What Happened in Vegas? Kelly Clarkson Deep Cuts!
On July 28th, the superstar singer-songwriter, inaugural American Idol, and daytime talk queen kicked off her first, long-awaited Las Vegas residency, “Chemistry: An Intimate Night With Kelly Clarkson” at Planet Hollywood’s Bakkt Theater. Across the ten-night run, Clarkson promises fans each night will be different, rotating certain songs in the setlist to perform a variety of fan-favorite deep cuts.
With ten studio albums under her belt, Clarkson has a vast catalog to choose from — and enough hits to fill a setlist. So, it’s commendable that she has committed to offering some variety in the hits, and non-hits, she chooses to perform. She also is rotating the songs from her new album “chemistry” but my commentary will be focused on her back catalog.
In celebration of that, I decided to keep this running playlist of Kelly Clarkson deep cuts that she performs throughout the residency, of course, with some commentary. When it’s over, I’ll add on what I wished she would have performed. Until then, I’ll be monitoring the setlist from New York, wishing I was there to experience Ms. Brianne the Chemist in person.
Night One: July 28th
“Broken & Beautiful” from “UglyDolls” (2019)
This P!nk-penned bit of bouncy, dance-pop is as adorable as Moxy, the lead UglyDoll voiced by Clarkson in the film. Generally, In comparison to P!nk’s, Clarkson’s music is fairly family-friendly, but “Broken & Beautiful” is essentially the extra-squeaky-clean-version of “Fuckin’ Perfect.” While it’s cool to hear her sing this very P!nk-sounding composition, it’s certainly not the most remarkable song she’s ever done. Nevertheless, she surely killed those vocals live. Watch it live.
“Meaning of Life” from “Meaning of Life” (2017)
With soaring, soulful vocals and dramatic lyrics and production to match, “Meaning of Life” is a highlight from Clarkson’s 2017, R&B-leaning album of the same name. While she won American Idol by singing mostly R&B classics, throughout most of her career she found success with pop/rock sound. The album found putting her powerful pipes to use in the name of soul, and “Meaning of Life” is the perfect song to showcase that. Watch it live.
“Tightrope” from “Piece By Piece” (2015)
This gorgeous piano ballad is classic Clarkson and a highlight from its album, “Piece by Piece.” With a haunting melody and impeccably delivered vocals, its further stripped-down “tour version” only amplifies its beauty. Clarkson doesn’t co-write every song she sings, but when she does, it’s sure to deliver an emotional gut punch (or a healthy dose of attitude) – and “Tightrope,” which she penned with frequent collaborator Greg Kurstin, is no exception. Frankly, it should be a setlist staple.
i am so glad i was there the night kelly clarkson sang tightrope pic.twitter.com/0mLZ92I0wj
— Film School Dropout 💁🏻💅🏼 (@SheisChuckie) July 29, 2023
Night Two: July 29th
“Medicine” from “Meaning of Life” (2017)
If every song on “Meaning of Life” had a muse, then the “Medicine” muse would certainly be Mariah Carey. Echoing “Emotions”-era Carey, the high-energy, high-note laden uptempo is a fan-favorite for good reason. Clarkson delivers a no holds barred showcase of her vocal range and versatility. If anyone ever needed a reminder of why she won a singing competition… look no further. Infectiously fun, it’s such an energizing setlist addition that there’s no way she won’t repeat it. Watch it live.
“The Trouble With Love Is” from “Thankful” (2003)
On her debut album, Clarkson experimented with pop/rock, and what’s known as blue-eyed soul. “The Trouble With Love Is,” perhaps most famous for its inclusion in “Love, Actually,” is the latter. The bluesy ballad, co-written by Clarkson, proved she could also originate a soulful track, too. Though it had moderate success in 2003, Clarkson has only performed it a handful of times in the last decade and hasn’t been a setlist staple since 2012. Watch it live.
“Can I Have a Kiss” from “My December” (2007)
Clarkson’s first post-break-up-opus received some much-deserved shine on night two with a performance of one of its highlights. “Can I Have a Kiss” is one of the more vulnerable, pretty songs from “My December.” Subtle yet guitar-driven, Clarkson’s soft, tender vocals and its warm melody make for a brand of pop/rock that only an artist of her caliber can deliver. I’d quite literally have had an out-of-body experience watching it performed live, in person, as I, unfortunately, missed 2007’s My December Tour (which was the last time she performed it (!!!)).
