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Small Screen: Clarkson brings unique Voice to NBC series

LOS ANGELES — One of the big complaints about television music competition programs is more often than not, the winner — or even some of the top runners-up — won’t be heard from right away.
Kelly Clarkson sees herself as a coach, rather than a judge on The Voice.

LOS ANGELES — One of the big complaints about television music competition programs is more often than not, the winner — or even some of the top runners-up — won’t be heard from right away. They might eventually have a song do well on the charts, but there is a long process to finding that success.

Kelly Clarkson, who joins Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton as the commanders of the spinning chairs on The Voice for its 14th season, sees the primary purpose of the NBC music competition series as giving talented singers the opportunities to start building a career that will last more than a moment.

“I think you need to cultivate the record you want to be proud of,” Clarkson says after a press conference with TV critics to talk about her being a Voice judge. “It’s not necessarily about all the people who hit right after, but about cultivating all these careers that might be blossoming right now and they have not reached their full potential.

“It’s so silly to rate success because some of our most famous artists weren’t successful in their own lifetime.”

That’s where she comes in to the music mix. She works with young singers making their way through the show’s format, which features five stages of competition: the blind auditions, the battle rounds, knockouts, playoffs and the live performance shows. Clarkson joins the team as a coach, but it’s a return to the competition series for her. She appeared on The Voice as a key adviser in past seasons helping to mentor the show’s aspiring artists.

Clarkson feels like she has come full circle in helping young artists start their careers.

“It’s definitely awesome to be able to fight the three. The coaches on my season have all won a season. So it’s definitely cool to be able to tell them that I’ve navigated a competition and I think bring that kind of knowledge to the table,” Clarkson says. “I still feel like the same kid that entered this industry. I still have the same sense of awe about it and the same excitement.”

Clarkson doesn’t like it when she and the other three coaches are called judges because the last thing she wants to do is be the final word on what a performer is doing right or wrong. Her intention is to help each contestant cultivate their natural abilities to make it through the long competition process.

Audrey Morrissey, executive producer of The Voice, echoes Clarkson’s comments about this being a series that isn’t about immediate success but about helping young talent get better at what they do. There’s always the possibility The Voice will produce a performer who hits it as big as American Idol alums Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. But, the timeline for The Voice participants is different.

“We want to better everybody and we want them to have a shot of making a livelihood out of it. People come to this show for many, many different reasons. We hope, and I think everybody hopes, that we want these people to reach their greatest potentials,” Morrissey says. “Only talented people come to our show season after season. And all anybody wants to do — the coaches, the hundreds of people that work on the show — is try to better them, try to help them a little further down their road.

“And we have. We do. So many people have maybe not become a Kelly Clarkson yet, but many, many are thriving in the music business.”

Clarkson’s coaching to help the talent get better will be based on how over the past 15-plus years, Clarkson has seen both the highs and lows of the music industry. She had some immediate success after winning the first American Idol in 2002. The song she sang on the finale, A Moment Like This, was released two weeks after the win but Clarkson’s first album, Thankful, didn’t hit stores until the following year. That was because she wanted to make sure every note was just right, and that meant being patient.

Clarkson’s concern for details has paid off. She has sold more than 25 million albums and 36 million singles. The Texas-born singer-songwriter’s list of hits includes last year’s album release, Meaning of Life. Her work has resulted in a long list of awards and nominations including three Grammys, 12 Billboard Music Awards and two Academy of Country Music Awards.

She’s managed to do all of this while raising four children. Clarkson jokes that they can be so challenging that at times a “little wine” helps. Her serious answer to what motherhood means to her is she has found the children teach her as much as she teaches them. Clarkson knows they are always keeping an eye on her and will call her out for something they don’t like — such as the wine comment.

The main thing she’s learned is to have more perspective because she works in a business where people will talk both good and bad about what she does. That’s exactly what she’s being asked to do as one of The Voice coaches. What she now understands is to not take every comment as the gospel, but to use what’s being said to have a better and more complete understanding.

She’s using that to give her children a role model worth following.

“I hope what the four children are seeing is that their parents are successful, loving, respectful people,” Clarkson says. “Because that’s what we want for them.”