July 23, 2007 -- It was all just one big misunderstanding — that's Kelly Clarkson's story and she is sticking to it while extending an olive branch to legendary music mogul Clive Davis.
This spring, a clash between the Titan and the Talent was apparent as creative differences — often a part of the business of making music — got an unusually public airing.
The 25-year-old Clarkson accused Davis of trying to sabotage the success of her third album, "My December," one for which she spurned songs he suggested in favor of penning her own songs.
But now, she is singing a slightly different tune.
"I am well aware that Clive is one of the great record men of all time," says the Texas siren on her Web site, www.kellyclarksonweb.com.
"He has been a key advisor and has been an important force in my success to date."
However, recently, it was a force with which Clarkson appeared more than happy to confront. In this month's issue of Blender music magazine she suggested the 75-year-old record label executive was too old to "get" her music.
Now she says comments about difficulties in her camp were "taken out of context" and "blown way out of proportion" by the media.
"Like any family we will disagree and argue sometimes but, in the end, it's respect and admiration that will keep us together," writes Clarkson.
And together with Davis it appears she'd like to remain: "I really regret how this has turned out and I apologize to those whom I have done [sic] disservice. I would never intentionally hurt anyone."
Intentionally or not, one has to wonder how much damage has already been done? Has Clarkson committed career suicide by taking on the iconic music industry executive Clive Davis?
Yes, is what some pop-music charters are whispering as U.S. sales of Clarkson's "My December" begin to slide.
Some industry watchers say Clarkson's decision to ignore the input of Davis, the man many call the "hit maker," in favor of composing her own songs could keep the nation's first "American Idol" winner off radio's playlist of Top 40 hits.
While fans and many critics have applauded the effort, as of yet there are no radio chart busters from the rock confessional. The album's first single, "Never Again," didn't crack the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"It's great she gets to call her own shots, [but] I think it was a mistake not to realize the singles she was releasing were not Top 40 hits," said music industry analyst and blogger Bob Lefsetz. "If you are in the Top 40 world, you have to have a hit today. You do not have the luxury of a 'stiff.'"
Sales of "My December" are more than respectable — entering its fourth week, the record has sold close to 500,000 copies, bringing it close to gold record status. "My December" debuted at No. 2 and this week slipped to No. 5 on the album sales chart.
But the lack of hits from the album so far is in stark contrast to the four No. 1 singles from her multiplatinum-selling 2005 album, "Breakaway," which earned the songbird from Burleson,Texas, Grammys for best female pop vocal performance and best pop vocal album.
"Breakaway" was composed by a veritable chorus of producers and songwriters assembled by Davis. The highly regarded boss of BMG/RCA, formerly of Arista, has shaped the hits and careers of many pop stars, including Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Whitney Houston and Carlos Santana.
"Clive Davis is the last of the song guys who has had hit after hit after hit. That doesn't happen by accident," said Maureen Crowe, who worked with Davis as music supervisor on the movie "The Body Guard." "That happens by someone who really loves music, really 'gets it' and works 24/7 to make it better."
Since the release of "My December," Clarkson has fired her manager and canceled a scheduled summer tour because of poor ticket sales.
"She's now undermined the pop persona Davis and his team carefully crafted. She may never get it back," writes "Fox 411" entertainment reporter Roger Friedman.
Davis Predicted a Dearth of Hits
When it came time to start work on the new album, Clarkson didn't just want to make it better. She wanted to make it hers. She fought off all efforts to deter her even after Davis predicted none of the tracks, as written and produced, would be a hit.
The decision to write or co-write all the songs on "My December" appeared to be fightin' words.
Clarkson was reportedly "damned by faint praise" when the 75-year-old Davis addressed a hall full of industry-sales people assembled to receive the lowdown on promising winners in the BMG/RCA stable of artists.
The little woman with the big voice did not take it lying down. In published interviews she accused Davis and the label of lying to her and then met with him to try to smooth things over.
"It was nice," Clarkson tells editor Craig Marks in the August issue of Blender magazine. "It was just the two of us and his dog," she says.
"I was like, 'I don't know you very well, and I am not a bullsh--er. I get you don't like the album. You're 80; you're not suppose to like my album. But Clive, I'm going to make tons of albums. It doesn't have to be mainstream every time.'"
Representatives for Clarkson and Davis at Sony/BMG declined to comment for this story.
But successful British music producer and "American Idol" creator and judge Simon Cowell has publicly taken issue with Clarkson's views on Davis' value to artists.
"Clive Davis at 80 is better than 99 percent of the people in the music business in their 20s, 30s and 40s. And he's not 80," Cowell told ExtraTV.com. "[Kelly] is one of the best and she always will be, [but Clive] is boss of the record company and it's his job to advise."
The Creative Struggle
Age differences aside, creative struggles between recording artists and their labels are nothing new.
"This is a dispute that goes on quite frequently at almost every label," said Billboard magazine associate editor Katie Hasty.
"He can have an ear for hits, but at the end of the day Clive Davis does business," Hasty said. "It's obvious Clarkson wants to reclaim some of who she is and what she represents beyond just being an 'American Idol' starlet."
Artistic growth is laudable, but is Clarkson established enough to afford the risk of a heartfelt, reflective, personal rock album?
After the cancellation of her tour, Clarkson reportedly blamed her management company for ignoring her pleas to book performances in medium-size venues she could fill with her fans, instead of scheduling concerts in 15,000 and 20,000 seaters she knew would be hard to sell out.
What Does Clarkson's Future Hold?
In replacing manager Jeff Kwatinetz and the Firm with Reba McEntire's husband and manager Narvel Blackstock, the Texas native may be signaling a desire to develop her country repertoire more fully. She's got a bit fan base among its devotees.
Clarkson is likely to honor whatever contract she has with BMG/RCA. Business is business, and she is a talented and versatile singer and valuable to the label.
And hit single or not, for her money, she writes that the future looks bright.
"I love music, and I love the people I am blessed to work with. I am happy that my team is behind me, and I look forward to the future."