Kelly Clarkson’s inauguration performance comes with political baggage

Kelly Clarkson performs a medley of her songs at the 40th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Clarkson and fun. are just two of the acts performing at the inaugural festivities.
(John Shearer / Invision / Associated Press)

When Kelly Clarkson belts out the patriotic standard “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at President Obama’s second inauguration on Monday, it’s safe to assume the performance will be memorable, considering Clarkson’s well-documented vocal prowess.

However, the moment could further justify use of the overwrought cliché, “What a difference a year makes,” considering the political baggage that comes with Clarkson’s appearance.

Early last year the singer was embroiled in controversy after she drew the ire of some fans when she offered endorsement for controversial Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.


“If he wins the nomination for the Republican party in 2012 he’s got my vote. Too bad he probably won’t,” she wrote in an off-the-cuff tweet.

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Enraged followers immediately denounced the singer and slammed her with comments such as “I’ve never been more disapointed [sic] I thought you were smarter,” and “Its good that you dont want women to have the right to choose.”

Clarkson eventually apologized to those she offended, and reminded them that she fully backs civil rights, but defended her support of Paul because he believed in less government and was “refreshing.”

The pop singer, who has been quoted saying she’s “a Republican at heart,” isn’t as politically outspoken as peers such as Lady Gaga and Beyoncé (who will also perform on Monday), but she’s clearly not the “shut up and sing” type of entertainer who balks at sharing her opinion.

But despite her Republican ties she still supported Obama in both campaigns, arguing that the president was “a great guy” -- and that she didn’t want to vote for Mitt Romney in the last election.

So what have her fans had to say about Clarkson choosing to perform for Obama? Largely nothing, but there has been some blowback. One Twitter user went as far as labeling her a “Texas Embarrassment” for choosing to perform; another wrote a plea to the singer that said, “I heard you care about the future of America...Don’t sing at Obama’s inauguration, and I’ll believe it...”


The backlash from conservative Clarkson fans will likely become more apparent as the inauguration unfolds Monday, but those waiting to heap on 140 characters (or less) of vitriol should remember how we got here. A decade ago these same fans were probably flooding phone lines to vote her as the inaugural “American Idol,” hoping the girl from Burleson, Texas, would become a superstar.

Performing for the president? Well, that’s just what superstars do.

Follow @GerrickKennedy