Herbert Dyer, Jr.

Kelly Clarkson’s stunning rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at President Barack Obama's second inauguration today literally stole the show. Clarkson mounted the stage immediately after Obama gave a rather standard, even lackluster, inauguration speech. (More about that in future reports.)

Clarkson was accompanied by the usually staid United States Marine Band. But her wide-ranging vocals, from a mellow contralto/bass to a falsettoed soprano even made the band sound good. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who “arranged” for her appearance today and who served as a sort of “master of ceremonies,” had only one comment after Clarkson had wowed the world: “Wow!”

Clarkson’s Wikipedia entry has this interesting little tidbit about her:

“Renowned as 'The Original American Idol,' Clarkson is widely known for her vocal versatility, range, and heroine image. Her music has mainly dealt with themes of heartbreak, independence, and self-empowerment for women and young teens.”

As to Clarkson’s politics, I don’t think they really matter. In my book, anybody who can sing like that is welcome to believe whatever they like without criticism from me. Yet, according to the Huffington Post, Clarkson had earlier endorsed Republican Ron Paul for the presidency, citing his "refreshing" small-government views. And she is, in fact, a self-described “Republican at heart." But she had a change of heart when Obama announced his change of heart and subsequent “evolution” on the matter of gay marriage. Clarkson then said she would vote for Obama "again." Confused? Doesn’t matter. The woman can sing.

Beyonce sang also at the end of the ceremonies. She belted out an expected rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” As usual, Beyonce was her usual excellent self. But it was obvious that even she felt awkward or uncomfortable following in the wake of Clarkson. The comparison of the two singers was just natural and inevitable – and immediate. There is no question whatever, however, as to who won that “competition.” Perhaps Clarkson did so well because she is certainly not as well known as Beyonce, and perhaps expectations for her were not nearly as high. Again, doesn’t matter. That woman can sing.