With just two weeks to go before the release of her much-anticipated (and recently leaked) third album, My December, EW.com has learned that Kelly Clarkson fired her management team Monday night (June 11). A SonyBMG source confirms the split between Clarkson and The Firm's Jeff Kwatinetz, and hinted that internal bickering between SonyBMG and Clarkson about the songwriting and direction of My December likely played a role with their parting.
''He exacerbated a thermonuclear situation,'' says one source close to the situation. ''Jeff did everything he could to control Kelly and her career suffered. He should have steered her in the right direction.''
The Firm issued a statement on June 12 saying, ''Kelly Clarkson is an enormously talented artist. We are pleased to have served as her managers during her well-deserved rise to stardom and are proud of the role we played in backing her creative choices. We believed in Kelly from the day we met her and believe in her now. We have only the best wishes and hopes for her in the future.''
A spokesperson at RCA, Clarkson's label, had no comment.
With the single ''Never Again'' stalling on the charts and the album predicted to underperform, the timing of the firing says a lot about where Clarkson sees herself positioned in the pop world. She certainly hasn't been shy about sacrificing a bit of pop appeal for a more independent rock route (''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,'' Clarkson told EW earlier this year), but another insider says there were bigger problems than just specific songs. ''It's been a poor setup,'' claims the source. ''Tour markets were misread and all the fighting with the label has taken attention away from the one thing that matters: her music.''
In fact, another source suggests that the album, if it hasn't made its way to the pressing plant yet, may actually get shelved so that Clarkson and her label, headed by music legend Clive Davis, can reconsider some of the tracks. ''It's not too late,'' says the source. ''The label was supportive of Kelly in terms of putting the song out, but this album can't flop. She needs to get the right advice and counsel.''