Here’s the thing: “Since U Been Gone” is one of the strongest power-pop ballads of the 2000s. Released in 2004 on Clarkson’s second studio album, Breakaway, the track laid the groundwork for a pure pop revival and catapulted Clarkson’s career into the stars.
Before the song found Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone” was written by Swedish songwriter/producer Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys) and American songwriter/producer Lukasz Gottwald, professionally known as Dr. Luke. The songwriting duo originally pitched the song to P!nk who turned it down. They then gave the song to Hilary Duff who also turned it down due to a number of high notes she couldn’t hit.
When Clarkson was suggested to sing on the track, the song had already been workshopped to have a fuller, more pop-infused sound. Martin and Dr. Luke drew some inspiration from the song “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when writing the song, but threw in a pop twist.
“That was a conscious move by Max and myself because we were listening to alternative and indie music,” Dr. Luke told Billboard. “I said, ‘Ah, I love this song,’ and Max was like, ‘If they would just write a damn pop chorus on it!’ It was driving him nuts, because that indie song was sort of on six, going to seven, going to eight, the chorus comes… and it goes back down to five. It drove him crazy. And when he said that, it was like, light bulb. ‘Why don’t we do that, but put a big chorus on it?’ It worked.”
But since you been gone / I can breathe for the first time / I’m so moving on, yeah, yeah / Thanks to you / Now I get what I want / Since you been gone, Clarkson wails through the lyrics of the chorus.
“Since U Been Gone” recounts the story of a failed relationship from the female’s (Clarkson’s) first-person point of view. The relief she feels from the break is palpable, and she continues to proclaim her newfound sense of freedom with every since you been gone.
Despite coming into the production process post songwriting, Clarkson did meld the track to fit her own sonic fingerprint.
“I went to Max Martin’s studio in Sweden. We recorded it there with Max and the co-writer of the song, Lukasz Gottwald. The first time I heard the song I thought it was a little poppy, so I asked if we could rock the track a little,” Clarkson stated in an early statement. “We put some heavier guitars and harder drums on it. Now it’s explosive.”
Certainly explosive, if not groundbreaking, “Since U Been Gone” went on to win Clarkson the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy Award in 2006. This song unboundedly changed the pop scene, and further endeared the inaugural winner of American Idol to the music world.
Photo Credit: CBS