channeling a bluesier side with her new material - and if it's anything like her first two songs, fans are in for a real treat.
The 35-year-old is seemingly gearing up for her most mature music yet, combining the vocal prowess she's always displayed with the deeper songwriting she exuded on her last effort, Piece By Piece. But in looking through her catalog, it's easy to see how thoroughly Clarkson has shelled out hit after hit since winning American Idol 15 years ago.
From the top-notch sing-alongs like "Since U Been Gone" to the heart-wrenching personal ballads like "Piece By Piece," Clarkson has quite the discography leading up to her latest LP. In (extremely excited) anticipation of her next body of work, Billboard highlights the best Kelly Clarkson songs to date. Check out our picks below.
15. Kelly Clarkson - "Because of You"
Perhaps Clarkson’s most heart-wrenching song until she released “Piece By Piece” — both of which expose her broken relationship with her father — the slow build from a piano-based melody to heavy drums and violins bring out the pain Clarkson expresses.
14. Kelly Clarkson - "Catch My Breath"
There are plenty of Kelly Clarkson songs that simply make you feel great, and this may be the cream of the positive crop. Whether it’s laughing hard with the windows down, keeping faith that what goes around comes around, or appreciating the little things, Clarkson sings of the moments that make her realize life is short and there’s plenty to be happy about. Even though she’s specifically singing of a specific person, the light and upbeat vibe of “Catch My Breath” -- and her serious belt-out moment at the bridge -- helps amplify see the beauty in everything, no matter if they found love like Clarkson did.
13. Kelly Clarkson - “Gone"
Amongst all the hits that came out of Clarkson’s sophomore effort Breakaway, this hard-hitting breakup track may have gotten lost in the mix — but not if we have anything to say about it. “Gone” is a declaration of independence like no other, with a punchy bass line and lyrics that make it very clear she has moved on: “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel tonight/ Just a bridge that I gotta burn.” And if you’re not convinced by listening to the full song, all you really need is the last 20 seconds of Clarkson’s angry-yet-impressive vocals to inspire you to tell that certain someone you’re gone, too.
12. Kelly Clarkson - “Breakaway”
It’s no wonder Clarkson named her second album after this song, as it’s easily one of the most dynamic on the record, with its powerful melodic builds and inspirational lyrics. While Clarkson still gets to show off her vocal chops on the song’s chorus, “Breakaway” gives her a chance to use the breathier part of her voice.
11. Kelly Clarkson - "A Moment Like This”
This was the song that started it all for the original Idol winner — and although it’s from the very beginning of her career, you’d hardly believe it with the way she puts the gusto into every line. And frankly, considering the heights the then 20-year-old girl from Texas took her win (and her voice) after 2002, it’d be almost blasphemous to not include “A Moment Like This" in a top Kelly Clarkson songs list.
10. Kelly Clarkson - "Love So Soft”
Something people may not have realized about Clarkson after all these years is how well her voice works in a jazzier setting. She’s going to let the world really see that on her eighth release, and that’s already apparent with the first single from the new LP. With the incorporation of a horns section and a diva-licious backup choir, Clarkson sounds sassier than ever in her latest phase, staying true to the confident persona she’s always had but bringing in a level of maturity that says “I’m back and feeling better than ever."
9. Kelly Clarkson - “Invincible"
When it comes to Kelly Clarkson songs, you can never have enough sing-along moments. The chorus of this Piece By Piece track is one giant belt-out, making Clarkson’s invincibility 100 percent believable while also making anyone who sings it feel just as indestructible... even if they can’t hit those notes.
8. Kelly Clarkson - "I Do Not Hook Up"
Although this Katy Perry co-written track was initially meant for Perry to sing herself, Clarkson did such a killer job making the song her own that you’d never know it was intended for another pop star. Her attitude-filled delivery fits the “I’m too good for you” vibe of the song flawlessly, and the upbeat guitar on the track fits right in line with the empowering feel of hits like “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)."
7. Kelly Clarkson - "Dark Side"
There’s no-holds-barred on this one, as Clarkson’s dark side is exactly what she’s singing about on this track. But while dark sides can be a bit of a touchy subject, Clarkson presents the question “Will you love me, even with my dark side?” in a haunting yet beautiful way. And the incorporation of a music box melody to add to the evocative lyrics? Genius.
6. Kelly Clarkson - "Piece By Piece"
What could be considered the follow-up to “Because of You,” the title track of Clarkson’s seventh album presents the heartbreaking account of her father leaving at a young age in a way that’s more touching than it is gut-wrenching. Once she took the song to the Idol stage in 2016, you could experience every feeling she felt while writing the song. As evidenced in her moving live rendition, "Piece By Piece" combines Clarkson's vulnerability with her artistry, showing just how far she's come since "Because Of You."
5. Kelly Clarkson - "Beautiful Disaster - Live"
Upon listening to the original version of this song on Clarkson's debut LP Thankful, you may not be super impressed by the synthetic arrangement. But strip it down, the way Clarkson did in a live rendition she put on her second album, and you have a winner - in fact, more than a winner. Take "Beautiful Disaster" at its core, and it's a relatable tale about someone you should no longer want but you can't resist -- and when you put it to such a somber melody like she did with the live version on Breakaway, the track simply makes you feel all the feels.
4. Kelly Clarkson - "Behind These Hazel Eyes"
If there's one thing Clarkson has mastered over the years, it's the art of presenting a breakup song in a way that makes you forget someone just broke her heart. "Behind These Hazel Eyes" is a perfect representation of that, providing even the most brokenhearted an outlet to scream out "you won't get to see the tears I cry" (no matter their eye color).
3. Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)"
Similarly to "Behind These Hazel Eyes," Clarkson turned her heartbreak into a confidence boost for both herself and her fans. It's not just the lyrics of "Stronger" that make the message resonate -- the anthemic, blood-pumping beat carries the song to a level that goes beyond dealing with a broken heart, helping any downtrodden listener feel ready to take on the world.
2. Kelly Clarkson - "My Life Would Suck Without You"
Despite the fact that this song is clearly about a relationship that Clarkson shouldn't go back to, the titular line of the tune is presented in such a passionate way that she makes everyone want to scream it to anyone they don't want to lose, whether it be a romantic interest or simply a friend they can't imagine life without. Crafting a breakup song that can double as an anthem for best friends is no easy task, but Clarkson managed to do that and create an instant classic.
1. Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"
Here's the thing: we started out fans of Kelly Clarkson during her time on Idol. But once she was able to break away (yes, pun intended) from the Idol mold with her second album, we truly fell in love with the fearless pop star she became, and "Since U Been Gone" was the start of it all. Though "Breakaway" was the initial single from Clarkson's sophomore LP, "Since U Been Gone" was the bold statement she needed to declare that she wasn't going to fade into obscurity as a reality TV footnote. Simultaneously, she crafted a song that declared she was so over an ex, and one that anyone can relate to thanks to the chorus that's irresistible to belt out. She's since become the master of empowering breakup songs, but her first stab at a diva's take on heartbreak is undeniably the GOAT.