Kelly Clarkson pays ‘legendary’ tribute to Dolly Parton with magical ACMs performance dubbed ‘best of the night’

Kelly Clarkson's tribute to Dolly Parton couldn't have been any more 'perfect' for fans—and the country star approved!

Kelly Clarkson's tribute to Dolly Parton at the ACMs was met with huge praise from fans
(Image credit: Image credit: Photo 1 by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty // Photo 2 by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ACM)

Kelly Clarkson's tribute to Dolly Parton at the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards gave fans a breath-taking performance to remember.

Since she first shot to fame after winning American Idol two decades ago, Kelly Clarkson has won the hearts of music fans across the world. And despite her personal life being full of challenges in recent months in light of Kelly and Brandon Blackstock’s divorce, career-wise the star is still going from strength to strength. Just last year Kelly was confirmed for the Ellen DeGeneres Show’s slot after it was announced that the popular Ellen talk show would end after 19 seasons and she continues to be a supportive coach on The Voice.

Now it's Kelly Clarkson's tribute to Dolly Parton at this year’s ACM Awards that we're all talking about as she showcased her own magnificent voice in her latest appearance. Taking to the stage she performed one of the greatest hits of all time—none other than I Will Always Love You! 

Opting for a glamorous black dress, Kelly sang her heart out and left the audience in no doubt about who the performance was dedicated to as she called, “Give it up for Dolly Parton!” as she left the stage. 

As the esteemed host of the ACM Awards 2022 Dolly Parton was there to witness Kelly’s heartfelt declaration in person. The singer released the romantic song in 1974, before the late great Whitney Huston made it a global favorite again in 1992 with her cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack. 

Addressing the song’ history, Dolly told attendees and viewers, “I know that Whitney is smiling down on us tonight, so thank you very much—she would be proud of that.”

"I was backstage trying not to cry my false eyelashes off—slinging snot in every direction and tears," the country music icon added. "But anyway, that was an amazing job!"

Dolly Parton and Kelly Clarkson speak onstage during the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards

(Image credit: Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM)

But it’s not just Dolly’s seal of approval that Kelly secured with her astonishing rendition of I Will Always Love You. Fans were quick to praise the American Idol winner’s vocal performance, with some dubbing it the “best” one of the night. 

“Still can’t believe [how] beautiful that was. And the[n] Dolly comes out to thank her. Perfect. So happy I was able to be there to witness it,” one person declared excitedly.

Whilst another seemed eager to see Kelly and Dolly combine their star-power with a joint tour, writing, “Two legends!!! Think y’all need to tour together!! I’d pay so much money for that ticket!!!”

“Best performance of the night”, someone else wrote simply.

And a fellow fan even reflected on each of the song’s versions, expressing their belief that Kelly honored not just Dolly, but Whitney too.

“Beautiful cover. It combined the sweetness of Dolly's version, and the power of Whitney's. Kelly always manages to make whatever she sings, hers,” they shared.

Kelly Clarkson’s tribute to Dolly Parton came just over a week after the singer broke the news about her ACMs performance. Taking to Instagram, Kelly shared a teaser for her upcoming appearance, declaring, “One word: DOLLY. 👸🏼”.

“That's right, y'all! I'm so excited to announce that during this year’s @ACMawards, I’ll be performing a tribute to the show’s host @DollyParton! 🎤,” she added excitedly. 

After days of waiting and wondering just what the tribute would be, Kelly certainly pulled off one of the most unforgettable ACM performances this year. Whether or not fans could get the Dolly-Kelly collaboration of dreams remains to be seen, though they'll be many no doubt hoping for a full release of that spectacular I Will Always Love You cover.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!