In an emotional return to the final season of the show that made her a household name, first "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson brought down the house and brought out the tissues with her emotional performance of "Piece by Piece," a song reflecting on being abandoned by her father at age 6, while celebrating the devoted parenting of her husband, Brandon Blackstock.
"The song, it's insane. I figure you're either crying at this performance or you need to check your pulse," judge Keith Urban told "Entertainment Tonight" after the performance. "It's an amazing song." Urban, father of two young daughters of his own, seemed as emotionally struck as anyone, with red eyes and tears streaming down his face.
Clarkson, who needed to regain her composure a few times during the performance, explained, "I'm super pregnant and hormonal," as host Ryan Seacrest made his way to the stage to hug the superstar. The original Idol explained earlier in the night that she was weeks away from giving birth to her son, who will soon join his 1-year-old sister River Rose and half-siblings Savannah and Seth in the growing family.
After huge applause and the crowd ceased chanting her name, Clarkson continued to explain her emotional reaction and compared it to her tear-filled performance the night she won the contest.
"I'm pregnant, and it's nostalgic, and I can't believe it's the last season," she said. "Yeah, I'm really sorry I just bawled." The crowd didn't seem to mind, adding another round of applause and cheers.
The stunning song closed a night of nostalgic reflection on Clarkson's participation in the competition and her successful career following her win. She also acted as a guest judge for this season's top 10 finalists, offering suggestions and at times jumping out of her seat to celebrate contestants' performances.
"American Idol," the one-time ratings powerhouse that premiered in the summer of 2002, ends later this season.