Kelly Clarkson Isn’t Afraid To Get Political

Kelly Clarkson loves to tell us how ordinary she is. The pop star, whose eighth studio album Meaning of Life is out today, listens to Pink, watches Game of Thrones, reads Jane Austen, and posts gifs proclaiming how nervous she gets around famous people on Twitter. In a New York Times interview published last week, Clarkson returned from a bathroom break, proclaiming “Wow, I really had to pee! That was a lot!”

Since she first beamed into viewers’ homes on American Idol 15 years ago, Clarkson’s forthrightness — paired with her powerhouse voice — has been a large part of her appeal. Like a slightly more conservative Adele (Clarkson still sometimes says “frigging” instead of the other f word), she has always been lacking in pretension. And it’s worked for her; she’s had three No. 1 hits, won three Grammys, and sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.

In the last two years, Clarkson’s outspokenness has begun to take on a more pointed political and cultural — as opposed to purely personal — bent. She’s spoken out about legalizing marijuana, putting a woman on the $20 bill, Hillary Clinton’s run for president, the NFL protests, Heather Heyer and, well, pretty much everything. “I actually came with a brain, not just vocal cords, and it would be silly not to have an opinion,” she told the New York Times. “It would be a disgrace if I didn’t have an opinion.” Her new album — the first on her new label Atlantic Records — suggests that she’s firmly embracing her autonomy and willing to subtly address some of the larger cultural conversations she’s begun to be a part of.

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In an era where every aspect of American culture is politicized, some celebrities are navigating how to present their political opinions publicly for the first time. Throughout the 2016 election, many celebrities were vocal about politics, but few had a background similar to Clarkson’s: a white woman from a big red state (Texas), with a fanbase all over the country. Taylor Swift remained notably silent during the entire 2016 campaign, and the only public comment Carrie Underwood made about the election was a joke about running herself. Clarkson could have stayed quiet too, and her politicization is a risk. With artists’ political views so woven into the perception of their art, what she does or doesn’t say could determine not only whether her current fanbase stays loyal, but whether she continues to be relevant in the pop music landscape at all.

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