Eighteen years after shooting to fame on the first season of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson is still winning.
With three Grammys, an estimated 45 million single sales and the best damn Christmas album since Mariah Carey’s; last year she tried something a little different by launching her own daytime chatshow.
It was a risky move, given how often programmes of this kind sink without a trace (RuPaul’s attempt in the summer of 2019 was scrapped after three weeks), but it paid off. Massively.
The Kelly Clarkson Show returns next Monday, September 21, for its second season; and it will very much be resuming on a high.
Compare and contrast that with reigning queen of the genre Ellen DeGeneres, who will be launching her new own season under a cloud of controversy.
Over the summer, the voice of Dory – once a beloved trailblazer – faced huge scrutiny and backlash; including claims of rude off-camera behaviour, an apparently toxic working environment, and the alleged prevalence of sexual misconduct by producers behind the scenes.
Several uncomfortable interviews from over the years have also been resurfacing– among them a buttock-clenchingly tense run-in with Dakota Johnson, and an incident from 2008 in which DeGeneres seemingly pushed Mariah Carey into revealing her pregnancy (which would sadly later end in miscarriage) before she was ready. Carey herself recently called that encounter ‘extremely uncomfortable’.
So now, after the dismissal of three executive producers and reports of multiple apologies, a lot is riding on her eighteenth season premiere – especially as she has confirmed in a press statement that ‘yes, we’re gonna talk about it’.
But it might be too late. DeGeneres’ image had been taking a hit long before the summer (remember that George W Bush incident?), and speculation has been mounting that her tenure as the queen of daytime talkshows is nearing its end.
Time will tell as to whether viewers really have turned off for good, but according to The Sun, James Corden is already being eyed-up as her potential replacement.
But if Ellen does end up bowing out, why look any further for a successor than the icon currently occupying the slot before her on NBC’s schedules?
The Kelly Clarkson Show has proven that the eponymous powerhouse is more than up to the task of taking on one of the most high-profile jobs on US television.
With a fun and empathetic personality, and a winning mix of guests (from celebrities to everyday heroes), she has gone down a storm – and her Kellyoke segment, in which she opens every episode with an uplifting musical performance, has frequently sent her viral.
Last season, the show posted the best ratings for a freshman talkshow since 2012, and already has three Daytime Emmys in the bag – including one for Clarkson herself as Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host (meaning that yes, she is now halfway to having an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award, brilliantly known as an EGOT).
Plus, she is said to be as much of a legend in real life as she seems.
‘Kelly is the exact same person off camera that she is on camera,’ Tracie Wilson, an executive at NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, told Variety last year. ‘She’s putting her heart and soul into the show, and that’s coming through to the viewer.’
I mean sure, as a long-term Kelly Clarkson stan I do have recurring nightmares about when she’s going to find the time to release her next album, let alone tour it internationally (still waiting on those Meaning Of Life UK dates, by the way, Kel! Whenever you’re ready!).
But seeing her go from strength to strength after so many obstacles and hardships really is incredible – and it feels like this new subsection of her career is still on the up.
She deserves it: over the last 18 years, despite supplying us with relentlessly brilliant pop-rock anthems and emotionally shattering power-bops (Dark Side FTW!) her career has come up against clownery at nearly every turn.
When she was just starting out, she was allegedly told by one of the most powerful music executives in the world that she was a ‘s**ty writer’ (this about Because Of You, now her most-streamed track on Spotify). Years later, she was publicly dragged through the mud for wanting to write the entirety of her less radio-friendly LP My December.
Soon after that, she sacrificed millions of dollars in royalties by refusing to take a writing credit for her work with Dr Luke, out of protest at even having to collaborate with him in the first place (Dr Luke being the same producer who was later accused of sexual assault by Kesha – claims he has denied and which were subsequently dismissed by a New York judge).
And when she was in the UK in 2015 to promote her Piece By Piece album, she hit headlines when that ex-Apprentice contestant (you know the one) mocked her for gaining weight.
Speaking on The Today Show earlier this week, Kelly reflected: ‘Honestly, for most of the 20 years I’ve been in the industry, it’s still a struggle. It’s the funniest thing, to just want to be you.’
She added: ‘At this point in my life, it just now in the last couple of years has been easy. Before that, the first 15 were really difficult.’
She’s earned this hot streak; she’s earned her place among the greatest entertainers of her generation. And against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic (and pre-election nastiness), the warmth of The Kelly Clarkson Show will surely be a welcome comfort blanket when it relaunches next week.
In fact, with Clarkson currently in the midst of a heartbreaking divorce from husband of almost seven years Brandon Blackstock – which took many by surprise when it was reported back in June – perhaps even she herself could do with the uplift.
And if Ellen DeGeneres does need a replacement, I know who’ll get my vote.
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