Photo by Kevin HeesKelly Clarkson, how do you do it? Prefab celebrity status. The ringlets. "Breakaway." A Candies shoe campaign. Our Lord Jesus Christ. Your Japanese symbol neck tattoo. Personal knowledge of the wad behind "Seacrest, out!" And without even mentioning the 22-kiloton explosion of sonic wrath that was your first single, "A Moment Like This," or the Glitter That Dare Not Speak Its Name—because making fun of From Justin to Kelly is like playing a Connect Four drinking game; great idea in theory, but really just super tedious—it seems safe to say that you, Kelly Clarkson, are a solid beacon of suck. Yet: there's something about you that prevents you from being a total write-off. Unlike Lindsay Lohan—prematurely bitter and wizened—or Jessica Simpson—plays it so dumb we assume for humanity's sake she's faking—you seem quiet. You seem realistic. Sincere, even, like, "Oh, shit, really? This is my job now? A'ight, giddyup, I guess." And far more important than your ass-terrible music is that you understand American Idol is a cash-grab playing on the vacuous existences of attention-starved normal people everywhere—people who know they're not especially talented or unique but have a dire Star-magazine-revenue-boosting need to believe they're somehow part of the cultural dialogue. Sure, your songs are the musical equivalent of American Eagle Outfitters, but that's because you are American Eagle Outfitters. The problem with our reality-TV-laced pop-culture continuum is that now normal people are a part of it, and unlike a Crispin Glover or even a latter-day Tom Cruise, they usually lack easy charisma and intrigue. Kelly, your longevity (two successful albums in a way-oversaturated market is saying something) hasn't been repeated by any Idol winner since, and you've proved to have more sustainability than any Survivor. Somehow, there's something slightly gripping about you: a pug-ly perfectly sweet girl, plucked out of Texas (probably) and thrown into the entertainment pantheon without losing your mind or anorexercizing your way down to size negative four or even really giving much of a shit. You've just stayed so normal. Bland, yes, but there's something to be said for winning the game with "ordinary." So: How do you do it, Kelly?
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KELLY CLARKSON AT THE BREN EVENTS CENTER, UC IRVINE, CORNER OF W. PELTASON & MESA ROAD, IRVINE, (949) 824-5000. WED., 8 P.M. $43.50. ALL AGES.