This may make you feel old, and it’s kind of crazy to realize… but this week, Kelly Clarkson releases her SEVENTH album, Piece by Piece. Many fantastic winners (and fantastic finalists) have graced the American Idol stage since Kelly was crowned the very first champion on Sept. 4, 2002, but she will always be the first, the pioneer — and, incredibly, almost 13 years later, she’s still as popular as ever, if not more so.
Let’s revisit that iconic Kodak (Theater) moment when her superstar career officially began, not just because it’s such a warm and fuzzy clip, but because it’s a chance to see poor Brian Dunkleman again:
Since that historic victory, Kelly has gone on to win three Grammys, three MTV Video Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, four American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, and two American Country Awards. Now a 32-year-old, happily married new mom, she’s still the most internationally successful Idol contestant, with 36 million single sales and 20 million album sales worldwide.
With a track record like that, it’s almost easy to forget she was ever on Idol in the first place, since she has established herself so solidly outside of the show. But of course, I never forgot. And neither did her millions of diehard fans.
In case you need a Kelly refresher, or if you’re just feeling nostalgic for some old-school Idol since the show’s glory days seem to be over, you can watch her entire Idol run here — from her adorable first audition (which didn’t even air until later in the season, after producers realized she wasn’t such an underdog after all) to her final performances of future singles “A Moment Like This” and “Before Your Love.” Check out her upward Idol trajectory, piece by piece.