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Trying to reinvent her image, Clarkson decided to part ways with American Idol management and developed a more pop rock sound for her second album, Breakaway (2004).
It sold over 12 million copies worldwide and earned Clarkson two Grammy Awards.
Upon returning to Burleson, Clarkson was encouraged by her friends to audition for the inaugural season of the reality television series American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in May 2002. I definitely looked like a cocktail waitress." Clarkson went on to win the competition on September 4, 2002 at the then Kodak Theatre (now Dolby), earning 58% of the votes against runner-up Justin Guarini and without being sent into the bottom three throughout the season.
Despite receiving a "golden ticket," a pass to the Hollywood rounds, in the series premiere, Clarkson made her first appearance during the second episode. They did one season of Pop Idol in the UK but America is a very different market. Immediately after winning American Idol, Clarkson was signed to a record deal with RCA Records, 19 Recordings, and S Records by talent manager Simon Fuller, who created American Idol; and music mogul Clive Davis, who was slated to executive-produce her debut album.
All Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised the album for its vocal ability: "throughout this record, (Clarkson) makes it seem effortless and charming.