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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Time now for music. And our guest today made some news this past week when she seemed to endorse Ron Paul for president. Pop singer Kelly Clarkson saw her record sales jump 422 percent in a day as a result.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRONGER")

KELLY CLARKSON: (Singing) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Stand a little taller, doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone...

RAZ: This is a track off Clarkson's latest record, "Stronger." She burst onto the scene in 2002 when she became the first winner of "American Idol." She'd go on to win Grammys, break records on the charts and earn the affection of critics. One called her voice the best in pop music history. But unlike many of her contemporaries, Kelly Clarkson has managed to retain her authenticity, and you can trace that back to early 2000 when, on the strength of her voice, Kelly Clarkson was offered a record deal. She was unknown at the time, just 18 years old. She moved to L.A. from Texas to pursue her dream, and yet when that deal came around, she turned it down.

CLARKSON: The one contract that I was offered - this was my favorite thing 'cause I deal with it on the daily now - I literally weighed 124. They told me if I lost 20 pounds that they'd sign me. And I was like, wow.

RAZ: Wow.

CLARKSON: And I had, like, an eating disorder in high school for a bit, so it's like, I think God kind of put me through that to, you know, make me stronger for when situations like that kind of come up and still come up, obviously.

RAZ: You - that time in L.A. after high school, those four or five months you lived there, they were kind of a disaster, right?

CLARKSON: Oh, my God. I lived, like, on a mattress, like, with this crazy girl. We lived in, like, a room with, like, these people's house and, like, they didn't allow us to use their kitchen. So we had, like, a little refrigerator. Like, it was really funny. But I mean, at the time...

RAZ: You were waiting tables and things like that?

CLARKSON: Oh, I had, like, four jobs. I worked for like, coffee shops, waitressing. I did extra jobs. After that four or five months of living out there, we saved money to move into this apartment. And literally, the day that the crazy girl and I moved into the apartment, it burned down.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CLARKSON: So, I mean, I had to move home because I, like, didn't have anywhere to go. So, yeah, I drove home, and then I ended up trying out for "Idol" right when I got home.

RAZ: Simon Cowell, he has called you, hands down, the most talented "Idol" winner ever. Here's what he said about you.

SIMON COWELL: Oh, the best, by and large, is Kelly Clarkson. We got so lucky with Kelly Clarkson, season one, because she's not just a great "American Idol" winner, she's up there now with some of the greatest singers in the world. I mean, I think she's as good as someone like Celine Dion.

RAZ: That's pretty high praise from a guy with a reputation for being a complete jerk.

CLARKSON: I actually never heard that before. I don't even know what to say that. That was really cool. I have never heard that before.

RAZ: I mean, he's comparing you to one of the greatest living singers in the world. And even critics who don't necessarily like the style of your music, they admit you have this incredible range.

CLARKSON: Honestly, I just think we all have special gifts, everyone. You know, obviously, some are more noticeable than others and that's why there's the limelight. Everybody's in it. But since I was younger, people had said: This is, like, your gift. This is what you're supposed to do. And I had felt that every time I'm on stage. And so there was no other option.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. KNOW IT ALL")

CLARKSON: (Singing) Mr. know it all, well, you think you know it all, but you don't know a thing at all. Ain't, ain't it something, y'all...

RAZ: In the video for the first single off this album, "Mr. Know It All," you stand in front of this wall of newspaper clippings and talk about...

CLARKSON: Yeah, a wall of doubt.

RAZ: ...talk about your relationship status, your weight, your sexuality. Do you feel at times that the press coverage of you has been unfair, or is it part of the territory that comes with celebrity?

CLARKSON: Oh, I think both. I think it's supply and demand. I think people want to hear bashing things. Sometimes I think that's what saddens me more than anything, because I have a really tough skin.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. KNOW IT ALL")

CLARKSON: (Singing) Oh, you think that you know me, know me. That's why I'm leaving you lonely, lonely, 'cause baby you don't know a thing about me. You don't know a thing about me...

RAZ: I want to ask you about control, Kelly, because...

CLARKSON: Words, yeah.

RAZ: ...well, in a good way. I mean, you've been pretty stubborn. You've been...

CLARKSON: Yeah.

RAZ: ...you're known for being pretty stubborn...

CLARKSON: (Unintelligible).

RAZ: ...all right, about maintaining control over your image, over your songs. Is that a difficult thing to do in your life?

CLARKSON: Oh, my gosh, yes. And if anybody says otherwise, they're lying.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CLARKSON: The question I love to get asked is: What's the hardest part of your job? And literally, the answer is probably real sad, but it's to just to be me. Like, it's really hard, because I think people, you know, have a set idea of what a pop star should be. And my whole point is like, well, if I'm the pop star, then it should be whatever I am. There's, you know, room for Katy Perrys and Adeles and Rihannas and Lady Gagas and Ke$has and me and Pinks. I think what's great about all of us is that we represent something different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARK SIDE")

CLARKSON: (Singing) Nobody's a picture perfect, but we're worth it, you know that we're worth it. Will you love me even with my dark side. Like a diamond...

