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American Idol: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Kelly Clarkson?by Andrea Shuman -- 08/10/2002
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As American Idol heads into the home stretch, many ideas have been tossed around as to what kind of stars the eventual final three will make. It's been said Justin could easily fit into a teeny bopper idol mold, and Tamyra is made for the R&B firmament. But for Kelly, it's not so clear. Country or folk music is a possibility, but what if she wants to go more mainstream? What about Broadway? A cabaret act? Torch singer? All honorable forums, but record contracts and mega-bucks usually don't pour in from that, not at her age. While the voice is there, the maturity and experience isn't. You have to have loved and lost before you go that route.
So, we're left with the question: Could Kelly be just be too damn good to succeed in American popular music right now?
There's been many a bright star who no one knew quite what to do with, and who has always struggled to find their niche. Bette Midler has always defied a neat category. She's a star, for sure, but in exactly what genre? Movies? More duds than hits. Records? While she's always had a cult following (and count me part of that cult), she was never top of the charts. Her concerts are always fabulous and well attended, but ten to one the latest boy band could outsell her faster. So, how do you explain that she is famous and rich and has had a fulfilling career?
Because Bette Midler was never in the position of having to be packaged and sold to American teenagers.
Because any star nowadays must be packaged and sold to young listeners if she is to have immediate success. And, this being America, immediate success is what matters, especially on television.
Since the game is to find the next "American Idol" - as Simon continually reminds us - then to succeed now, Kelly will have to be merchandized and categorized. I doubt anyone can do that without compromising her talent, and the wonderfully "normal" image she projects. Heaven help her if she's pushed into becoming a tummy-baring teen vixen.
It all makes me wish that Kelly didn't have to rush out an album as the show's winner, or even a single as the runner up. If I could wave my magic wand, I'd make her independently wealthy for the next five years, so she could study acting, further her singing talent, and just mature a wee bit more. Live life a bit.
By the end of those five years, she wouldn't have to worry about an image that appeals to teens… she'd emerge like a butterfly, fully grown and ready for her true audience: adults with grown-up tastes. She could sing whatever style she chooses, no matter the flavor of the month, and her audience would follow.
Her career would span decades. She would win lifetime honors and recognition, and have legions of fans around the globe.
Of course, it's possible all that could begin right now, but more than likely a forced entry into today's teen pop music market will result in disappointment and frustration on all sides. It's the same frustration that arises from trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
The talented Ms. Clarkson certainly deserves better, and she'll achieve it if she and her handlers only can find the patience.
Andrea Shuman covers a variety of topics for RealityNewsOnline. You can reach her at ABostonGal@yahoo.com.
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