It's been a decade since Kelly Clarkson shot to fame as the first winner of TV's American Idol and, with her 30th birthday looming in April, the chart-topper has reached a comfortable place musically and in her life.
"You're so different in your 20s. I feel like I've had multiple personalities," Texas-born Clarkson said, laughing, in an interview with Jian Ghomeshi for CBC's Q cultural affairs show.
"I'm so different [now]. I've always been confident in my skin...but I think by 30, or your late 20s, you really have things more figured out."
Since being crowned the inaugural American Idol in 2002, Clarkson has won Grammy Awards, sold more than 20 million records and remained a fixture on the pop music charts, including with her fifth and most recent album, Stronger.
'It's frustrating when you hear something soulless and vanilla, especially when the artist is not that way' —Kelly Clarkson
Known for soaring ballads, booming anthems and her down-to-earth appeal, Clarkson said the new album is the best-sounding release she's made yet because it was created in a positive environment with collaborators who respect her voice and distinctive style.
"I hate going into a studio [where] people will alter my voice and make me sound like a robot. 'You may be used to working with people who need that, but I don't want that or need that,'" she declared.
"There are certain producers you work with — you walk into the studio and they just have you sing a song that Kesha or Katy Perry or Avril or Pink, whomever, could sing. Anyone could sing it. They're not invested in [me], they're invested in the song," she added.
"It's frustrating when you hear something soulless and vanilla, especially when the artist is not that way."
Clarkson says her musical taste and perspective has evolved and matured over the past decade. For instance, she accepts when a live singer "sounds off-key sometimes. I like when it sounds emotional."
One constant over her career is her writing and performing songs about being true to oneself, taking charge and surviving hardship.
"I like taking the negative and turning it into a positive. I like overcoming a struggle...That's the kind of movie I like to watch. That's the kind of music I like to listen to. I think we just need those reminders. Sometimes life is hard and we need to be empowered."