Avril Lavigne took a leap of faith on herself, and it turned into a song that Kelly Clarkson made a massive hit.
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Two years after her American Idol win, Clarkson had released her debut album and had a pair of hits to her name with “A Moment Like This” and “Miss Independent” when she was presented with “Breakaway.” Though “Breakaway” was co-written by fellow pop-rock star Avril Lavigne, Clarkson identified with the theme of breaking away from her small-town life to chase something bigger – and turned it into one of her signature songs.
Meaning Behind the Song
Fans may be surprised to know that Lavigne not only co-wrote “Breakaway” with Matthew Gerrard and Bridget Benenate, but her story is also the inspiration for the lyrics. Lavigne was working on material for her 2002 debut album, Let Go, at the time “Breakaway” was written, but decided it didn’t fit the project.
The lyrics were inspired by how she needed to leave her hometown to pursue her ambitious music dreams.
“I wrote the song at a very young age,” Lavigne recalls backstage at The Kelly Clarkson Show, raving that Clarkson “slayed” and “did an amazing job on the song.” “I was leaving my small town, went to the city. I took a chance, I took a leap of faith on my career. It was a very scary thing, leaving my world behind and taking a chance was what the song was written about.”
Though Clarkson didn’t write the song, she did make a notable change. She asked Lavigne and her co-writers if she could change the original line and when the snow would fall down, inspired by Lavigne’s upbringing in the wintry Ontario, Canada, to “rain” to reflect the weather in her native Texas. They approved, with the song’s famous opening lines being, Grew up in a small town / And when the rain would fall down / I’d just stare out my window.
“Avril came over to write with us, Avril talked about her life and what things were important to her, she was the inspiration for the song,” Benenate told Songwriter Universe about how the song was written, adding that Gerrard built the track while she forged ahead with the lyrics.
“The song was originally written for Avril. It was inspired by her life,” adds Gerrard. “As it turned out, it wasn’t quite right for Avril’s album, so we pitched it to Kelly Clarkson. It all worked out great. Kelly sounds great singing it, and it was a big hit for us.”
Clarkson’s voice took the song to new heights. Featured on the soundtrack for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, “Breakaway” was originally released as a single when Clarkson was in between albums. What was supposed to simply satiate fans’ appetites until the first single from her album was released turned into a global hit that became the title track of her 2004 album.
“Breakaway” topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, hit No. 2 on both the Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 charts, and reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal