Atlantic

Life would suck without Kelly Clarkson.

More than fifteen years into the game, she has given pop music some of the best breakup anthems and tear-soaked ballads of all time. She walked away the inaugural American Idol champion in 2002 (a minor footnote in her legacy) and has stormed the Billboard charts with a flurry of hits, including “Since U Been Gone” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”

Free from the watchful eye of her former record label and now happily signed to Atlantic, she readies her most mature and creative album to-date. Meaning of Life (out October 27) is already sampled by the triumphant “Love So Soft” and the stunning “Move You,” both indications that Clarkson is not messing around.

Below, we Clarkson’s ten best hit singles, from her first album Thankful to 2015’s Piece by Piece.

10. “Catch My Breath,” Greatest Hits – Chapter One
When Clarkson hit ten years since her teary-eyed Idol win, she commemorated the anniversary with this here-comes-my-30s bop. She shadowboxes herself and plays with musical styles, melting together her classic empowerment structure with EDM-lite (which has been the trend for a number of years). As one of three official singles, “Catch My Breath” bridged the past and present and pushed her victoriously into the future, becoming a moderate hit at radio.

Subscribe to look it up). Surrounding a tortured, abusive relationship, Clarkson is backed by piano and driving strings: mirroring her troubled past and journey into light. “Because of you, I find it hard to trust, not only me but everyone around me,” she howls. Among her finest vocal performances, you begin to relive the exact devastation she suffered.

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3. “Since U Been Gone,” Breakaway
There are few choruses as irresistible as this ferocious mid-’00s kiss-off. The Breakup Anthem to End All Breakup Anthems continues to ring out across every karaoke bar in the world to this day. “Shut your mouth / I just can’t take it again and again and again and again,” she wails over thick guitar and an avalanche of drums. “I get what I want,” she reminds her ex. We’re so moving on, too, KC.

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2. “Piece by Piece” (Idol version), Piece by Piece Remixed
Clarkson is known to reach into her skeleton closet for her deepest and most painful memories. Here, she details her father walking out of her family when she was just a little girl. The piano ballad remake (appearing as a heavily-produced club jam on the album) stormed the iTunes singles chart. The new version struck an emotional chord when she appeared on Idol’s farewell, pre-reboot season and nearly broke down in tears.

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1. “Sober,” My December
If there is just one song to highlight both Clarkson’s songwriting and voice, it is this My December release. While the push to radio fizzled gloriously, it doesn’t erase the song’s enduring impact. Clarkson draws comparisons between staying “sober” and picking the toxic people out of her life. Decorated with acoustic guitar, strings and chilling vocal layers, the composition is rich but shimmers with heartbreak.

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