Top Singles – Kelly Clarkson

Since winning American Idol in 2002, Kelly Clarkson has released 37 singles. Here is my definitive ranking of her discography. Her catalog and my feelings are updated as of April 2019. This excludes “Don’t You Wanna Stay”, which I count under Jason Aldean’s catalog.

37 – I Do Not Hook Up (2009, All I Ever Wanted)

There is only one song from Kelly Clarkson’s catalog that makes me cringe. The single is “I Do Not Hook Up”. I find the subject matter to be in poor taste.

Katy Perry originally penned the track. I cannot unhear her recording a version of this and suddenly everything makes sense. It’s an inferior version of “Hot n Cold”.

36 – I’ll Be Home for Christmas (2011, iTunes Session)

When an artist has nothing special to offer, I find the practice of covering songs unnecessary and lazy. The track benefits from her big voice. On the other hand, she gets to explore a style of music her career has not touched at this point.

For my own taste, I am fine with the original. Her version doesn’t hurt. But neither does the revival do much.

35 – Tie It Up (2013)

I am a fan of all her attempts at making country music… except this one.

Talking about the good things first – she sounds like she’s enjoying singing the hell out of this song. She’s having a ton of fun. She’s rocking it out. I also applaud her willingness to experiment. I do find the product raw and the lyrics requiring more finesse.

34 – One Minute (2007, My December)

Many would argue that the peak of Kelly Clarkson’s artistic freedom was My December. I would agree. But it also exposed the areas she needed to improve on.

“One Minute” sounded like a poor imitation of “Gone” from Breakaway. If I were in her shoes, I would’ve released other songs from the album. This has album track written all over it. To an extent, the production makes it even sound like a demo.

33 – Christmas Eve (2017)

Kelly Clarkson is gunning to be the Queen of Christmas. Mariah has the most recognisable hit in this genre (Hello, “All I Want for Christmas is You”. But with Kelly’s consecutive releases and recordings, she seems to take the holiday season seriously.

“Christmas Eve” pales in comparison to “Underneath the Tree”. I find the track less catchy, almost absent a hook that will be inescapable for the period. But her big voice, the joyous melody, and the festive spirit continue to radiate through this song.

32 – Broken and Beautiful (2019, UglyDolls Soundtrack)

With the passage of time, hopefully “Broken and Beautiful” grows on me. For now, I find myself underwhelmed with the soundtrack single from UglyDolls.

Over the years, only a handful of songs made for film become worthy additions to the year’s best. I get a sense that this isn’t one of them.

31 – Dark Side (2012, Stronger)

Songs talking about acceptance and inner beauty are at a risk of sounding corny and preachy. Unfortunately, I belong to that camp and feel that this is at the boring end of her discography.

The upside is that the remixes to this track catapulted her to the top of the dance charts. And if you listen real close, I hear the makings of a great EDM jam. I have never experienced this playing at a club. But I imagine I would enjoy grooving to it.

30 – Invincible (2015, Piece by Piece)

I forgot Kelly Clarkson released “Invincible”. Nor do I remember what the song sounded like. I had to give the track another listen.

She belts out crazy high notes in the bridge (as she does with most songs). But for my personal taste, the production is over-engineered. The “beat down, beat down…” section of the refrain feels awkward. The fact that I could not recall much about the single makes me feel this is decent but safe and generic. 

29 – Low (2003, Thankful)

If Kelly Clarkson recorded a song originally intended for Brian Adams, “Low” is how I would’ve imagined the track to be like. That isn’t a criticism of the single. But that does mean the sound is dated.

If this were released in the late 80s or early 90s, she would’ve had another classic rock tune under her belt.

28 – Before Your Love (2002)

Kelly Clarkson got lucky. Nowadays, the winners of reality TV competitions get shit as their singles for coronation or debut. She received two that were far from crap.

“Before Your Love” is not groundbreaking. But the song is decent enough to highlight her vocal prowess and catchy enough to attract an audience outside of the show.

27 – Sober (2007, My December)

I give kudos to Kelly for standing up to music moguls. She gave them a piece of her mind. She struggled to gain creative control but she SORT OF won that battle.

“Sober” pierces through your heart. I can tell she’s singing from a very personal place. However, for my own taste, the production could’ve used a little more refining and was its eventual downfall.

26 – Heartbeat Song (2015, Piece by Piece)

Among Kelly’s lead singles, “Heartbeat Song” has to be my least favourite.

As time passed, my expectations of the music she creates increased. With this song, I felt she was in the same place creatively. I just wasn’t.

25 – Wrapped in Red (2014, Wrapped in Red)

Generally, I find Christmas albums lazy. Artists cover the classics and expect fans to gobble up any material they produce. Kelly Clarkson took the extra mile. She wrote and recorded new songs that will hopefully turn into classics as time passes by.

