Kelly Clarkson was supposed to get her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2021. But when COVID delayed those plans, the ceremony was pushed to this month, which brings a little serendipity to this moment: September 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of Clarkson’s win on the very first edition of “American Idol.”
Clarkson will be celebrating with close friends on Hollywood Blvd. as she receives the honor on Sept. 19. The global superstar has been surrounded by much of the same team for the entirety of her two-decade career — from her lawyer to her music director, Jason Halbert, one of her Walk of Fame presenters, who started working with Clarkson in 2003 right after the singer won “Idol.” Today, Halbert collaborates with Clarkson on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” leading her talk show’s in-studio band, which also serves as her longtime touring group. Halbert is also responsible for arranging the “Kellyoke” songs that kick off each episode of the talk show.
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“I’ve had a front-row seat to some of the most amazing moments in music history with her,” Halbert says. “It never gets old for me. And 20 years later, I remain foremost a fan.”
Also set to be in attendance: original “Idol” judge Simon Cowell. In 2018, Clarkson presented Cowell with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and four years later, Cowell will return the favor at Clarkson’s ceremony. It’s the passing of the baton for the unlikely duo — a hard-nosed Brit and a sunny Texas girl — who have known each other since Cowell helped discover Clarkson as that first American Idol.
“It’s crazy!” Clarkson exclaims when looking back on 20 years. “But it feels like 40. That was a lifetime ago.”
Cowell is not at all surprised by Clarkson’s success. He believes she would have found fame even without the show, and not just because of her great pipes. “Where we were very lucky with Kelly was that not only could we find someone with a hell of a good voice, but she also had this amazing sense of humor, personality, charisma,” Cowell says, noting that “Idol” may not have been such a popular TV show had the public not fallen in love with Clarkson during its inaugural season.
Cowell recalls working with the singer in 2003 on her first album, certified double platinum in the U.S., and marveling at how the then 20-year-old already had a command of her voice and image. “I don’t think anybody at the label really was prepared for how successful she was going to be — maybe apart from Kelly,” Cowell says.
Clarkson remembers having to prove to her producers what kind of artist she really was. “Whenever I played ‘Miss Independent,’ they were not excited,” she recalls. “They were like, ‘There’s, like, a lot of guitars on here.’ And they were freaking out because they thought I was going to sing ballads all the time. I love ballads, but I was 20 years old. It was a really hard thing to navigate.”
To date, Clarkson has released nine studio albums. And she’s hosted eight seasons of “The Voice.” When ABC rebooted “Idol” in 2018, producers wanted her to be a judge, but she had already committed to “The Voice.”
Cowell, the creator of the global “Got Talent” format, wishes he had nabbed her first. “I mean, thanks for doing the opposition show, Kelly,” Cowell says with a laugh.
Of course, Cowell then admits that he didn’t actually ask her to be on “America’s Got Talent.”
“First of all, I never thought she would want to do something like this,” he says. “And then, at the point when she had chosen to do ‘The Voice,’ I was kind of thinking, ‘Shit, we probably should have called her.’”
“She actually has guest-judged on our show, and she did brilliantly. So, I have a feeling she and I will end up doing something together one day,” Cowell says. “I love the panel [on ‘AGT’],” he adds, but “if I was to do a new music show — and I think there is a strong possibility that we will — then 100%, I would call her in a heartbeat.”
Beyond that, Cowell stays mum. “It’s just wishful thinking. You know how things are,” he says. “I think if the right show came about, then yeah, I would say, ‘Why don’t we do something together?’”
Circling back to Clarkson’s momentous career milestone getting a star on the Walk of Fame, Cowell says, “20 years after all this happens, who’s to say what’s going to happen in the future? I would love to work with Kelly on something. Anytime she’s asked me to do something, I always do it, as she’s always been the first to hold her hand up when something’s happened to me, So, I think it’s sort of naturally going to happen one day.”
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