Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kelly Clarkson is going to learn how to fly on the wings of different representation.

The two-time Grammy winner has broken ties with longtime manager Jeff Kwatinetz of The Firm in Los Angeles, E! News confirmed Tuesday.

"Kelly Clarkson is an enormously talented artist and we are pleased to have served as her managers in her well-deserved rise to stardom," a spokesperson for The Firm said in a statement. "We have only the best wishes and hopes for her in the future."

While the parting appears amicable, it's rumored that Kwatinetz is the one taking the heat for the lackluster radio reception for Clarkson's new single, "Never Again"—which debuted and peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100—as well as for the so-so ticket sales for her latest tour.

A source told Us Weekly, which first reported the split, that Clarkson and Kwatinetz "disagreed over the songs and the direction" of her upcoming album, My December, with another insider saying, "Kelly had enough."

''He exacerbated a thermonuclear situation,'' a source told Entertainment Weekly. ''Jeff did everything he could to control Kelly and her career suffered. He should have steered her in the right direction.''

The 25-year-old singer has been quick to point out in interviews that she either wrote or cowrote all of the material on My December, a decidedly darker album than the multiplatinum-selling Breakaway and her debut, Thankful.

''The whole album is a story of the past two years, all the highs and lows,'' Clarkson told Entertainment Weekly. ''It deals with so many situations, whether it's family, friends, relationships, or myself.''

She also opted not to work with the producers who crafted Breakaway, which has sold 10 million copies and earned her Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, leading to reports that Clarkson and RCA president Clive Davis were up in arms, creatively, over her latest effort.

In an email to EW, however, Davis said that a major push for Clarkson's new album was in the works, "befitting her status as one of the world's bestselling artists."

Clarkson told the magazine that she had since talked with Davis and told him that there were no hard feelings if he didn't embrace her new material.

But the battle for creative control over My December has obviously left a few scars.

"I’ve sold more than 15 million records worldwide, and still nobody listens to what I have to say. Because I’m 25 and a woman," Clarkson said in a recent interview with Elle. And to EW: "Everybody wants to come out with the same thing and put beats on it. That's not where I am right now."

Interestingly, the Texas native told Elle that she didn't like the idea of singing "Never Again" on this year's Idol Gives Back episode, which featured performances by all of American Idol's past winners, minus Fantasia Barrino.

"My label wanted me to sing 'Never Again' and I was like, to promote yourself on a charity event is beyond crass," Clarkson said. "People are starving and dying and I'm up there singing some bitter pop song?

"And believe me, everyone wanted me to sing it. Because they are jaded and they have no soul. Imagine sitting in a room full of people totally against you. Can't they hear themselves speaking? Capitalize on AIDS? Are you kidding? Insulting an entire nation of people? I just refused."

She did sing the feisty breakup tune during the two-hour special, however, and the song jumped from 17th to ninth place on the Billboard Hot 100, largely thanks to an uptick in digital downloads.

Still, RCA is supposedly still worried that My December sounds too negative and that Clarkson fans might not be willing to make that leap with Kelly to the dark(ish) side.

"I'm like, 'Well, I'm sorry I've inconvenienced you with my life,'" the singer told EW. "No, it doesn't say, 'I'm happy, I'm with a boy and having so much fun.'' But it's reality.

"I know it's not going to do what Breakaway did, 'cause it's not as mainstream. I get that. Some of the songs are not what 10-year-olds are probably going to listen to. But we all go through situations for certain reasons, and I think we should share that. This record is more intense, it's more raw, it's more emotional. But it's not that different. It's not Metallica. Even if it does tank—who cares? It's one album!"