Kelly Clarkson might be a happily married, soon-to-be mother of two, but she’s been open about struggling to find love in the past, admitting that she was single for years and that she’d also been cheated on. The outspoken singer (who totally seems like she’d make an amazing celeb mom BFF, let's be honest) has also been upfront about her difficult upbringing and being deeply hurt by her parents’ divorce. But, like many other successful musicians (looking at you, T Swift), Clarkson turned that pain into a string of hit songs that have helped solidify her impressive career. Who are Kelly Clarkson’s songs about? Looking back through Clarkson’s lengthy catalogue, there are a number of standout tracks that clearly meant something particularly personal to the former American Idol, and it’s safe to say she definitely had someone specific in mind when she wrote them.
To be fair, Clarkson doesn’t write all of her own songs, and in some cases, the stories behind the songs she didn’t write are just as intriguing as the ones she did. According to The Hollywood Gossip, Clarkson told Blender in 2007 that writer-producers Max Martin and Lukasz Gottwald (aka Dr. Luke, aka the producer currently embroiled in a high-profile legal battle with Kesha) reportedly blew off Clarkson’s self-penned lyrics for “Since U Been Gone” and chose to go instead with the ones they wrote themselves, which left Clarkson feeling like she'd been lied to.
Clarkson also had a highly-publicized feud with producer Ryan Tedder, with whom she co-wrote the hit “Already Gone,” after she learned that he’d allegedly sent a similar backing track to Beyoncé when he worked on her hit, “Halo” (Tedder, for his part, denies her claim, and the similarities between the tracks have been debated.)
But, feuds aside, these Clarkson-penned songs clearly came from her own heart — and her own personal experience.
"Because Of You"
Clarkson’s 2004-hit “Because Of You” (one of her most successful songs to date) is a pretty hard-hitting emotional track about her residual feelings about her parents’ divorce when she was only 6-years-old, and how it continued to affect her. She co-wrote the song with Ben Moody and David Hodges of Evanescence (and was also dating Hodges at the time — more on him later!), and even wrote the treatment for the music video herself too. Discussing the song with MTV, she said,
It’s about the cycle of families, like you act how your parents acted towards you and then your kids act how you acted towards them, and it’s all about breaking that cycle if it was a bad one.
Before dating and marrying her now-husband Brandon Blackstock, Clarkson admitted to feeling pretty unlucky in love. Shortly after announcing her engagement, Clarkson told Us Weekly that she’d been single for six years before meeting Blackstock (and not by choice). And one of the few relationships she did have? Clarkson said it ended because he cheated on her.
Clarkson wrote the scathing breakup song “Never Again” in 2005, following her relationship with ex-Evanescence member David Hodges (of the aforementioned “Because Of You” co-writing credit), and, according to Just Jared, Clarkson definitely did not have fond memories of their time together. Of their relationship, she said:
My standards were low because I was lonely. I met this musician, not a famous musician–he doesn’t even deserved to be named–and I thought he was totally into me. And then you find out, oh God, that he had this whole other relationship on the side, and that he is only dating you to get into pictures and to become famous.
Brutal. Well, at least she got a song out of it?
"Piece By Piece"
Clarkson’s latest single “Piece By Piece” got a fair amount of attention after she performed it on American Idol last month and left the judges (not to mention all the viewers at home) in tears. And there was a good reason why: Clarkson explained to Glamour that she wrote “Piece By Piece” as a follow-up to “Because Of You,” but this time celebrating the dedication and love of her husband to both her and their baby daughter, River:
I had River, and even from holding her the first day, I was like, how could anyone walk away from that? Then I started thinking that my husband is such a great father...He changes diapers, he stays up, and if I’ve had a late night, he’ll wake up with her in the morning. We’re definite partners, and I felt so lucky….I was talking to my sister on the phone about how sometimes girls with daddy issues don’t find men like that!
I don’t know what my father went through as a child, and I don’t know why he left and made the decisions he made, but everyone’s human. I don’t understand it for me, but I understand the depth of what that is—having a child—now, and he’s made me want to be that much more present in my family.
Awesome dads for the win.
Although Clarkson is in a great place in her life, she’s clearly still able to pour her own emotions and experiences into her songs in the best way — which keeps her music relatable. And honestly? Seeing the progression in the subject matter of the songs she’s written is totally heartwarming — while she was once writing about heartbreak and being “Miss Independent,” these days she’s writing about having the rock-solid marriage and the family she wanted but wasn’t always sure she would have.