Kelly Clarkson — “Since U Been Gone”

Released: 12.4.04

Peak: #2

And say hello to Dr. Luke Gottwald. The former SNL guitarist and Friend of Max (Martin) was truly, for the latter part of the decade, pop’s King Midas, asses’ ears and all. My welcome is, well, lukewarm with just cause: the guy is not only responsible for the era’s least durable pop smashes, but for celebritizing its most enduring nuisances, Katy and Ke$ha. His typical production offers a monochromatic kaleidoscope, a simulacra of fun constructed from non-visceral aural sensation.

“Since U Been Gone” (co-produced by Martin) was the monster hit that all indie rock kids rocked out to. That makes it easy to overestimate both as a song and as a moment–to forget that Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” kept it out of the top slot and that there was already such a being as Avril. But “Since U Been Gone” excels as an artful alloy of sonic bits: that strummed electric guitar in the first verse, those explosive cymbals on the chorus, the controlled feedback swell rising out of the bridge. And with her voice at first husky and resentful, then distilling to pure defiance, and crumpling into an anti-climactic shrug at the end, Clarkson turns in an A+ Idol performance.

Someone like Pink or maybe even Beyonce could have flooded the chorus with bile, but were the singer here a bitterer bitch, her pill might stick some in our throats. Unlike just about every other Gottwald collaborator, though, Kelly was likeable, and “Since U Been Gone” earned Clarkson even greater good will than her pleasant personality already had. I hate the phrase “pretend to like”; I try to commit myself to accepting expressed tastes at face value. But surely at least some pop newbies, won over by this hit, expended a certain amount of effort into appreciating the joylessly expressive Clarkson-Gottwald follow-up “Behind These Hazel Eyes.”

Then again, better Gottwald should invest his evil genius into trivializing overheated passion than into trivializing something I care about, like fun. In his post-“Since U Been Gone” career, Luke has put a new twist on the “guilty pleasure”: I feel guilty to derive such little pleasure from pop songs that exist solely to entertain.

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  • Chris Molanphy  On August 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Think you need a correction above: We wish Kelly was kept out of the top slot by Green Day’s “Boulevard.” Both “Since” and “Boulevard” peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 behind one of the decade’s shittiest, least imaginative chart-toppers, Fitty’s “Candy Shop.”

  • usefulnoise  On August 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks Chris. Not sure how I flubbed this one.

    Also, yeah, sexy candy metaphors almost always = eww.

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