It's said a great singer can perform the contents of a phone book convincingly—hand Kelly Clarkson a collection of Yellow Pages, and she'll likely validate the claim.
Clarkson, who won the first American Idol season after performing hits from the '60s, '70s and even an option from Burt Bacharach's catalog, proved in 2002 that there was no artist or genre she couldn't tackle ("Stuff Like That There," a big band hit that's widely regarded as her strongest performance, offers unarguable evidence). And though she's forged a successful contemporary pop career in the ensuing 13 years, she's still made a point to venture beyond what's radio-friendly if and when she pleases.
Clarkson's covers, which have included selections from Black Sabbath, India Arie and Tracy Chapman over the years, have collectively become the most sought-after facet of her tour stops—so much so, that in 2012, the Grammy-winner moved to make an official "Fan Request" segment a permanent staple of each show. And the tradition lives on: Since her most recent Piece by Piece tour kicked off last week, she's taken on "Stay" by Rihanna, *NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" and the Nick Jonas breakout, "Jealous."
For as long as the "Invincible" singer remains in the game, we can count on "Since U Been Gone" reproductions and echoes of "Stronger." But what makes Clarkson completely unique is that her show offers no road map—with a ticket, you might travel east, west or into outer space.
Below, we've rounded up our very favorite Clarkson-covers. Listen to the very best of Miss Independent traveling through musical-time, and tell us if you've got a favorite performance that we haven't included!
See what these artists looked like when their first albums were released:
11. "I Will Wait," Mumford + Sons
Where Kelly's voice typically wallops fans into unconsciousness, the Mumford + Sons cover afforded her the chance to gently lull them into reverie, instead. Enlisting a yodel-tone was a brand new frontier for Kelly at live shows, and a much-appreciated reminder that she's always experimenting.
10. "Heavy in Your Arms," Florence + the Machine
Florence Welch's voice is as identifiable as her fingerprint. So, instead of trying to mimic the inimitable, Kelly switched up the melancholy tune to fit her own tone, and delivered a thick, eerie ghost story.
9. "You and I," Lady Gaga
If Lady Gaga had to assume an alter-ego for her 2011 Video Music Awards performance of the song, perhaps she should have landed on Kelly Clarkson instead of Jo Calderone. Without blinking, Kelly matched the track's powerful bellows and raised Gaga an octave or two. Plus, the performance gave Kelly the chance to tap into her country roots, about which we'll never complain.
8. "Up to the Mountain," Patty Griffin
After Kelly performed the tune on 2007's Idol Gives Back special, Simon Cowell declared she was the best singer the show had ever produced, and Kelly moved to do his praise justice when she took the Patty Griffin song on the road for several encores. It's bluesy. It's country. It's powerful. If it featured a bit of Max Martin's poppy guitar production, it'd be Kelly in a nutshell.
7. "Someone Like You," Adele
If you set out to do Adele, you better do Adele right, and somehow, Kelly managed. Even more impressively, where Adele typically turns to falsetto to complete the song's "Don't forget me / I beg" lyric, Kelly reached into her toes to finish it in full voice. Maaaaan...
6. "Lies," The Black Keys
In a parallel universe, Kelly's a female Dan Auerbach, and forfeits the chance to perform pop anthems in arenas in favor of tearing up rock numbers in small, smoky clubs. We want a timeshare there.
5. "Oh! Darling," The Beatles
Remember: Kelly won Idol having only performed a single contemporary song through the whole season, and she's no stranger to the classics. The cover of The Beatles' 1969 track is peppy, uplifting but still packs a gritty punch.
Long before Kelly ever made her "Fan Request" segment a staple of her shows, she decided to honor one of her own idols, Annie Lennox, by covering the phenom's most hypnotic track, which Kelly scaled down to a mesmeric requiem. It's unfettered and flowery, but demands attention.
3. "I'd Rather go Blind," Etta James
They say from death comes life, and though the passing of Etta James in 2012 left a dark mark on music, it gave Kelly the chance to honor the the blues and jazz pioneer by breathing verve back into James' most heart-wrenching classic. Go blind? Sure, as long as we don't have to go deaf.
2. "I Know You Won't," Carrie Underwood
Across a 13-year career, Kelly's managed to forge an identity that's independent of Idol, but in 2011, her path veered into another winner's territory. Her take on Carrie Underwood's grief-fest could stop oncoming traffic, and the collision made us wonder how it's possible that the show's two most successful winners haven't yet collaborated.
1. "Home," Marc Broussard
Jesus Christ, right? And it was at the end of her set. Let's go home now (you, too, Marc Broussard).