TV talent show singers have a better chance of winning the lottery than replicating Kelly Clarkson’s story of success.
The odds are stacked against even the most gifted entertainers. They try out by the thousands just to get noticed on shows like “The Voice,” “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.” And after all these years, only a handful of winners have made any big-scale, long-term impact.
Clarkson, who won the first season of “American Idol” in 2002, is the first to acknowledge how unlikely her career arc has been.
“I have had 15 years of success off it,” the native North Texan says. “I don’t think anybody, including myself, knew that was going to happen.”
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But unlikely isn’t the same as impossible. So Clarkson — three-time Grammy Award winner, with worldwide record sales of more than 25 million albums and 36 million singles — is offering a helping hand to a new generation of wannabe pop music stars.
Clarkson makes her debut as one of the superstar coaches this season on “The Voice,” alongside Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys. The Season 14 premiere airs at 7 p.m. Monday on NBC.
Clarkson, 35, is hopeful she can offer the kind of boost she didn’t get when she started out.
“I know it sounds cheesy,” she says, “but it’s been pretty cool for me to be on this show because I get to basically help someone who was me.
“I came into the business in a really weird way. There was no road map, no blueprint. Everything that happened was like a first time for somebody coming from a TV show. So I didn’t have a mentor.
“I try to be that for younger artists. I’m not really a mother hen. I’m still kind of a child. But I always try to give good advice. I feel like that would have helped me tremendously.”
Clarkson has enjoyed so much success over the years that it’s almost possible to forget how she made her breakthrough. The Burleson High School graduate with the big voice was struggling to get noticed until friends encouraged her to audition for the inaugural season of “American Idol.”
Although initially rough around the edges, she was easily the most promising performer and wound up beating Justin Guarini in the finale to snag a record deal with RCA Records. She since has released eight albums. The most recent, “Meaning of Life,” dropped in October 2017.
So when Clarkson tells contestants on “The Voice” that she knows what they’re going through, when she tells them, “I’m not feeding you any lines — this could happen for you,” she is completely sincere.
Before becoming a coach, Clarkson appeared on “The Voice” last season as a key adviser, mentoring the show’s aspiring artists.
“Selfishly, it’s gratifying to be able to do that for someone,” she admits. “It would be really cool to turn my chair for someone (in the blind auditions) and then, 10 years later, they have this massive career.”
On second thought, it doesn’t really have to be something massive.
“Just a career in what they want to do,” Clarkson says. “That’s really, really cool.”
There’s no telling what musical style Clarkson’s protégés will embrace. After all, she loves all genres, from Rosemary Clooney to Aretha Franklin, from Reba McEntire to Lauryn Hill. Clarkson is one of those who believes there are really only two kinds of music: good and bad.
“The thing I love about music is that it’s for all people,” she says. “No matter where you come from, no matter what your culture is, no matter what your background is, no matter what your faith is, or your political views, it doesn’t matter if you just love a song and it touches you.
“Whether it’s at an Annie Lennox concert, a U2 concert, or Aerosmith or Adele, it doesn’t matter what show you go to, there are people there who would not ever be in the same room at the same time for any other event. But because of the songs, that brings them together.
“I think that’s super-powerful.”
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