Celebrating 21 years since her American Idol win, pop music superstar and talk show host Kelly Clarkson will launch Chemistry, an intimate 10-night engagement at Las Vegas’ Bakkt Theater (formerly Zappos Theater) beginning July 28.
Clarkson was originally slated to begin the Invincible residency at the same venue on April 1, 2020 but it halted due to the pandemic.
“The goal was to make a living doing what I love and I’ve been able to do that and connect with people. That’s incredible. At 19, I was just looking to pay my water bill, I didn’t have anything,” she says of the incredible two-decade long career trajectory that led her to this milestone. “It’s a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck. I don’t know if I ever thought it would be this big. I did not think I would end up having an exclusive little 10-show stint in Las Vegas.”
On Sunday, March 26, she announced the title of her new album, Chemistry, on Instagram, inspired by the “emotional journey” she went through during her tumultuous 2020 split with former husband Brandon Blackstock, with whom she has two young children.
Clarkson tells Billboard in an exclusive interview that this show is the ideal way to share new music with her fans.
“I wanted to have this moment with my audience with the new music. My last tour was in 2019 so it’s been years for me [since I’ve been able to] sing more than two minutes on TV,” she says. “It’s nice to be doing a full show. I worked really hard on this record and it took me a while to figure out if I was actually going to put it out. Once I decided, I wanted to sing this live and to feel that energy from the crowd. I didn’t want to do a tour. I have a lot of jobs and also I obviously want to spend some time with my kids this summer so I agreed to do 10 shows.”
Clarkson has sold more than 25 million albums and 40 million singles. Her multi-Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, is currently filming its 4th season and has already been picked up for its 5th and 6th seasons. In 2021, she released her Grammy Award-nominated ninth studio album When Christmas Comes Around… and that was followed by the Kellyoke EP which features six studio versions of popular covers from the Kellyoke segment on The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Chemistry will be her 10th album and her first (non-holiday) effort since 2017. There was a time when she didn’t know if she would ever release it. Clarkson says the break from music has been good given the unfolding circumstances within her life.
“I had a huge divorce happen and my life changed and I did not expect that. Doing the talk show created space for me as an artist because even with my label, I could say, ‘Well, I’m doing this job.’ They didn’t ask me for anything, they really gave me a lot of space, which was really cool,” she says.
“I wrote most of these songs like three years ago. Now I feel like I can talk about it. And it’s not a fresh wound,” she says. “It’s not just one emotion. It’s an entire relationship. There are definitely songs that are devastating and songs that are very angry. And then there are songs that are super sad, and ones that are more sexy, like that first feeling that you get in a relationship. It covers the whole arc of an entire relationship from beginning to end. I didn’t want it to be just about the devastating part.”
Her candor is one of the things her fans love most about her and the reason why her audience has continued to flourish for more than two decades. For Clarkson, honesty is a non negotiable in the creative process.
“I’m very honest about everything but also I have to navigate that I’m a mom of two kids that will be affected. That is one reason why I chose certain songs for the record. But also, I didn’t hold back, you know, in the sense of I feel like it’s important because people love connecting with me, because I’m honest, and I share my story,” she says.
With such a deep catalog, building the setlist can be the hardest part of the equation. “We asked the fans ‘what are you most excited about hearing’ and the problem with my fans, and why it’s so hard, is that they will pick deep cuts … they will be ‘we want ‘Sober’’ and okay, that wasn’t a single.’ So I have to fit in all the singles, plus the new stuff and the deep cuts.”
While Clarkson is tight-lipped on the details, she promises the show will be different every night.
“We’re calling it an intimate night and I don’t want to give it away. There will be different elements every night and every show is not going to be the same,” she says. “We will have the audience participate and I will talk to the audience because now I’m on a talk show and I’m used to engaging. It’s going to be a different kind of show than what people are used to in Vegas.”
She confirms the presence of a full band and a rock ‘n’ roll vibe overall, but says she won’t be bringing fire or dancers—somewhat of the Vegas norm these days.
The summer dates will also give the single mom a chance to have some fun.
“I wasn’t going to bring it up. But yeah, I’m not dead, I want to have a good time, too,” she says with a laugh. “I chose the time for the shows when my kids are with my ex. I do this when I don’t have them so it makes it easier for me as an artist to really just engage with the audience and only have that on my plate. And then also, it’s nice because, you know, they’re getting one-on-one time with their dad.”
This announcement comes on the heels of the official renaming of the Zappos Theater to Bakkt Theater on March 24. It has been home to residences from John Legend, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Shania Twain. Currently, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert and The Chicks, scheduled to begin May 3, call the venue home. The theater has undergone extensive renovations to both the front of house and back of house facilities over the last year. Bakkt is a cryptocurrency loyalty platform which has a partnership with Caesars Entertainment and Caesars Rewards.
Kelly Clarkson’s 2023 “Chemistry” dates at Bakkt Theater:
July 28, 29
August 2, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 18, 19