by Drew Boehmker/@IfUSeekDrew
As one of my favorite pieces of “Internet wisdom” ever goes, there are only two types of people in this world:
(1.) Kelly Clarkson fans, and
Indeed, I think part of the reason I like this mantra so much is because it has proven time and again to be so true. Among the pop music crowd there are certain fanbases that seem invariably bred to dislike other fandoms, whether it’s Little Monsters tending to not like Madonna or the Beyhive tending to shade every other artist out there. But, just as the aforementioned piece of wisdom suggests, Kelly Clarkson (and her fans) routinely seems to rise above this petty drama, continually putting out high quality, radio-friendly music while staying away from the public scandals that tend to rock other pop stars.
So with her new album Piece by Piece dropping this week (an event so momentous that Entertainment Weekly proclaimed the arrival of a new Kelly album as “the end of our national nightmare”), I figured now would be a perfect time to revisit what is almost unanimously considered to be Ms. Clarkson’s finest hour—and, more importantly, one of my favorite pop albums of all time: Breakaway.
That’s right … long before Ariana was breaking free, Kelly was breaking away—and seeing some serious chart success in the process. You’ll probably remember the debut single, “Breakaway,” as being featured in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (one of the few highlights of that film, lesbihonest) and being a sleeper hit that you feel ashamed for knowing every single word to. It wasn’t until the follow-up single of this album, however, that Kelly broke through the pop music stratosphere and launched the most successful single of her career: “Since U Been Gone.”
As someone who has been a Kellaholic since day 1 (I even voted for her on American Idol way back in 2002 after hearing her perform “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”), for me “Since U Been Gone” was the moment Kelly proved to everyone she was more than just a one-hit “Miss Independent” wonder and had what it took to be a true pop megastar. In fact, just last year The Atlantic even went so far as to name "Since U Been Gone" the single best pop song of the past 10 years, calling it “an all-time classic.”
Kelly followed “Since U Been Gone” with a string of other successful singles, all of which still hold up incredibly well even against today’s music—the alt jam “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” the emotional “Because of You” (which she herself wrote) and the lesser-heard (but absolute bop) “Walk Away.”
But then again, you’ve likely already heard all of these songs a million times, and that’s not why you’re reading this column. Instead, I am here to tell you that if you haven’t given Breakaway a complete listen-through at least once in your lifetime, you need to take a risk, take a chance, make a change and go do so immediately.
Back yet? Good. Now that you’re caught up, let’s talk about how many amazing songs are on this album that never saw the light of day they deserved. “Gone” sounds like it was made for endless repeat on the radio. “Addicted” is an incredibly powerful anthem (one of Kelly’s best, which is saying something) that compares a former love to the throes of drug intoxication. “You Found Me” is classic KC, with a sweeping beat, memorable chorus, and iconic vocal belt during the bridge that is just so much fucking fun to sing along to in the car (“HOW DID YOU KNOWWW?”).
To be honest, the only songs on this album that don’t have 1,000+ plays on my iTunes are “Where Is Your Heart” and “I Hate Myself for Losing You,” which are both perfectly respectable songs in their own right (and may have even stood out on another album) but just happen to get lost in the shuffle of other amazing songs here.
Oh, and if you’ve ever doubted Kelly’s ability to belt out a fucking tune, the album’s powerful closing track “Hear Me” should settle that debate once and for all.
To be earnest, I’m finding there isn’t much for me to say about this album that hasn’t already been repeated ad nauseam about it since it first dropped back in 2004. Seriously: go listen to it (and by “go listen to it,” I mean dig out that old copy you bought or burned from KaZaA in high school). I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, especially because I know you love Kelly as much I do … and if you say otherwise, well, you’re lying.
Final Verdict: Pop perfection.
Essential Tracks to Check Out: Every. Damn. One.
P.S. Because I am way too much of a Kelly stan for my own good, I also have the 2-Disc Special Edition of this album and it is absolutely worth picking up if you ever see it at a discount record store or something of the like. I mean … just tell me this remix of “Behind These Hazel Eyes” alone isn't worth the extra coins: