NPR logo The Decade In Music: Kelly Clarkson's 'Since U Been Gone' (2005)

The Decade In Music: Kelly Clarkson's 'Since U Been Gone' (2005)

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Since U Been Gone"
  • Artist: Kelly Clarkson
  • CD: Breakaway
  • Genre: Pop-Rock

2005's Greatest Hits

  • 1. Mariah Carey, "We Belong Together"
  • 2. Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl"
  • 3. Mario, "Let Me Love You"
  • 4. Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone"
  • 5. Ciara featuring Missy Elliott, "1, 2 Step"
  • For a list of 2005's top singles, click here.
Kelly Clarkson i

In "Since U Been Gone," Clarkson belts out one of the decade's great pop songs, infusing it with energy and charisma. courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist
Kelly Clarkson

In "Since U Been Gone," Clarkson belts out one of the decade's great pop songs, infusing it with energy and charisma.

courtesy of the artist

[Every weekday from Nov. 9 to Nov. 20, Song of the Day is surveying the past decade, one year (and one song) at a time, with an emphasis on America's most popular music. These picks don't exactly qualify as musical discoveries, but they do have something to say about the 10 years we're about to leave behind. Song of the Day will return to new music on Monday, Nov. 23. —ed.]

At the end of every American Idol season, the big winner has to sing a show-stopping ballad — a never-before-heard piece of mawkish flotsam about dreaming big, accomplishing a goal, having faith in oneself, giving thanks, climbing mountains, dreaming dreams, and rhyming "believe" with "achieve." Season after season, it's the most inauspicious possible way to launch a pop career.

For the show's first-ever winner, Kelly Clarkson, that song was "A Moment Like This," which could have just as easily served as the love theme for an animated Disney adventure about a peasant princess who finds love with the aid of a sass-talking anteater; it was immediately followed by the universally laughed-at From Justin to Kelly, a cash-in movie musical that doubled as an instant punchline.

But something happened on the way to oblivion: Clarkson's glossy 2003 debut (Thankful) was buoyed by a few slickly delightful pop songs, and its follow-up, Breakaway, was even better. In the dynamite 2005 single "Since U Been Gone," she belts out one of the decade's finest pop anthems, following a familiar formula — jilted ex-girlfriend indignantly declares independence — but infusing it with energy, charisma and full-throated intensity. Sure, the over-the-top, loud-louder-loudest production helps. But it's an unmistakably great pop-rock song, thanks most of all to an unmistakably great pop-rock singer.

Sadly, "Since U Been Gone" also spawned a video, which undercuts its message to an alarming degree: The words say "Since you've been gone / I can breathe for the first time," but the pictures say, "Breaking up with you necessitates destroying all of your property." So much better that she commemorate her newfound freedom by moving on to a new life in which she leaves his possessions with a friend, feels better about herself, and sells 10 million records. Why get the cops involved?

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