Originally published June 24, 2007.
To update a phrase from eternal chick flick Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Kelly Clarkson in a corner.
The Burleson native has weathered a storm of controversy over the release of her third album, My December, which is due in stores Tuesday. The scrutiny only intensified in recent weeks as the CD leaked onto the Internet and Clarkson fired her manager and scrapped her summer tour.
Its been rough, certainly, but Clarkson appears to be resolute about her choices.
"Its not about making people upset," she said during a June 18 taping of "Nissan Live Sets on Yahoo! Music." "Its about not settling."
Music industry veteran David Kahne, who produced My December, says the original American Idol had no intention of softpedaling her new material.
"She was completely clear about it," Kahne says, adding that Clarkson brought about 50 songs to their initial sessions. "She knew what it was supposed to be, and [since] shes such an emotional person, she doesnt know how to hide it."
Clarkson echoed that assessment in the July issue of Elle magazine.
"Ive sold more than 15 million records worldwide, and still nobody listens to what I have to say ... because Im 25 and a woman," she told Elle. "My resistance upsets a lot of people, because we could make a lot of money. And Im not hatin on money. ... Im just not comfortable doing things that dont feel like me."
So what impact will all this soul-baring have on Clarksons career?
Only time will tell, but if you ask her die-hard fans, the answer could be little to none. Internet message boards are littered with fan reaction to the leaked versions of My December, and its overwhelmingly positive. Radio seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach (as of June 16, the albums lead single, Never Again sat at No. 11 on Billboards Hot 100 Airplay chart). The media, which has eagerly followed every twist of the pre-release saga, initially framed the story as a heroic David vs. Goliath struggle, but more recently, some of the coverage devolved into jokes about yet another train-wreck starlet.
Nevertheless, "I think everyone really wants Kelly Clarkson to succeed," says Billboard analyst Keith Caulfield. "Theres just so much good will. Yeah, these are kind of large bumps but ... its not like this spells disaster for her."
Blender magazine Editor-In-Chief Craig Marks, who interviewed Clarkson for the magazines August cover story, says whats most surprising about the pre-release controversy is that it became known to the public.
"This is typically the kind of thing that record execs do a pretty good job of tamping down," Marks says.
Regardless, Clarkson is two days away from finding out just what kind of gamble shes made. Marks says Clarkson acknowledged that "a letdown was inevitable" following the astronomical success of her previous album, 2004s Breakaway.
"I think she knew shed made a record [this time] that was a little bit risky," Marks says. "She wanted to make it, she felt she had to make it and she did."
It was that sense of carpe diem that most struck producer Kahne when he began work on My December.
"She said, I have one chance to do this if I dont do it now, Im never going to get another chance," Kahne says. "I think [pressure] just builds up on [a person]. Its a tremendous experience to go through, growing and having that much success that fast."