Believe it or not, the professional songwriters who penned this one, Max Martin and Lukasz Gottwald, had to shop it around a bit. For some reason, Pink didn’t like it, and Hillary Duff, bless her heart, couldn’t sing it – the high notes were beyond her – so lucky for us, it wound up with American Idol victor Kelly Clarkson, who manifestly and most emphatically could hit the high notes, and then some. This is a great pop tune, and likely would have been a hit no matter who sang it, but Clarkson makes it her own with what has to be one of the standout vocal performances of the modern era, spanning the melody’s two octaves, climaxing on a high G, not merely with ease, but outright ferocity. My God, it sounds like she could shatter plate glass at 200 paces if she felt like it, and her impeccable musical phrasing, her sense of of the song’s inherent drama, captures perfectly the enraged essence of this anthem of a woman who’s just as relieved as she is angry to have finally been scorned by her worthless louse of an insensitive boyfriend. Screw him. Up his with a wire brush. Free at last!
It’s said that when the demo made its way to her, Clarkson didn’t much care for it, finding the arrangement bland and a bit generic. She wanted to punch it up, big time. She wanted a faster tempo. She wanted lots of howling guitars, with a bitchin’ solo in the middle. She didn’t want a power ballad – she wanted balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n roll, goddammit. So she did the same thing with the raw material that George Martin did to Please Please Me, changing it from a good song with potential into a guaranteed chart-topper that nobody – not even the hipsters and skeptics whose instinct was to scoff at anybody who arrived by way of frigging American Idol – could possibly resist.
It’s powerful, defiant, righteous, and royally pissed off. A triumph.