Music News

Letter to an American Idol

My dearest Kelly Clarkson,

We've been meaning to write you for quite some time now, but it's taken us a while to put our fingers on just what it is about you, my love, that irks us so damn much. Is it your soaring voice? Nope. Your girl-next-door appeal? Loving it. How about that toned midriff you've been sporting for the past year or so? If only you knew how much we actually think about that bare, milky white skin. Mmm.

Anyway. So what exactly is the problem?

Put all these wonderful little characteristics together, and the sum becomes the problem, because, you see, it's your pernicious cuteness that is your worst enemy. You're so cute, one has to wonder if maybe you were created in a lab somewhere, the perfect pop synthesis of beauty, personality, and (as quaint as this sounds) talent. You're so damn cute, in fact, it's becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint just who the real Kelly Clarkson is, especially since your latest album, Breakaway, sees you transformed from American Idol kewpie doll to Avril Lavigne-lite head-banger. Let's not even get into the nightly covers of songs like Annie Lennox's "Sweet Dreams" and Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart."

So we get it — you're slowly trying to circumvent the image thrust upon you, though any attempt to escape it entirely is probably wasted, but we really need to talk about ways to win you some serious credibility, and that, we're afraid to say, involves fixing the "cute problem." Light acne scarring, heavy drug use, and a cigarette habit will do. Five or six years of this, and you might just look as bad as Joplin did when she died. Nothing is less cute than skin that looks weathered by sand, an addict's twitch, or the hoarse voice of a smoker.

Here are a few other suggestions:

1. Stop catering to the kiddies. Tossing a song onto The Princess Diaries 2 soundtrack might score you a few new 8-year-old fans, but having your name appear anywhere on a playlist with Lindsay Lohan is a big mistake.

2. Grow up. Sure, you don't want to go all skanktastic like Pop Tart Princess Spears, but ditch the virginal appeal. Right now, it's almost impossible to imagine you kissing a boy, much less slipping into a bedroom with one.

3. (And this is the most important one): Don't just cover your musical heroes; study them like your life depends on it. Take some time off and learn the guitar if you have to. Adhere to the DIY policy and drop the producers — or at least find ones who haven't put out a No. 1 album for a major label. Sure, you're new to the game, but that excuse has been exhausted with this second album. Next time out, it's got to be you. All you. And yes, that's hard — it's a killer, actually. You've spent so much time being pushed and prodded by others, you've probably forgotten where their idea of you ends and where yours begins.

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Cole Haddon