Why Kelly Clarkson Should Want to Punch Adele in the Face

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Recently, pop songstress Kelly Clarkson got a lot of attention for telling a British newspaper that she wanted to punch the singer Adele in the face. I’ll admit that headline was enough to get me to read the article (a girl fight gets me every time). But Clarkson’s intentions were far less sinister than most media outlets made them sound. In fact, her implied violence was meant as a compliment. Kelly does not really want to jab Adele in the larynx, thus ending the other singer’s career with a Tonya Harding-esque flourish; she was merely expressing a sentiment far less physical, if no less insidious: creative jealousy. It is the dark side of artistic awe.
As a writer, I can empathize with Clarkson’s comment. There have been many times I’ve read a book, my fists clenched in envious rage as I marveled at how cunningly a phrase was turned, how wholly formed a character has sprung from the page. I am not discriminating in my ferocity, snobbishly reserving my resentment only for the literary stars and the critically lauded. I’d like to take out my savagery on writers as diverse as David Sedaris and Tom Wolfe (just because he’s old doesn’t mean he can’t be roughed up a bit), Sarah Dessen and Emily Dickinson (just because she’s dead doesn’t mean I can’t slug her in her lyrical mug). Really all it takes to rouse my green-eyed monster is a talent perceived as superior to my own, and when you’re at the beginning of your career and still honing your craft, that applies to just about everyone.
If we’re being honest, this metaphorical violence is likely directed more at ourselves, in frustration at our limitations as artists, than at others. So is my jealousy brutish? Yes, of course it is. Is it common? More than most people admit. Is it productive? Definitely. The jealousy that is aroused in me by the work of other artists manifests not so much as a desire to destroy, though that certainly makes for a much funnier article and grabbier headline, but as a desire to create—to create more, to create better, to create immediately. So in a way, jealousy feeds creation. Kelly Clarkson’s desire to punch Adele in the face is what drives her to sing better songs. And, who knows, maybe Adele’s jealousy of another singer is what drives her to produce. Perhaps we should all strive to want to punch people in the face. In the name of art, of course.

Photo source: PR Photos



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