It is easy to forget that Kelly Clarkson's celebrity is the result of her winning a singing competition against a mop-topped crooner more than 10 years ago (what up Justin Guarini?). And while some people may forever scoff at the idea that something good can come out of reality television, if ever there were a poster child for the success of a singing show, it would be Kelly Clarkson.
No, her career has not been perfect. From Justin to Kelly is something that exists and her album My December was a monumental flop, but her talent, charisma and general likability are totally undeniable. And we commend her for being able to stay relevant nearly 13 years since winning Idol without the help of a scandal to propel her to the forefront of the public's general Twitter feed. People are genuinely excited to get new music from Kelly, just because it's usually good.
So, in honor of her 33rd birthday today (April 24), we decided to compile five of Kelly's greatest live performances. And considering the fact that she has hit perhaps five bum notes in her entire life, we admit that it was not an easy feat.
From her very first American Idol audition (Ryan Seacrest was so tan) to her 2006 Grammy Awards performance and beyond, check out Kelly's greatest live performances below. May she never suffer from vocal nodules.
Her 'American Idol' Audition
During her American Idol audition, Kelly wore jeans as a shirt, perfectly epitomizing early-aughts fashion at its most tragic. She sang a Madonna song, totally killed it, and was also 20 years old, which makes us feel like dinosaurs. Not only do we remember watching her audition when it aired on television, but we are well past the age Kelly was in 2002, and not even remotely as famous or as talented.
In any case, we are forever indebted to American Idol, because without it we may never have been blessed with Kelly Clarkson. Side note: If you are wondering what former co-host Brian Dunkleman has been up to all these years, we can tell you. After shopping around the idea for a lame television show, he failed and then admitted that leaving Idol remains the biggest regret of his life. Sad.
"Because of You" at the 2006 Grammys
If you ever want to feel ways about things, look no further than live Kelly Clarkson performances. Things were so different back in 2006. Justin Guarini was still trying, TRL existed, Kevin Richardson left the Backstreet Boys for what were probably the most boring six years of his life. But the greatest thing to happen, perhaps, was Kelly's Grammys performance of "Because of You." Equal parts soft and intense, Kelly proved she doesn't need to drown out her live vocals with strong instrumentals.
"Behind These Hazel Eyes"
Nobody does pissed off better than Kelly Clarkson. Being a great singer isn't just about hitting those notes or sounding perfect -- ask Bob Dylan. It's about being able to convey an emotion, making listeners feel a certain way. And Kelly takes us through pain, anger and resilience in just this one song. The texture of her voice is so varied and nuanced in a way different from so many popular singers. The music world needs her.
"Stay With Me" (Sam Smith cover)
You know how Sam Smith's entire discography is the saddest sound in the entire world? It is only made that much sadder, more heart-wrenching and, somehow, more emotional when Kelly Clarkson sings it. "Stay With Me" is an honest plea of desperation, of wanting someone temporarily, despite knowing it won't last. It works, because we've all been there. And as much as we love Sam's version, as many times as we've cried while listening to it on the subway, we have to admit that Kelly's vocals swell with this deep-seated kind of emotion that feels like that scene in The Simpsons where Bart literally gets his heart ripped out by his babysitter. It hurts.
"Since U Been Gone" acoustic
If you have ever done karaoke, you have probably done it to "Since U Been Gone," even if it was just shower karaoke. This means you appreciate the kind of vocal talent it takes to deliver a song that has so much emotion and also so many notes. Kelly can obviously sing, but this acoustic version of "Since U Been Gone" puts her vocals on full display. As soon as her voice takes on that semi-rocker quality, our lives end, Kelly is so good. Plus, everyone loves "Since U Been Gone" — even Dave Grohl.