BEVERLY HILLS — Kelly Clarkson is thrilled with Thankful as the title of her highly anticipated debut album, but there was one idea that got away.
"I loved the title Pigeonhole This, but [management was] like, 'Some people might take that bad,' " the sugar-sweet Texan said at her record label's office on Friday. "It's just so funny how people try and pigeonhole you into one thing, [but] my album might as well just say, Pigeonhole This, 'cause you've got some rock, you've got some rock alternative type stuff, you've got a little hint of country, you've got soulful ballads and, you know, groove tracks. Like, it's so different ... I think people saw a little versatility from me on the show, and that's what they liked, so that's what I gave them on the CD."
The "show" Clarkson is referring to is of course "American Idol," the highly rated talent search the former waitress won last summer. Since then, the singer has been hitting recording studios whenever she can find breaks from touring and filming her first movie, "From Justin to Kelly," which opens June 13 (see "Kelly Clarkson Dispels Dating Rumors, Clears Up Movie Plot").
Combine the scattered recording process with Clarkson's diverse taste and you have a recipe for music stew, as fans will see when the disc hits stores Tuesday (April 15).
"I grew up with three totally different parents that were into different music," Clarkson said. "My stepfather is into Willie Nelson and Elvis and all that kind of stuff. And my real father is into Mariah and Whitney and Aretha all those soulful singers. My mom is into more, like, adult contemporary — Celine Dion, Barbra [Streisand], Bette [Midler], all those types of things. And then my brother is a big influence on me. He's like 10 years older than me, so you always wanna be around your cool brother and hang out, so I grew up loving Guns N' Roses. I was all about Metallica. I was all about all those bands, and I still am. I love Aerosmith and No Doubt. I have so many influences on me that are so different. And even country. I love Reba McEntire. I could listen to her all the time."
Thankful includes Clarkson's record-breaking "A Moment Like This" (see " 'American Idol' Kelly Clarkson Crushes Singles Chart Competition") and similar sap, but it stretches into other territories, including what can only be called "dirrty pop."
The album's first single, "Miss Independent," was co-written by Christina Aguilera and producer Rhett Lawrence (98°) and has enough attitude and funk to hang with Britney, Avril or Pink any day (see "Kelly Clarkson Single Co-Written By Christina Aguilera").
"When I first heard the title I was not excited at all," Clarkson admitted. "Can you give me a break? Another woman song. 'I'm woman, hear me roar!' And [management was] like, 'No, but the difference with it is that you no longer need to be Miss Independent.' Like, I can be Miss Independent, but I can also let someone in. It's kind of the reverse role on that, so I was like, 'Oh, that's so cool. That's such a cool idea.' "
Clarkson hasn't yet met Aguilera, despite both of them being on RCA, but she considers herself a big fan. "You can hear a lot of her [influence] in ['Miss Independent'], especially the hook," Kelly said. "And once you hear the song, it's constantly in your head. Believe me, I cannot get it out!"
"Miss Independent" is one of three songs Clarkson had a hand in writing for Thankful, the others being "You Thought Wrong" and "Thankful," both collaborations with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and the Underdogs (Justin Timberlake). The former features a guest appearance from fellow "American Idol" finalist Tamyra Gray, one of Clarkson's closest friends since the show wrapped.
"I wrote it in like 30 minutes during [filming of] the movie," Clarkson recalled of "You Thought Wrong." "I called Tamyra and I was like, 'Dude, I got this really cool song that I really think would be hot as a duet.' When I wrote it, I wasn't even thinking of a duet, but then I was like, 'This would be really cool to kind of play off each other.' She was like, 'Well, sing it for me.' We always show each other our music. We don't really show anybody else, but we'll show each other. So, I sang it for her on the phone and ... we got it put together."
Once Pigeonhole This was ruled out as a title, Clarkson thought of her favorite song on the record, "Thankful," and knew it was important to give props to those who helped her get where she is today — even Simon Cowell. He and all the judges are thanked in her comprehensive liner notes.
"I want to thank the judges mainly [because] I am so great with critics now," Clarkson explained. "I'm nervous about my album coming out more for my fans — like, I'm hoping they like it — not for the critics, because I've had Simon every week telling me 'That was just awful' or 'You could have done better.' So it rolls right off my back now."