Behind the Cathartic Meaning of “Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson’s 2004 song, “Because of You,” is a scream into the pillow. It’s a cathartic track where the singer gets everything off her chest that she always needed to. Because of you, I’m afraid.

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To let the meaning of the song end there would be short-sighted. Sometimes the act of singing is more powerful than any words or lyrics, melody, or rhythm. Such is the case with “Because of You.” The hopeful quality of the song is that the singer can belt all of this blame out, and she’s still standing with the chance to do better than where she came from.

Let’s dive in deeper.

“Because of You”

The single comes from the 40-year-old, Texas-born Clarkson’s second studio LP, Breakaway, which she released in 2004. The LP hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and is Clarkson’s best-selling ever.

Clarkson, who won the inaugural season of American Idol and has been a star ever since, now more recently branching out to television and commercials galore, wrote “Because of You” when she was just 16 years old. The song came during the tumultuous time of her parent’s divorce. She said she wrote the lyrics for the song in less than a half-hour.

More recently, Clarkson has talked about her forthcoming new LP and how it was born out of extreme emotions, too, as she goes through her own divorce.

Amazingly, Clarkson wanted “Because of You” on her debut LP but the record label said no. She worked on it more with songwriters David Hodges and Ben Moody of the band Evanescence and now the song has half a billion streams on YouTube, alone. It’s easy to imagine it played in the bedrooms of many homes dealing with dysfunction. The song peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top 10 in the U.K.

The Father Figure

The song is focused on both parents, but perhaps more so on the father figure. Clarkson sings at the top of her lungs, emotionally saying all the things that she’s scared of, all the scars she’s taken on because of him. In the emotive music video, there are scenes in which the daughter character is also battling the mother figure, as well.

[RELATED: Story Behind the Song: “Piece by Piece” by Kelly Clarkson]

Clarkson has called the song the most depressive she’s ever written. But it’s one she said she wanted to be remembered by because she had to work hard to get it on her sophomore LP. She said, “I think I’m most proud of that song—just getting it on an album because no one liked it until it hit No. 1 worldwide and everybody was on board.”

Clarkson sings,

I’m forced to fake a smile, a laugh
Every day of my life
My heart can’t possibly break
When it wasn’t even whole to start with


You never thought of anyone else
You just saw your pain (you never saw me)
And now I cry
In the middle of the night
For the same damn thing

The message of dysfunction, catharsis, and honesty was so powerful that country icon Reba McEntire wanted to record it with Clarkson. Their collaboration was recorded and released on McEntire’s Reba: Duets LP.

The Sound

Though Clarkson is known largely for her country twang and Nashville songwriting sensibilities, she’s a versatile artist (as fans have seen on her daily “Kellyoke” segments on The Kelly Clarkson Show).

And showcasing diversity in sound came early for the artist, as Breakaway and “Because of You,” showcase both pop and rock sensibilities. On “Because of You,” Clarkson is not backed by slide guitars and snare brushes but by big drums, piano chords, strings, and cymbal crashes.

Given that Clarkson worked with two members of Evanescence, it makes sense. “Hearing the Evanescence album, you can obviously tell that David and Ben have a real passion for music and that big kind of background,” she said of the collab. “And I have a big voice and I like the music to match it, so it was a real dream team.”

[RELATED: Kelly Clarkson Explains Post-Divorce Album ‘Chemistry’]

“She had these ideas already in place for songs; all I really had to do was build music around them and develop them,” said Moody. “It was quite easy.”

Final Thoughts

It would be easy to listen to the song and think it is unfinished, but that would be to ignore the subtlety of the writing and the performance.

That the singer recognizes the issues means there can be healing. That she can belt it out so powerfully means that there is hope and strength. And, thus, room to grow. Even the opening line of the song is a pronouncement:

I will not make the same mistakes that you did
I will not let myself ’cause my heart so much misery

Clarkson is always positive in her presentation even though the waters may be choppy. So, this song is not to say ignore the issues, but rather look them in the eye and overcome them. Then, the glory will be on your shoulders, due to your strength. Yes, because of you.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

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