Singer-songwriter Kelly Brianne Clarkson is well known for being the first winner of American Idol in 2002. Thanks to the show, she got a record contract with RCA Records. Initially billed as a country singer, Kelly shifted to pop-rock after parting ways with Idol management. It was a wise move, and her second studio album won two Grammys. The prolific Kelly Clarkson has come out with nine albums in the last eighteen years, so we’ve curated the ten best Kelly Clarkson songs of all time.
10. Because Of You
Because of You is easily the most widely recognized song from Clarkson’s second studio album, Breakaway. What most fans don’t realize is that Kelly wrote this song herself. It is about coping with the trauma of her parent’s divorce when she was six, and she wanted to include it on her debut album, but producers rejected it. Happily, the song was eventually released, went platinum, and received rave reviews. To this day, Because of You remains one of the most played and recognized Kelly Clarkson songs ever. Unsurprisingly, this song made the Billboard Hot 100 and the European Hot 100 Singles the year it was released.
9. Love So Soft
Love So Soft, released in 2017, is a superb song, and the accompanying video makes it even better. The incredible scenery and color choices stand out and compliment the famously confident singer’s voice. The bizarre cliffside mansion with its Avante Garde architecture, in the beginning, sets the tone for the whole piece. It’s hard to forget the visual dynamism from a yellow gown filled with butterflies to the notable scene with dozens of clones of Clarkson and her backup singers.
8. Dark Side
Dark Side was Clarkson’s second consecutive song to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart following Stronger. However, given how often Stronger gets played on the air, we wanted to give this slot to the equally deserving yet slightly underrated song that came after it. Kelly performed this song live at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards and even garnered a nomination for the MTV Video Music Award for Best Video with a Message at the VMA’s the same year.
7. Heartbeat Song
Heartbeat Song was the lead single on Piece by Piece, Kelly’s seventh album. This song was Clarkson’s sixteenth top forty hit, debuting at number 37on the Billboard Hot 100 and later peaking at number 21. This powerful song got her nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. Heartbeat Song went platinum in the US and Sweden, and it was gold in the UK, Australia, and Norway.
6. I Do Not Hook Up
Humorous and catchy, I Do Not Hook Up was co-written with Katy Perry, and it shows. The sound is fun, but the content has a delightfully serious undertone of heartbreak and intentional emotional distance. A woman telling her lover not to expect sex just because they went out is rarely the topic of a song, but it made for an excellent and memorably empowering tune. Katy Perry originally recorded this song for her album One of the Boys. However, the Clarkson version is equally good, and both deserve a place at the pop-icon table.
5. Mr. Know It All
Mr. Know It All is a fantastic song, but what stood out about its 2011 release was the sharp divergence from her previous sound. A distinct R&B sound suits Kelly’s voice, but it made some fans unhappy because it was different. Luckily hose fans were in the minority. The raw vocals are beautiful and mostly untouched. It was no surprise when this song became her ninth top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart. Something about it feels very authentic in a way that overproduced music can’t touch.
4. Miss Independent
The aptly titled Miss Independent is a song about being a strong woman. However, like all Kelly’s songs, there are layers. The woman in this song doesn’t need anyone to take care of her, but she also struggles to let down her self-imposed emotional barriers. Letting someone inside that private portion of her heart wasn’t part of the plan, though she finds the right person to share her heart with. Many of Clarkson’s songs center around self-sufficiency, but this one is list-worthy because it was the song that won her first Grammy nomination in 2004 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
3. Never Again
A good breakup song is an essential staple of most musical repertoires. For Kelly Clarkson, Never Again is that song. It doesn’t take long to realize the strength of her vitriol about ‘someone’ when she wrote this song. Feeling jaded and angry is part of the experience when love goes wrong, but most of us don’t get to roast our exes on the world stage. Who could have evoked such a strong reaction? According to MatthewPaulTurner, “that ex-lover is purported to be ex-Evanescence member David Hodges.”
2. Piece By Piece
Piece By Piece is a song with an intriguing history of dichotomy. In part, this outstanding anthem, which Clarksnon wrote herself, is about her tumultuous and difficult relationship with her father. However, the other side of the story is about the pleasant and extremely positive experiences she shared with husband Brandon Blackstock. The juxtaposition of those two narratives resulted in a nuanced and beautiful song that clearly deserves a place on any list about Kelly’s best.
1. A Moment Like This
A Moment Like This is the quintessential Kelly Clarkson song. The lyrics are all about achieving a dream. As American Idol’s first-ever winner, Kelly herself is the culmination of the American dream. However, winning the televised contest was doubtless a dream come true for her personally. Not only was this her first single, but according to Songfacts “…the song broke the record for the biggest jump to #1 in the history of the US Hot 100 chart when it soared 52-1 on the week of October 5, 2002.”
With a superb voice and the confidence to go with it, Kelly Clarkson is everything we hoped for in an American Idol winner or a dynamic female singer in general. She consistently pumps out an album every two years with hit after hit. It’s easy to binge the entire Kelly discography, but if you’re looking for a sample of just the best, this list has you covered.