In particular, this song speaks of unrequited love and works on a melody that’s less upbeat than most Christmas songs. I prefer a more cliche tune. But I give her props for creating something new where most prefer to just repeat the same thing over and over again.

24 – All I Ever Wanted (2010, All I Ever Wanted)

Until I wrote this article, I never knew “All I Ever Wanted” was a cover. My ignorance has nothing to do with the sound of the original. But I feel choosing a revival as the title of the album generally doesn’t happen. More so, the song blends well with the rest of her catalog.

This is far from her best break-up song. Her top-tiered efforts exude more aggression and anger, while she’s relatively upbeat and exercises restraint here.

23 – Heat (2018, Meaning of Life)

There was a time in music when songwriting and making records were two separate activities. An artist need not engage in both and can solely act as the driving force behind the vocals.

“Heat” is an example of Kelly Clarkson singing the crap out of a tune that was meant to bring the house down.  Her words are nowhere in the lyrics. But she does add the flavour necessary to bring the track to its full potential.

22 – Cry (2010, All I Ever Wanted)

Kelly Clarkson has released so many hits I was bound to forget some.

“Cry” is a vocal spectacle that had limited release and promotion. But more than the high notes she hits, the melancholic and tragic mood the song brings is enough to lure you into a space of sorrow and despair. That’s what great songs are about – bringing you to a world of their own.

21 – Never Again (2007, My December)

The anticipation for Kelly Clarkson’s third album was at an all time high. She was coming from her most successful record yet, Breakaway. She chose to break the mould that was being built for her.

She took a risk and went edgier and even more rock. While the appetite for the new direction was nowhere, she earned my respect. She took the road less travelled and was willing to sacrifice a working formula.

20 – I Don’t Think About You (2018, Meaning of Life)

When I was a kid, I remember watching VH1 Divas Live. The show featured some of the biggest vocal powerhouses of the 90s generation. Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston would belt out top notch ballads.

If the program managed to make a comeback, I imagine Kelly Clarkson would be one of the few ones qualified. This track would’ve been a perfect addition to the setlist and a performance that would be unforgettable for decades.

19 – The Trouble with Love is (2003, Thankful)

“The Trouble with Love is” would’ve probably decimated all songs in its way had the track been released in the 90s. The single just screams of 90s Pop and R&B that unfortunately fell out of favour at the turn of the century.

I am personally impressed how far she’s come since. But this recording is not my go-to tune to reminisce her musical journey.

18 – Walk Away (2006, Breakaway)

By the time Kelly Clarkson released “Walk Away”, she had four consecutive hit singles from her sophomore album. Personally, I was rooting for “Gone” to be selected. But I understand why she chose this instead.

Her spunk is infectious. Most of all, there is no better way to showcase her artistic identity than putting out a song she co-wrote.

17 – A Moment Like This (2002)

There aren’t a lot of coronation songs that end up being gems. Luckily for Kelly, she was handed what is arguably one of the best and most memorable tunes in reality TV competition.

It makes me wonder if her fate would’ve changed significantly if a bland and boring tune ended up on her lap instead. I can conclusively say that sealed the deal for most of the previous winners.

16 – Don’t Waste Your Time (2007, My December)

“Don’t Waste Your Time” flopped hard. Coming from Breakaway, I felt heartbroken seeing her songs discarded by radio and the general public one after the other.

In my view, this single is the most underrated release from My December.  The evolution of her style from assertive to subtle first manifested in this track. This is one of her lyrical compositions that I actually admire and I felt didn’t get the credit it deserved.

15 – Catch My Breath (2012, Greatest Hits – Chapter One)

For the first single from a greatest hits compilation, Kelly Clarkson made the right choice.

“Catch My Breath” is not trying to be epic. But the song captures what toll a decade of making hits would be like. The song is easy on the ears and a welcome change of pace for her catalog.

14 – Mr. Know It All (2011, Stronger)

Kelly Clarkson has had her fair share of angry tunes you can rock out to. “Mr. Know It All” is still full of resentment. But the tune is on the subtler and restrained side.

I thought the title sounded tacky. But she managed to pull it off and make a classic that a generation appreciates.

13 – People Like Us (2013, Greatest Hits – Chapter One)

I was surprised the song didn’t shoot through the roof and owned the charts. This has “Raise Your Glass” vibes written all over it. I thought freaks and misfits like myself would never get tired of empowering anthems celebrating diversity and our differences.

I was wrong. But I still enjoy this a lot.

12 – Don’t Rush featuring Vince Gill (2012, Greatest Hits – Chapter One)

Every now and then, Kelly Clarkson taps on her inner country. Maybe I’m just a fan. I don’t pretend to know a lot about the genre. But her crossovers generally sound authentic and takes me to a different place.