RAZ: My guest is Kelly Clarkson. Her new record is called "Stronger." I want to ask you about the song, "The War is Over."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WAR IS OVER")

CLARKSON: (Singing) I watched the days rush by me like a river, I shouldn't wait but I'm scared to touch the water.

RAZ: That song seems to have struck a chord with a lot of your fans. What is it about?

CLARKSON: It's actually one, I didn't write, but it's actually the first song we recorded for this record because everybody loved it. It tells a beautiful story that everybody relates to. Fans will come up to me and they'll be like, oh, I relate that my family or I relate that to an ex or I relate that to my sister in our relationship. Like, that song for me personally has a lot to do with the industry. I'm just going drown myself with people who have the same vision and the same goals as myself. I'm not going to recognize the bashing. I'm not going to recognize the negativity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WAR IS OVER")

CLARKSON: (Singing) I won't let you pull me in 'cause I know you're gonna win.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) The war is over.

CLARKSON: (Singing) But the war is over. 'Cause I won't fight you anymore, I've never been so sure.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) The war is over.

CLARKSON: (Singing) ) 'Cause the war is over...

RAZ: Let me ask you some true or false questions.

CLARKSON: OK.

RAZ: You have 12 tattoos, including one behind each ear.

CLARKSON: I have 13 now.

RAZ: Sorry, that's 13.

CLARKSON: No, it's a new one, so...

RAZ: OK, fine. You own nine guns, I read.

CLARKSON: I do, nine.

RAZ: And you sleep with a Colt 45.

CLARKSON: Yes.

RAZ: That's true?

CLARKSON: Yes. Well, I live alone.

RAZ: I got it. Fair enough, OK.

CLARKSON: So, yeah, I live alone, so I'm not going out like that. I got no chance if some man breaks into my house.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CLARKSON: So, yeah, I have a gun.

RAZ: Sometimes you drink Chivas and sing karaoke to Guns 'N Roses.

CLARKSON: Yeah. But sometimes I drink vodka and do that as well.

RAZ: But if you show up and do karaoke, I mean, does it quickly fill up with people saying, oh, my God. Kelly Clarkson's in there doing karaoke.

CLARKSON: Oh, yeah. And by that time, I'm so drunk, I'm like, yeah, let's duet. Like, I'm like dueting with people, so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: Kelly, this past week you made some news, of course...

CLARKSON: Oh, Ron Paul. Yeah.

RAZ: ...in Iowa. Ron Paul...

CLARKSON: Who knew? Wow.

RAZ: You endorsed him on the Internet. You said you really liked him, and your sales - your record sales actually rose, I read, 442 percent. Talk a little bit about him. What do you like about him?

CLARKSON: Well, first of all, I love that, like, something I tweet makes CNN. That says something about our world right there. But, you know, first of all, it was just funny. I was, like, sitting at home with my brother watching Leno. And, you know, he was on Leno, and I was like, man, I was like, I like this dude. I liked him the last time around. I like a lot, you know, he believes in states having their rights, and I think that that's very important.

And I've always been about less government, and so I like him. And that's - it's as simple as that, man. That's all I said. I was like, oh, man, I like Ron Paul. Too bad he's probably not going to get the nomination, but I, you know, I like him. And then the whole freakin' world, like, it went into a frenzy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CLARKSON: And everybody started tweeting me, and it was just crazy. But I do enjoy, like, being able to go back and forth with people and find out stuff, you know, about not even Ron Paul but maybe stuff I didn't know about Obama or Mitt Romney or whoever. But like, I think it really got blown out of proportion, so.

RAZ: And you - I mean, Ron Paul...

CLARKSON: I did enjoy the sales, I'll tell you that.

RAZ: Oh, that, I'm sure. And maybe Ron Paul will get the Clarkson bump.

CLARKSON: I know. I know. I was like, hell, I'm going to start endorsing everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CLARKSON: I was like I'm just going to start saying names about stuff to get people to buy my album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRONGER")

CLARKSON: (Singing) Think you got the best of me, you think you got the last laugh. I bet you think that everything good is gone...

RAZ: That's Kelly Clarkson. Her new record is called "Stronger." Kelly Clarkson, thank you so much for joining us.

CLARKSON: Oh, thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRONGER")

CLARKSON: (Singing) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller, doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone. What doesn't kill you makes a fighter, footsteps even lighter, doesn't mean I'm over 'cause you're gone. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger, just me, myself and I.

RAZ: And for Saturday, that's WEEKEND on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Check out our weekly podcast, the Best of WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. You can find it at iTunes or npr.org/weekendatc. We post a new episode every Sunday night. For audio outtakes from interviews and previews of what's coming up, you can follow me on Twitter @nprguyraz. Tomorrow, we'll look ahead to the New Hampshire primary and take a look back with previous winners Pat Buchanan and Gary Hart, plus self-publishing phenomenon Amanda Hocking. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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