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The Voice's Kelly Clarkson Has a Surprising Connection to Madonna
The Queen of Covers has channeled the Queen of Pop for her renditions of songs like "Take a Bow" and "Like a Prayer."
The pop star and longtime Voice Coach was first introduced to the world in 2002 when auditioning in the inaugural season of American Idol. Then a 20-year-old cocktail waitress from Texas, Clarkson made a lasting impression with panelists Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and current America’s Got Talent Judge and executive producer Simon Cowell.
Thankfully, Clarkson didn’t go for second best (baby) when opting to sing Madonna’s 1989 hit, “Express Yourself.”
Kelly Clarkson sings Madonna in American Idol audition
A quick internet search will reveal not one but two versions of Clarkson’s American Idol audition. The first was for the regional tryouts in Dallas, where she sang Madonna’s certified-gold hit.
The second would be her first televised audition in Pasadena, California, where she sang Etta James’ “At Last.”
Dressed in a hand-sewn, strapless shirt made of denim, Clarkson explained to hosts Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman that she’d pursue a career in fashion, should her rendition of “Express Yourself” in Dallas not work out.
Jackson — who said he worked with Madonna on the particular song — switched spots with Clarkson in a hilarious take where Clarkson played judge and allowed Jackson to move into the next round with his version of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Of course, Jackson, Abdul, and Cowell let Clarkson pass go. She ultimately won the entire competition as the series’ first winner, setting her forth on a mega-successful musical journey.
Clarkson Regularly Channels Madonna, The Queen of Pop
“Express Yourself” might have been the first time audiences heard KC sing a Madonna hit, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Since the early 1980s, the Queen of Pop and cultural icon that is Madonna has given the world hit after hit, with tunes like “Vogue,” “Papa Don’t Preach," and “Like a Virgin,” to name just a few. It’s no wonder why Clarkson — once dubbed by Time as the “undisputed queen of covers” — is such a fan.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarkson gave fans a “perfect” cover of Madonna’s chart-topping single, “Like a Prayer.” Clarkson recorded the song as part of The Kelly Clarkson Show’s Kellyoke segment, then renamed “Quaraoke” (goes ’80s), as it was recorded outside the studio to maintain social distancing.
In the September 12, 2022, Episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show, the “Miss Independent” singer channeled Madonna once more, this time singing “Music,” the title track from Madonna’s 2000 album. Clarkson’s cover was included as part of a Kellyoke road trip special featuring covers by Willie Nelson, Taylor Swift, and Aretha Franklin.
As the song goes, “Music makes the people come together!”
Most recently, Clarkson and R&B singer Babyface sang a beautiful duet of Madonna’s “Take a Bow” in the February 20, 2023, Episode of her talk show's Songs & Stories segment.
An awe-struck Clarkson met Madonna at the 2006 Grammys
In February 2006, videos from Entertainment Tonight circulated on the internet, showing Clarkson meeting Madonna in a look-worthy encounter at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards. Madonna opened the show by performing “Hung Up” from her Grammy Award-winning comeback album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, wearing a leotard-type outfit that revealed her legs.
Clarkson — winning two Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Since U Been Gone” and Best Pop Vocal Album for Breakaway — was “totally stunned” to meet Madonna backstage.
Clarkson told Madonna. “I wish I had your thighs,” to which Madonna replied that she’d send them over.
“I just met Madonna!” Clarkson told reporters. “She thinks I’m weird. I asked for her thighs. It’s cool. Oh, my God, did you see them? I got big ol’ Texas thighs, not fit, shaped yoga thighs.”
How to Catch Up with Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson announced her new 10-day Las Vegas residency, Chemistry: An Intimate Evening, for her 10th studio album, Chemistry, released June 23, 2023. She cited her busy work schedule and school-aged children as why she won’t be taking the new album on tour, though the self-proclaimed Broadway lover teased she has something “in the works” for the big stage.