I've been thinking a lot about a certain American Idol winner lately. There has been a spate of articles about how Kelly Clarkson has improbably become Cool, riding the wave of her new Avril-esque hits, "Since U Been Gone" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes." (Such awesome titles! Obviously only total squares and poindexters write out "you," and who doesn't love those people who can't just say they have brown eyes or green eyes, no no - those bitches are hazel.) Kelly Clarkson has always had a certain appeal to me, from the sharp consonants of her name to her humble origins as a reality show contestant. I remember watching the show and rooting for her from her first throaty renditions of Aretha Franklin numbers. Not only was she talented, but she seemed sweet and self-effacing, and not that dumb for a pop singer. Then she had her simpering Simon Cowell ballads, and that wretched movie, which made the nation uncomfortable. And now, an album later, she's gone blonde and Hollywood and is sweeping up VMAs, hopping around the stage all wet and sopping and prancing to the beat of her own song in bare feet.
The best thing, though, is her songs - they are catchy and she has a great range, starting low on the verses and swooping up on the choruses, then riding a crest of adlibs back to her gospelish roots before the song shudders to a finish, spent and breathless. The bridges of her songs are always the best, always, with their attitude and vocal altitude and clear, declarative sentences. Swallow me then spit me out. Shut your mouth I just can't take it. Her two songs are a bit contradictory, sure, but the woman remains the same. And that's what we - me and the rest of America and the recently-converted musico-cultural elite - love.