We're Throwin' It Back — Every Single 1 of Kelly Clarkson's Flawless American Idol Performances
Reigning over pop music like a queen, Kelly Clarkson is just living her best life right now. And deservedly so, since she's graced us mere mortals with the soundtracks to our breakups and surges of self-confidence. Who hasn't cry-screamed to "Since U Been Gone" or bopped their head to "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"? Her emotional power ballads have naturally drawn comparisons to the greats, such as Mariah Carey and Céline Dion. Plus, she's also a beloved coach on The Voice, upcoming talk-show host, and children's voice actress.
Long before her days of superstardom, she was America's sweetheart with serious pipes on season one of American Idol. The series has elevated many iconic singers, including Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Fantasia, and Phillips Phillips. But Clarkson was the one who started it all, enticing us one Aretha Franklin cover at a time. Feeling nostalgic for her early days? Pull on your flared jeans and grab your Walkman — we're going back to the early aughts with each and every one of her flawless performances on season one of Idol, from her iconic audition with "Respect" to her tender rendition of "Before Your Love."
Audition: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
As the voice that started it all, Clarkson nailed Aretha Franklin's hit in her iconic audition, impressing even the curmudgeonly Simon Cowell. It's not all stress for her though, as she even jokingly switched places with Randy Jackson at one point.
Hollywood Round 2: "I Say a Little Prayer" by Dionne Warwick
Clarkson delivered another soulful classic with the perfect amount of soul, not daunted by Cowell's critiques.
Hollywood Round 3: "Save the Best For Last" by Vanessa Williams
She wowed the crowd here with a tender and powerful rendition of Vanessa Williams's "Save the Best For Last." Cowell pointedly commented that he just didn't like her, but Paula Abdul knew talent when she saw it.
Semi-Final Group 2: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
Clarkson reprised her cover of this classic in the semi-final group performance. Cowell still wasn't super impressed, but people were definitely starting to notice her.
Motown Week: "You're All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Perfect growls and high notes shine in Clarkson's take on this oldie for Motown Week. Abdul pretty much articulated what we love about the vocal queen today, saying, "I just love you, I love your personality, your spirit, and your voice is unbelievable." Also, Cowell does a Texan accent in praising Clarkson, so stick around for that.
1960s Week: "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman" by Carole King / Aretha Franklin
We're still recuperating from that whistle note to this very day. Also, can we talk about how iconic her button-down crop top and tie outfit is?
1970s: "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" by Aretha Franklin
Yup, Clarkson slam dunked ANOTHER Aretha hit flawlessly.
Big Band Week: "Stuff Like That There" by Betty Hutton
Get your pearls and get ready to swing dance because Clarkson beautifully crooned this song made iconic by Betty Hutton in 1945.
Burt Bacharach Week: "Walk on By" by Dionne Warwick
Here, Cowell told Clarkson that he truly believed that she was going to be a big star after the show. While reality competition judges might throw this compliment around rather often, it looks like his prediction came true.
1980s Week: "It's Raining Men" by Weather Girls
As Jackson said, Clarkson can really sing anything, even one of the biggest songs of the '80s.
1990s Week: "I Surrender" by Céline Dion
By this point, hitting the right notes effortlessly was a given for Clarkson. This was the first time Clarkson gave a more emotional performance, which is kind of her thing now. Cowell compared her to Céline and Mariah, and well, he's not wrong!
Judge's Week: "Think Twice" by Céline Dion
Clarkson belted her heart out with another Céline Dion ballad for Judge's Week, impressing us with both seamlessly smooth and gravelly notes. The judges weren't into the song choice itself, but they loved her voice on it.
Judge's Week: "Without You" by Badfinger
"Without You" is an absolute showstopper on Judge's Week.
Singer's Choice Week: "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
Listen, she did it again, and we're honestly not even mad.
Singer's Choice Week: "Before Your Love" by Kelly Clarkson
This song was written for the winner of American Idol, and both Clarkson and Justin Guarini sang it live during the final showdown.
Singer's Choice Week: "A Moment Like This" by Kelly Clarkson
Like "Before Your Love," this song was also written as a single for the winner. It's pretty much Clarkson's coronation song before the finale itself.
Finale: "A Moment Like This" by Kelly Clarkson
It's the perfect song for the moment, even though we totally saw it coming.