Music makes the people come together…

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willhung…or at least makes us think we’re better dancers and singers than we really are.

American Idol is back on the air and for an hour every week we think, “Yeah, we have the chops to be the next Kelly Clarkson or David Cook.” Eh, who are we kidding? We’ll gladly be the next William Hung.

And if you’ve ever been to a music festival, a good song can convince thousands of people that they’re good dancers…when my observations convince me that most of us are not, in fact, even decent dancers. And based on the killer lineups that Coachella and Bonnaroo just unveiled, this year’s festivals will have even more rhythmically changed people awkwardly clapping than you’ve ever seen.

Plus, this coming Sunday we’ve got the Grammy Awards, which, for the first time in over a decade, seem to be cognizant of good music. Yay!

So today I thought I’d feed your fantasies that you might one day be on that stage accepting an award for Best New Artist, even though today you’re more suited to be a CPA. Below are how some of today’s big music stars earned their first paychecks. Plus, it’s a nice reminder that these celebs were once mere mortals like us.

Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood struck gold after winning season four of the singing talent competition “American Idol.” But before that, she worked as a gas station cashier in her hometown of Checotah, Okla.
Gas station attendant’s current income: $21,232/year

Lance Bass
Before Bass found success in the former boy band ‘N Sync, as a contestant on season seven of “Dancing with the Stars” and as an almost-astronaut, he made a living doing the simpler things in life.

“I worked at a snow-blowing place,” Bass told the New York Daily News. “I was making $100 a week and I was very proud of it. I kept it in the bank, even though I would always spend the whole $100 a week on stupid things, mainly six-packs of beer.”
current income: $19,536/year

Try picturing Madonna — one of America’s fittest and most famous — serving pastries behind a counter. It’s hard to imagine, but believe it or not, when Madonna moved to New York, she earned extra cash by working the registers at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I was sacked from Dunkin’ Donuts for squirting the donut jelly all over the customers,” Madonna has said.
Cashier’s current income: $23,213/year

Miley Cyrus
Before Miley Cyrus (born Destiny Cyrus) got her start as Hannah Montana in the Disney series of the same name (and with a successful singing career to boot), Cyrus had a job cleaning toilets. In a 2008 interview, she revealed her first job was cleaning houses.

“I had one normal job and I actually liked it,” Cyrus said in an interview with Us Weekly magazine. “I worked at this place called Sparkles Cleaning Service and I cleaned houses. I was, like, 11 … I can scrub a toilet,” she boasted.
House cleaner’s
current income: $23,826/year

Salary data from

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