Kelly Clarkson bringing justice + attention to “My December” = World Peace 🌍✌️
Kelly singing “Can I Have a Kiss”🔥💋 pic.twitter.com/oWKcHkArAP
— Zoe🍷💔☀️ (@ClearClarkson) July 31, 2023
Night Three: August 2nd
“I Do Not Hook Up” from “All I Ever Wanted” (2009)
While sure, it peaked at #20 on the Hot 100 as the follow-up to “My Life Would Suck Without You,” this Kara DioGuardi and Katy Perry-penned pop confection is hardly one of Clarkson’s most memorable, beloved hits by the masses. Frankly, it doesn’t deserve to be… it is rather generic, but nevertheless, a spin of this very of-the-time pop anthem is always fun to sing a long to. Even better, surely, with Clarkson in front of you belting it out. Still, I don’t blame her for not performing it in nearly a decade. Watch it live.
“Dance With Me” from “Piece By Piece” (2015)
Another “Piece By Piece” deep cut, “Dance With Me” is as its title suggests: a fun, encouraging dance-pop number. Frequently performed during its parent album’s tour, the song definitely translates well live, improving what is an energized but uneventful album track. Watch it live.
“Someone” from “Piece By Piece” (2015)
For what seems to be becoming the “Piece By Piece” tour part two, night three of the “chemistry” residency sees a much-deserved performance of another deep cut from Clarkson’s seventh studio album. She surprised fans with the first-ever live performance of this gorgeous, underrated album track. The emotive ballad is quintessential Clarkson, and it’s a wonder she’s never performed it before last night.
— Jeremy Davis (@JeremyD7) August 3, 2023
Night Four: August 4th
“Gone” from “Breakaway” (2004)
Essentially a time capsule in song form, “Gone” has all the best elements of any angsty pop/rock track from the early 00s. Clarkson is ferocious with her impeccably staccato delivery that embodies the impatience she sings about. If feisty had a theme song, it would be “Gone.” Performing it for the first time since 2012, no doubt her divorce put some extra fire behind her while performing it in 2023. See for yourself.
“Just Missed the Train” from “Thankful” (2003)
While her debut only really yielded one smash single and didn’t forge any inventive new ground, it sure has some stellar tracks. “Just Missed the Train” is definitely one of those. Originally sung by child actress turned singer Danielle Brisebois in 1994, Clarkson’s version is a beautifully breezy update that preserves that nostalgic 90s feel, with much better vocals. It actually would fit perfectly on “chemistry.”
Night Five: August 5th
“Low” from “Thankful” (2003)
The second single from Clarkson’s debut, “Low,” definitely underperformed in the US in the shadow of the very successful “Miss Independent.” That doesn’t mean it’s not a great song, though. This country-tinged pop/rock jam was the first signal of her eventual shift into the pop/rock lane for 2004’s “Breakaway.” Watch it live.
“Beautiful Disaster” from “Breakaway” (2004)
“I liked this song so much that I put it on two of my albums,” Clarkson told the crowd on Saturday night. She wanted it to be more stripped down, and got her way for its 2004 installment on the “Breakaway” album, which she performed for the Vegas crowd. Gorgeous as ever, with a voice that’s only gotten better, “Beautiful” is certainly the word, because when Clarkson takes the mic it’s never a “Disaster.”
“Whole Lotta Woman” from “Meaning of Life” (2017)
It’s a shame that this song was not a single or a hit, because it really should be Clarkson’s signature song. If there’s any song that embodies how fun, bubbly, sassy, soulful, talented, and hilarious she is, it’s “Whole Lotta Woman.” It won’t ever eclipse her biggest hits in notoriety or numbers, but “Whole Lotta Woman” has seemingly become her personal anthem, and hopefully, secured a permanent place on all future setlists. It’s one of her best songs.
“Invincible” from “Piece By Piece” (2015)*
While this motivational pop ballad is very much on-brand for both Clarkson and its writer, Sia, it marks the pair’s first collaboration, and… Clarkson singing Sia is exactly what you’d hope it to be. Except for a hit, that is. Surprisingly, the song failed to make waves when it was released as a single in 20154. Still, with vocals big enough to match its empowering message, Clarkson proves that her voice is certainly “Invincible.” Post-divorce, the song has likely taken on new meaning for her, earning what appears to be a steady spot on the setlist (so far).
*Performed July 28 and 29, only (so far).
Listen to “What Happened in Vegas? Kelly Clarkson Deep Cuts!”
on Apple Music, Spotify, or elsewhere.