On a rainy night this past September, Kelly Clarkson took the stage at New York’s elegant Rainbow Room to perform a set from her new album, Meaning of Life. Wearing a sparkly gold gown, her smile Texas-wide, Clarkson positively glowed, for good reason: Having completed her seven-album deal with RCA (a contract she has called an “arranged marriage”), she had signed with Atlantic Records and finally made “the album I’ve always wanted to make,” says Clarkson. “You can hear the difference in how I sing.”
The three-time Grammy winner, 35, has never shied away from speaking her mind, whether in her propulsive pop anthems or on her filter-free Twitter feed, and she’ll bring that spirit to The Voice as a coach next season. But Meaning of Life, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, becoming Clarkson’s eighth in that chart’s top 10, is her most personal statement yet. With big horns and brassy vocals that call to mind golden-era Aretha Franklin, Clarkson tackles heartache (“I Don’t Think About You”), sexual intimacy (“Heat”) and trolls (“Go High” — named for the key line in Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech — which attracted a fan letter from the former FLOTUS herself).
And while Clarkson, who lives in Tennessee with her husband, manager Brandon Blackstock, and their four kids, knows she has become a role model, she insists it’s not her endgame. “I don’t wake up every day and think, ‘How can I inspire people?’” says Clarkson. “I’m just living my life. That’s the best example you can be.”
HOME ON THE RANGE
“We have an orchard, honeybees, chickens. It’s nice to hang out and cook and ride four-wheelers and not be on our iPads. I don’t want to raise terrible children. People are always sending them stuff! That’s not normal. My daughter’s passport — I don’t even know how many stamps she has. I grew up in a small, country bubble in Texas. I never had sushi until I was 20.”
FIRE IN THE STUDIO
“Earth, Wind & Fire played on ‘Love So Soft.’ I got to hang with Verdine [White] in the studio for a minute. He sounded like he’d just started in the industry, he was so excited. I love that.”
PLANNING VOICE VICTORY
“It’s not just about finding someone incredibly talented. I’d love to stick around in their life. There have been dark moments in my career where I felt alone. I would have loved to have someone be the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“A powerhouse is captivating. They walk into a room and you just want to know what they’re about to say. The first time I met Annie Lennox — I’m a very talkative human and I didn’t talk at all. She quieted me, which is a very hard thing to do.”
“I’m myself — unapologetically. But I can carry more than one flag, people! I grew up in a small town. Worry about your own damn front porch, and I’ll worry about mine.”
We’re LIVE from the #womeninmusic red carpet!
— billboard (@billboard) December 1, 2017