We know firsthand how incredible Kelly Clarkson is live — we recently died and went to pop heaven checking out her Troubadour show — but that shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the powerhouse vocalist has been delivering fierce and fiery performances her entire career. In celebration of her Stronger album release, we went back in time to find Kelly’s most memorable live performances, from her introduction on American Idol to her soaking, kick-ass number at the VMAs — we even included a whiskey-fueled performance she didn’t even plan! Check out our Top 5 below, and leave your favorites in the comments.
5. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” on American Idol Season 1, 2002
Kelly had more amazing American Idol moments than we can fit here — she didn’t win the show for nothin’, folks — but her cover of Aretha Franklin’s song might be her star-defining moment. (And that incredibly high belt at the end! You’ve still got our vote ten years later, Kelly.)
4. “My Life Would Suck Without You” for Radio 1′s Live Lounge, 2009
One of our favorite songs by the pop star sounds even better in this acoustic performance.
3. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” with Metal Skool, 2006
Kelly was wearing the preppiest outfit of all time when she was called to the stage to perform with heavy metal rockers Metal Skool (who now go by the name Steel Panther). But don’t be distracted by her conservative clothes – she is more than rock-n-roll enough to drink Chivas Regal whiskey straight from the bottle, then bust out Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (alongside her buddy Ryan Key from Yellowcard). The nipple-lick moment at 2:42 and her screeching “I LOVE METAL!” is particularly entertaining.
2. “Up To The Mountain” on Idol Gives Back, 2007
Kelly has returned to the Idol stage many times since winning the title back in 2002, and always delivered a phenomenal performance. But it was her cover of Patty Griffin’s “Up To The Mountain” during Idol Gives Back in 2007 that really made us emotional.
1. “Since U Been Gone” at the 2005 MTV VMAs
Kelly, back in her blonde days, picked up two moonmen for her “Since U Been Gone” video. Her wet-and-wild performance is award-worthy, too — the pop star goes barefoot while busting out her ubiquitous single, and when water starts pouring over her and the crowd, we feel equally drenched in euphoria.