Grammys 2013: Kelly Clarkson (and her engagement ring) shine through stage fright

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Of all the performers called up during the first two marathon days of Grammy rehearsals, none arrived on stage as visibly nervous as Kelly Clarkson who made no secret that she worried about a one-woman train wreck at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night. The 30-year-old isn’t fretting about her singing voice (which sounded amazing at Friday rehearsals) or her three Grammy nominations (which include record of the year, perhaps the most coveted trophy in all of music). So what had the American Idol alumnus moaning weakly into the microphone?

“I can’t believe you’re making me say all of this,” Clarkson said Friday as she faced a cruel teleprompter with a speech about two of this year’s Grammy lifetime achievement award winners, Carole King and Patti Page. The mighty stage singer, it turns out, turns to jelly as a public speaker. At one point, mocking herself, she let loose with some speed-talking gibberish that sounded like an alien auctioneer.

All of it was very endearing, actually, and the small audience at Staples Center that witnessed her practice session (the crew, some press, industry types, and a few hundred contest-winning fans, guests and industry types) gave her a lot of loud support for good humor and pained candor. She was a trouper, in fact, just for letting the fans watch her struggle through – with a word she could have cleared the entire venue as country peer Taylor Swift did later in the evening.

Those fans were especially excited to be in the arena when Clarkson let loose with her singing voice, which showed no signs of hitch or hesitation. Clarkson, standing on a small pedestal stage that sits in the center of the floor audience, delivered a crystalline version of “The Tennessee Waltz,” one of Page’s signature hits, and then an absolutely incandescent version of “Natural Woman,” the song written by King and most famously interpreted by Aretha Franklin. And yes, that’s right Idol fans, that song would be familiar if you were tuning in during the show’s earliest days…

NEXT: LISTEN TO CLARKSON’S VERSION

The fans in the building also cheered when Clarkson had a cheeky response to a production-team comment made over the P.A. system. The unseen crew member mentioned that the jewelry on Clarkson’s left hand was hard to miss on the monitor. Her response was to position left hand — and the substantial engagement ring she got in December — in front of the camera with a one-word sound effect: “Boom!

The crowd loved it. Clarkson’s engagement to Brandon Blackstock (the Nashville business manager for Blake Shelton and the son of Clarkson’s manager, Narvel Blackstock) has been in a bright spotlight even before Friday: Clarkson is on the cover of the new People magazine with the breathless headline: “I Found Love at Last!” At Grammy rehearsals she punctuated her ring maneuver with more sparkly commentary saying of Blackstock: “I got a good one!”

Clarkson performed on last year’s Grammys (she partnered with Jason Aldean on “Don’t You Wanna Stay”) just days after singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. In April, Clarkson will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of her debut album Thankful and she told People that a wedding date is slippery topic. “We will totally, probably elope,” Clarkson said. Well, that’s one way to avoid giving a speech at the reception.

Read More on EW.com:
Grammys history: Tracking the best new artists
Grammys 2013: snubs and surprises
Grammy nominations announced: Frank Ocean, fun., Black Keys dominate
Songs we loved? EW’s music staff weighs in

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