Thankful is the debut studio album by American singer Kelly Clarkson, released in the United States by RCA Records on April 15, 2003. "Miss Independent" was its first single, followed by "Low" and "The Trouble with Love Is". Initially, the album had been scheduled to be released in November 2002, however, Clarkson's demanding schedule and difficulty finding tracks that suited her taste and image forced the album to be delayed several times. By the time the album was released, over six months had elapsed since "A Moment Like This" had reached number one.
Two songs originally on the album, "Trace of Gold" and "Today for Me", written by Stephanie Saraco, were replaced just before the album release by "Anytime" and "A Moment Like This". Early released versions of the CD still show the original tracks on players that read the data from the CD itself (such as Windows Media Player). The two songs have yet to be heard by the general public. Copies of Thankful sold during its first year of release contained a computer program that could be loaded, and used with the internet for artist updates and music videos. The program ceased to function when her official RCA website was launched. Thankful included three cover tracks, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" originally by Aretha Franklin, "Some Kind of Miracle" originally sung by Puff Johnson and "Just Missed the Train" by Trine Rein. "Just Missed the Train" was previously covered by Danielle Brisebois and Carly Smithson (then Carly Hennessy), who worked on much of her album with Brisebois.
Critical response for Thankful was generally positive. On Metacritic, a website that compiles various reviews, the album received a score of 62, indicating generally favorable reviews.Entertainment Weekly noted that "Clarkson glides through octaves with the masterful control of someone who's been doing this for decades".Rolling Stone gave the album three out of five stars, praising Clarkson's talent and vocal abilities, while criticizing the album for feeling manufactured. They note that "[her] high notes are sweet and pillowy, her growl is bone-shaking and sexy, and her midrange is amazingly confident for a pop posy whose career is tied for eternity to the whims of her American Idol overlords".
On the other hand, Q gave the album a very negative review, stating that the album "has her trilling like Mariah Carey on fluffy R&B tunes."
Release of the album was preceded by the single "Miss Independent", which become a top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit and a number one top 40 smash. In thanks to the success of the single, as well as buzz from her American Idol win (Clarkson also appeared several times on the show's second season to promote Thankful), the album sold well in the United States. It managed to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 with 297,000 copies sold. The album sold over 1 million copies in six weeks. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Thankful has sold 2,800,000 copies to date in the US.
Further single releases "Low" and "The Trouble with Love Is" did not replicate the success of the first single. "Just Missed the Train" and "You Thought Wrong" had been planned for possible single releases, but after the underperformance of "Low" and "The Trouble with Love Is", they were canceled.