For ex- Idol Kelly Clarkson, being in love means sacrificing the trademark angst in her songs, writes Cameron Adams
A happy dilemma
MEN of the world can unclench: Kelly Clarkson is in love.
But the woman famous for bad- boyfriendberating anthems Since U Been Gone and Never Again has a problem: her new songs are full of rainbows and joy.
It’s uncharted territory for the US performer. ‘‘ It’s a little different,’’ Clarkson says. ‘‘ I’m too damn happy! I can’t write anything depressing.’’
Clarkson ( pictured) has been dating Brandon Blackstock since February. His father, Narvel, is Clarkson’s manager; his stepmother is country music superstar Reba McEntire.
When they met, Blackstock was married, but both were single when they reconnected at this year’s Superbowl, at which Clarkson sang the national anthem.
She says that, like his father, Nashvillebased Blackstock is a southern gentleman: ‘‘ I wouldn’t date him if he wasn’t’’.
Blackstock is also in the business. He manages country singer Blake Shelton, so he understands her crazy- busy schedule.
But while her personal life is hunky- dory, the singer admits creating positive songs that aren’t cheesy is her new challenge.
‘‘ It’s really hard to write happy songs that don’t make you want to vomit,’’ she says.
So far she has come up with one that doesn’t make her lose her lunch.
‘‘ There is one, but it’s me, so there’s a dark twist on it. It’s kind of a dark twist to being happy. We’ll see if it works.’’
Clarkson is the first to poke fun at the obsession over her weight fluctuations. It was a theme of her Mr Know It All video.
The latest headline on the issue was ‘‘ Dating made me get fit’’.
‘‘ Which is so insulting to my intelligence,’’ Clarkson says.
‘‘ But I don’t really care. The funniest part is people say ‘ Oh my God, how did you do it?’ like it’s rocket science. You just eat better and work out. What do you think I’m doing?’’
Clarkson is in the midst of a return to television, 10 years after she won the inaugural American Idol.
She’s on new US show Duets with John Legend, Robin Thicke and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles.
They select new talent across America and perform duets with them.
‘‘ It’s fun; it’s sort of the same concept of how I got into the business,’’ Clarkson says.
‘‘ It’s cool to come back, 10 years later, and help ‘ me’ back then out again.’’
Clarkson was a guest mentor on the US version of The Voice alongside Shelton, but turned down offers to judge on talent shows.
‘‘ I didn’t want to be a judge per se. With Duets they said you won’t be judging, you’ll be a part of the competition.
‘‘ So I have to walk the walk and not just talk it. I like that.’’
Clarkson says TV is crucial for breaking new talent, with radio taking less risks.
‘‘ TV is the new form of artist development. The music industry doesn’t have as much money as it used to. If you don’t hit it right off the bat, you get dropped.
‘‘ It’s coming back around. In Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’s day they had radio contests, that’s how a lot of them got their start. It’s just on TV right now. TV is the most powerful medium now.’’
Unlike many pop stars, Clarkson co- writes most of her material. She already has the ‘‘ blueprint’’ of songs for her sixth album after last year’s Stronger, which spawned her first Australian No. 1, Mr Know It All, and her third US No. 1, Stronger ( What Doesn’t Kill You).
There’s an army of songs she wrote but never used floating around music publishers. One, Tell Me A Lie, wound up on One Direction’s Up All Night album, but only after some research.
When she heard Simon Cowell wanted her song for his boy band, Clarkson swung immediately into action.
‘‘ I’m really protective of my songs, because usually it’s my life I’m writing about,’’ she says. ‘‘ I don’t want someone who’s going to suck singing them. So I
I’m too damn happy! I can’t write anything depressing
YouTubed the heck out of One Direction. They sounded really good.
‘‘ It was before they were really famous; I didn’t know who they were but I liked the fact they were solo artists who came together on [ the UK] X Factor.’’
It has turned out to be a nice earner for Clarkson, and she likes a male take on her lyrics. ‘‘ I thought it was a total girl song but it works really well. I love what they did with it.’’
Clarkson is about to go on an American tour, with soft rockers The Fray opening for her. They’ll then follow her to Australia in September and October, with Voice finalist Sarah De Bono also on the bill.
The set list includes a section where Clarkson’s band gets to pick a song.
‘‘ We learn a new song every day, one of my songs or anyone’s songs,’’ Clarkson says. ‘‘ When I come to Australia they could pick Delta Goodrem or Gotye. There’s a lot of great music, I might as well sing it all.’’
With a string of hits since her last tour, she’s working out how to include them all.
‘‘ Twitter and Facebook give you an idea of what songs people are latching on to and which ones they aren’t,’’ Clarkson says.
‘‘ It is getting harder to get all my hits in one show, but that’s an incredibly, frickin’ good problem to have.’’