Here are some things that don't deserve to happen to Kelly Clarkson:

- Perform at a mall in Houston--the Houston Galleria, to be specific--at a Microsoft store opening. Or before that, glorified Tupperware parties. It's sweet, but it's also like the setup of a joke that ends on Behind the Music.

- Have concert reviews in which "chub sweating," "swamp butt" and "dat ass" are mentioned almost as much as Kelly's actual performance.

- Have her album be pushed back one month, as is rumored.

See, we're rooting for Kelly Clarkson. Ever since Clive Davis decided My December was somehow the dregs of music, she's been doing all she can to recover, whether that means getting Katy Perry to polish her up on "I Do Not Hook Up," getting Ryan Tedder to polish her away on "Already Gone" or destroying both speakers and subtlety on "My Life Would Suck Without You." What else is Kelly expected to do? We can't speak for her upcoming material, because all we're allowed to hear is a Jason Aldean song that's good but seems like chasing Carrie and Taylor. Kelly's not in the promo game. There are no 15-second clips.

So let's go back to these clips, because they're what's granted us. Even though Clarkson's more than outgrown American Idol, we'll use a TV metaphor anyway. It's the final 4, and she's Allison Iraheta or Syesha Mercado. The producers are set upon a finale that doesn't include her, but she'll sing the hell out of her exit song, for her own dignity if not for acknowledgement. Kelly's in better voice than ever, and in an ideal world, these performances would make her a superstar again. Alas.