In September 2002, A Moment Like This, the debut single by the very first winner of American Idol, was released.
14 years later, Kelly Clarkson is one of the biggest female solo artists in the world. She has come a long way from serving cocktails and working as a telemarketer.
Three US number one albums and three chart-topping singles – A Moment Like This, My Life Would Suck Without You and Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – only scratch the surface of the impact Clarkson has had on the music industry.
Back in 2002, despite the success of Pop Idol in the UK, American Idol launched during the quiet summer season, when most major TV shows are off-air and audiences are low. But Clarkson, armed with a versatile, pitch-perfect soprano voice that record labels had previously rejected for sounding ‘too black’, gave the show a rags-to-riches underdog story that propelled it from a modest 9.9 million viewers for its opening episode to nearly 23 million for its finale.
Idol signed off for the final time this spring after 15 seasons after several years of declining ratings. But for a record seven consecutive years it was the highest-rated TV show in the US. Over 38 million viewers tuned in for the season two finale – the kind of numbers normally only achieved by the Super Bowl.
In addition to Clarkson, Idol gave us internationally recognised names such as Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (seventh, season three), country superstar Carrie Underwood (winner, season four) and Adam Lambert (runner-up, season eight), who recently finished a world tour fronting Queen.
A Moment Like This is a by-the-numbers ‘winner’s song’ of the kind which will be familiar to X Factor fans everywhere but it unmistakably showcases the qualities of a voice that effortlessly eased into the more rock-oriented sound with which Clarkson has become more commonly associated. It topped the US chart for two weeks and became the best-selling single of 2002.
Speaking of The X Factor, UK readers will probably be more familiar with the cover released by Leona Lewis, who won the show’s third season in 2006. Her version shot straight to number one and, despite not being released until December 20th, was the second biggest seller of the year. Like Clarkson, Lewis has also had three number one singles in her home country, while Bleeding Love was number one on both sides of the Atlantic (just as My Life Would Suck Without You did).
I much prefer the Kelly Clarkson version but judge for yourself below.
A song for Saturday