Kelly Clarkson is known for her unique ability to sing nearly anything, any style that's put before her. She's had a string of pop hits, rock tracks and danceable songs in her catalog. Clarkson is also known for her powerful voice on ballads featured on every album since her first record in 2003. At times, her voice has a Mariah Carey quality in those ballads both in styling and in vocal capability. AXS is taking a look at the top 5 ballads in her career thus far.
Taken from her Grammy winning fifth studio album Stronger, "Standing in Front of You" can be described with just one word, epic. The love song was co-written with guitarist Aben Eubanks and is a cinematic feature to the album almost as if it could be the closing song of a theatrical film during the credits. The demo that leaked in 2010 had an 80's vibe and the label asked her to add more production. The result is a beautiful song perfect for a wedding or a slow dance.
Also from Stronger, "Breaking Your Own Heart" closes the standard edition of the album. Stronger was her most cohesive set yet still delivered on her various sounds. "Breaking Your Own Heart" incorporates a hint of country and is a song about not letting love get too close. It's one of the many highlights of Stronger and one reason the album won Pop Vocal Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards, the only artist to win the award more than once. During the 2015 Piece by Piece Tour, she performed it in a segment she called "KC Classic."
"Tightrope" is that special song from her sixth non-holiday album Piece by Piece that she wrote while touring with Maroon 5 in 2013 for the Honda Civic Tour. The song was performed with more atmosphere during the Piece by Piece Tour in 2015. It was so loved that she released a live version on the re-release of the album along with other tracks. The album version is steady but the tour version highlights her vocals with such grace.
A favorite since the first major tour Kelly Clarkson embarked on, "Beautiful Disaster" was actually put on two albums. It was on her debut Thankful in 2003 but was met with disagreement between Clarkson and the label team. Clarkson wanted to strip the song of its production but she was denied so on tour, she performed it the way she envisioned--with just a piano. It was then included on Breakaway as the closing track as it became a widely known version being performed on various TV programs. It still remains a fan favorite and through the years on tour, it has seen many changes from adding strings to performing most of it acappella.
The title track to her sixth record is one of the most personal Clarkson has written to date. It's an autobiography put to music that sums up her relationship with her father and how much of a contrast it is with her husband who is also a father. In 2015 on tour, Clarkson became choked up every time she performed because it is such a deep song for the singer-songwriter. In February 2016, she performed one last time on the "American Idol" stage where she got her start almost 14 years ago. She stripped the song of its production much like she did on tour and moved the entire audience. From the contestants crying, to Keith Urban breaking into tears, it was a magical moment in "Idol" history. It was so appreciated across social media and news outlets that she recorded the piano version that week and released it on a re-release of Piece by Piece.
There are so many ballads in Clarkson's catalog over the last 14 years that it would take a mini book to run through all of them. Her career has had highlights with the heartbreaking "Because of You" she wrote at 16 about her broken home, the power ballad "Cry" where she takes her voice to the top of its range, the Radiohead-like "Honestly" she describes as a "wailer" or the anthemic "Run, Run, Run" with John Legend. With an upcoming soulful R&B record to be released in 2017, there'll be more to come.