First American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson‘s steady distancing of herself from the show where she got her big break four years ago is reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s exit from ‘N Sync: It was fun and all, but I don’t need you chumps anymore — I’m a superstar! Snippy Simon Cowell all but called Clarkson an ungrateful biznatch earlier this year, but it’s hard to blame Miss Independent for not wanting the first four words of this blurb in front of her name every time it appears in print for the rest of her natural life. (Dream on, lady.) You have to admire her hard work and undivalike demeanor over the past few years as she wriggled out of the manufactured, disposable-pop-princess fate that the show set her up for. Since Idol, she has taken home a couple of Grammys, enjoyed combined album sales well in excess of 10 million and earned critical acceptance — quite the trifecta. Besides all that, her musical evolution is far from complete. In a recent interview, Clarkson said she’d ultimately like to become a rootsy, soulful singer-songwriter in the vein of Patty Griffin. Those of you planning to catch her live can find out how close she’s getting to that goal, because Clarkson intends to unveil loads of new material slated for her third disc, due early next year.