Kelly Clarkson, 39, looked absolutely radiant at the 2022 Academy of Country Music awards on Monday March 7. The “Since U Been Gone” singer took part in a tribute to Dolly Parton, 76, by singing the country icon’s classic ballad “I Will Always Love You.” The American Idol alum delivered a soulful rendition of the song, while rocking a simple black dress and dazzling earrings.
Kelly’s performance was mostly stripped down, with her only accompaniments being an acoustic guitar and piano. She sang the song sweetly and elegantly, hitting every note perfectly in front of a shining red backdrop. The singer did show off her range when she got to the final chorus and belted out the iconic words with force. As she finished the song, Dolly came onstage and Kelly shouted out the song’s original writer.
Dolly gave her seal of approval and also said that another artist who famously covered the song, the late Whitney Houston would be “proud” of Kelly’s take on the track. “I know Whitney is shining down on us tonight,” Dolly said, before announcing the Entertainer of the Year winner.
Kelly’s appearance at the 2022 ACMs is far from her first, and her take on Dolly’s iconic ballad is only her latest classic cover at the award show. Kelly joined her ex-mother-in-law Reba McEntire at the 2018 awards for a performance of the country legend’s track “Does He Love You.” Kelly also attended the show again in 2019, where she stunned in a black lace dress for the occasion.
The performance was triumphant moment for Kelly, who’s had a very long year, following her divorce from her husband Brandon Blackstock, which was finalized in August. The pair have been going through a long legal battle over their assets and custody of their two children. Brandon was awarded five percent of the pair’s Montana Ranch in January, as part of their split. Some fans have even read into some of Kelly’s performances to look for messages about her ex, like when she put her own spin on Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” in October. For the cover, Kelly changed one of the key lines in the song from “You made me hate this city” to “I get it, you hate this city.”
Divorce is always difficult, and she joked that after seven years of marriage she was ready to be “single forever” during a December episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show. A source close to Kelly revealed to HollywoodLife exclusively that the singer’s friends have been a “support system” to her, and they want to see her get back out on the market! “They’ve been encouraging Kelly to test the waters and try the dating scene again. Kelly has given this a lot of thought, but she’s the type of person who gives a lot of love and she knows that she deserves someone who will treat her like the incredible woman that she is,” the source said.