If I wanted my mind and spirit to be transported to a relaxed and distant location, “Don’t Rush” is my jam.

11 – Love so Soft (2017, Meaning of Life)

“Love so Soft” marked Kelly’s freedom and her first song under a new record label. She has never sounded so liberated. Her vocals are unrestrained.

While I cannot make out the identity of her artistry with the new album, she does come off as having a lot of fun and putting sass and class back into music.

10 – Underneath the Tree (2013, Wrapped in Red)

“Underneath the Tree” is nowhere close to achieving the commercial success and cultural impact of “All I Want for Christmas is You”. However, the tune from Kelly is probably the next biggest holiday track since Mariah’s release.

When I first heard the track, I could not make out Kelly’s words in the chorus. It was a mouthful. All I knew wass that the hook was on fire and the festive spirit was radiating.

9 – Breakaway (2004, Breakaway)

“Breakaway” was a sleeper hit. The song manages to creep into your system without notice. Avril Lavigne wrote the track. But she never felt the single was worthy of making the tracklist for Let Go

There is nothing flashy or showy about the recording. However, the subtlety and simplicity of the composition is what drew me in and prevented me from getting sick of having it on repeat.

8 – Behind These Hazel Eyes (2005, Breakaway)

“Behind These Hazel Eyes” made Kelly Clarkson a real contender on two fronts. She was gunning to be the ultimate pop rock queen of her generation. We had Alanis Morissette who started strong but had underwhelming reception after. Avril Lavigne had the sound but not the persona to pull it off. Kelly seemed to be the right bet.

Second, she proved to be a chameleon in the music video making scene. I remember how everyone looked forward to the visual direction her videos would take and how TRL went gaga for her during this era.

7 – Already Gone (2009, All I Ever Wanted)

While there is a lot of dirt in the song’s back story, there is a gem in the fruit of Kelly and Ryan Tedder’s collaboration. She felt cheated and found the song as a ripoff of “Halo”.

While I don’t find the similarity, the alleged source material isn’t a bad tune to draw inspiration from. I cannot choose sides as both are geniuses on their own accounts.

6 – Miss Independent (2003, Thankful)

The vocal gymnastics that Kelly demonstrated in “Miss Independent” is a rarity. When these crazy notes are in play, I normally hear them in a ballad. But she goes full out in an upbeat, fast-paced song.

In the process, she has created an unfair expectation on herself years later to deliver the same power and passion.

5 – “My Life Would Suck Without You” (2009, All I Ever Wanted)

When I first heard about the lead single from Kelly Clarkson’s fourth studio album, I was worried. The title screamed of pettiness and lack of artistic growth.  To my surprise, she demonstrated the opposite.

People attribute this release as an attempt to revive her “Since U Been Gone”-success. I see this comeback as her coming to terms with the necessary but unhealthy relationship with Clive Davis. If the track didn’t have Kelly’s vocals and the pop rock melody she has perfected, the song would’ve definitely tanked.

4 – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (2012, Stronger)

When Kelly Clarkson released “Stronger”, she was on her fifth studio album and 10 years into her career. I didn’t expect her to still top the Billboard Hot 100. I’m glad I was wrong.

The single continues her streak of empowering themes that act as confidence boosters and mood uplifters. She makes the passive player in your DNA to an active agent ready to take on the world’s challenges.

3 – “Because of You” (2005, Breakaway)

Initially, I mistook “Because of You” as another love song. To an extent, you can argue the track is. What shines through is the raw emotion she conveys. She turns a troubled relationship with her father into a cathartic piece of art.

Many criticise Kelly’s songwriting ability. But we can all agree she did well on this one.

2 – Piece by Piece (2015, Piece by Piece)

Kelly Clarkson’s live performance of “Piece by Piece” is one of television’s best moments! I cannot help but be moved and be as close to crying as Keith Urban. No doubt, the stripped down version with a simple piano accompaniment is better than the overly engineered album cut.

She comes full circle – detailing the childhood trauma she experienced, to the recovery that was made possible by the love Brandon provides.

1 – “Since U Been Gone” (2004, Breakaway)

“Since U Been Gone” was the song that led me to stan Kelly Clarkson. She proved she had a career outside of “American Idol” and can take creative control. She had a vision that went beyond pop. This conviction allowed her to break out and create a pop-rock persona she would be known for.

The single capitalised on our heartaches and turned this energy into strength and resilience. The initial verses sounded calm and composed. But the chorus offers heavy guitar riffs and off the chart vocals signalling a change of pace that people can rock out to.

Being down and broken are realities of life. But she managed to make the experience bearable, even enjoyable.

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