Kelly Clarkson has gone and done it again.
This weekend’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” has fans reduced to beautiful disasters over how she can apparently master a cover in any genre. It’s no surprise considering how quickly Clarkson proved herself a vocal dynamo on the first season of American Idol, absolutely shattering the show’s glorified-karaoke format.
EW has previously gone on record and urged Clarkson to record a covers-only album, but I’ll take that plea one step further and suggest the specific tracks she’s previously performed during the beloved fan-request portion of her tours. Now that we’ve heard how stunning she sounds on low-quality YouTube videos, I’m confident that Kelly fanatics would throw down good money to experience these covers with a little production value.
The tracks I’ve chosen below aren’t necessarily her 17 best covers—because, let’s face it, every track is pretty much tied at No. 1—they’re most representative of her mind-blowing range as a performer and the friends she can (must!) enlist from her career.
While Kelly’s never really been in the pop tart conversation for a number of reasons, she’s taken on and improved Rihanna, Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera… you get the point. This stripped-down Katy Perry cover would be an equally delicate and rousing start to the album, encompassing the dynamics and crescendo she manages to fit in all her performances.
A pre-Stronger Tour cover, Annie Lennox’s melancholy melody showcases Kelly’s impossibly rich head voice, then digs down as she dips closer toward her alto powerhouse range.
Kelly doesn’t shy away from the classics. Witness this soulful Beatles redo.
Hard to believe this Aerosmith cover is 10 years old, but it’s an early indication of Kelly’s rocker-girl cred.
And now for something a little strummier! Mumford & Sons’ banjo stomper provides a fun upbeat break that segues us into…
A Little Bit Country Kelly. Though Kelly covered The Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” (and would absolutely kill Idol favorite “Sin Wagon”), she could more effectively show off her sassy side on this Pistol Annies track.
Things turn bluesy with this Etta James classic.
And a duet with John Legend on Eddy Arnold’s much-covered song takes adds depth to the soul section.
No Kelly Clarkson compendium would be complete without the number that served as an unpredictable breakout. While the other Idol contestants struggled with Big Band Week, Kelly channeled Bette Midler’s moxy-fueled For the Boys rendition of the Betty Hutton original, clearing her path to victory.
Keeping it in the Idol family, Kelly has the Steve Perry-esque tone to balance Clay Aiken’s silky tenor on this Journey riff.
Where Olivia Newton-John’s original for Grease was sweetly solid, Kelly’s rasp adds dimension, even desperation, to this love song.
Let’s not overthink Kelly’s cover of The Pretenders. Just clink on the link above, enjoy its easy flow, then behold the vocal gymnastics she jams into the last 40 seconds. Breath-taking.
The Rolling Stones’ acoustic masterpiece is a concert-cover mainstay, and you’d almost think How can Kelly do anything anyone else hasn’t? Oh, but she does. She’s also making up major ground for whoever let Susan Boyle loose on this thing.
Like the crescendo in “Wild Horses,” the zenith of this Prince of Egypt anthem is daunting. With fellow Idol season 1 vet Tamyra Gray standing in for Mariah Carey, Kelly takes on Whitney Effin’ Houston. The results will make a believer out of anyone. They’ll also lead us into the album’s epic conclusion.
Who would have thought to pair Alanis Morissette’s downtempo (and wildly underrated) meditation with Kings of Leon’s arena-filler? And, now that Kelly has, why didn’t anyone think of it sooner?
The epic to end all epics, Coldplay’s soaring anthem bookends the album in the same way “Wide Awake” opened it—Kelly takes a song whose original artist imbued with lyrical and musical brilliance, elevating it with her rafter-shaking vocal ability. Close your eyes and let it wash over you, blather, wince (in a good way), repeat.
Hidden track (remember when albums used to have those?): “Lose Yourself”
Or give yourself a fun rap break before enduring the Kelly Clarkson emotional roller coaster all over again. What can’t this woman do? If you previously thought the answer to that question was emulate (and even show up) Eminem, then you would be wrong.
Ball’s in your court, Kelly. Can this album (which I’m informally titling I’ll Cover You) finds its way into my ears some time in 2015?