Either subconsciously or meticulously, artists can sometimes continuously interweave a metaphor or a particular word into their discographies. For example, albeit living in America’s most busy metropolitan, New York, where there’s only ever the need to hail a bright yellow taxi Sex and The City-style, Taylor Swift uses driving as a way to portray control in relationships, à la, “He’s got a one-hand feel on the steering wheel / The other on my heart.” In contrast, someone like Niall Horan has used alternatives of the word “heaven” in both ‘New Angel’ and, yep, the lead single for The Show, ‘Heaven.’
Now Kelly Clarkson has brought us back to the My December days by retreating to its fourth track ‘Sober’ by intersecting the word into ‘lighthouse,’ one of her tracks found on the latest album chemistry through the lyric “I didn’t choose sober, but my eyes can’t look away.”
As we were saying, unless we were to ask these artists themselves if these parallels are etched carefully into their work, there are no accounts for them being there for a particular reason, but it is undeniably interesting. Especially so when both ‘Sober’ and ‘lighthouse’ talk about the sensation of waking up to a toxic relationship, which Kelly Clarkson also brings up during her chat with Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1.
I think when you finally go, “I can’t fix this. I can’t,” there’s no amount of hope that will, or trying or whatever. It actually is freeing. It’s incredibly sad. It’s a dark place, and fetal position on the floor crying.
Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1
Fairytale Ending Hypothesis
Therefore, for this reason, we’ve let three songs out of Kelly’s chemistry lab to inspect further, delving into its themes and perhaps hidden meanings around the idea of sobering up to toxicity: ‘down to you,’ ‘rock hudson,’ and yeah, you already saw it coming, but clearly ‘lighthouse.’ That doesn’t mean you should only listen to these tracks, though! Kelly’s crafted such a beautiful album that takes one through those low but also wonderstruck moments of a relationship that we’re expecting you to chant every lyric back to us. But we’re all Kelly fans around here, so it’s just a cute exercise.
‘down to you’
With the help of a few plucks of a guitar, ‘down to you’’s intro immediately draws us into the ambient feeling described in the Apple Music 1 interview where Kelly Clarkson was taught an important life lesson during schooling hours: basically, students separate into those standing on a chair with the others sitting on the ground. They had to see if raising the other person towards them or pushing them off-kilter was easier, and as this song title goes, obviously, it was the latter. “I heard you started runnin’ your mouth again,” Kelly starts up with the chord progression flowing into her alternative of Coldplay’s ‘Don’t Panic’ until a question arises—“Well, baby, who are you to underestimate me?”
The bass drops real low around then, and if we were to be particular, it comes in on the “you,” which syncs up with the line that comes before it – “And the joke’s on me, yeah” – as to those around her, she’s come off quite insane to let him get away with his charades quite easily. But now she’s playing her own cards as she “won’t make that mistake again.” The instrument only amplifies and becomes quicker as the chorus kicks in. Kelly now knows that she’s done, therefore using the production as a tool to portray her progressing self-esteem.
“I can’t dance with the devil on my back / Need somebody who can meet me where I’m at.”
Surprisingly, that production quiet downs for one moment on the bridge while breathly stating, “Can’t do that again.” It could both symbolize a halt in her self-esteem, knowing that healing isn’t linear, and a part of her still is in love with him, but despite that, it’s acting as a warning to herself not to get involved. In the outro, these same lines repeat, except there’s a twist in the narrative as both “And now I know you’ll never change / I don’t wanna be your friend” shortens to “And now I know (And now I know) you’ll never change” and there’s a lack of the production hushing meaning she’s learned her lesson and will be choosing herself from now on in.
I read something, not everyone is deserving of your story or worth it or worth your time. And it doesn’t mean that that person is bad and you’re good or you’re bad and they’re good. It’s just like that’s not what it is right now.
Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1
If there’s one track on chemistry that we would let the laboratory explode over, it would easily be ‘rock hudson,’ aka it just keeps on giving. We’re expecting each of you to light up your phones if you’re ever lucky to be in the venue when it’s played live again! For one, it has this extraordinary mix between grunge and country and pop with its production, dirty and low with those starting chords, and then builds into this sway tangling with the harmonies. However, its real highlight is in both the maturity of the lyrics and Kelly’s vocals, and we genuinely mean that because it rivals her range on already classic and aspiring the potential this one could go to with ‘Already Gone.’
For those asking, Rock Hudson is at the top of the list when it comes to names circling the likes of Channing Tatum and Timothée Chalamet, meaning that he was the leading man in the 50s and 60s, so straight away through the word “were” in “You were my Rock Hudson,” we know that Kelly’s going to dismantle her ex-husband’s position in her life. Also, Kelly Clarkson portrays this innocence in her voice while singing the line that polishes the other lyric in the first verse, “No, I never saw it comin’.” She didn’t imagine a day when he would step out of the rom-com they were creating, and what’s even more heartbreaking is the follow-up to “Didn’t think it’d happen to me” as she never believed that she was worthy of receiving and therefore was even more surprised when she was in that movie.
“Oh, reality is never quite as good as the dream.”
Although she’s called “cut” on it entirely by the time the chorus hits as she’s erased herself from it, refusing to put on a show, making others believe its a fairytale when it isn’t, and then it flows into the bridge: “By the way, piece by piece,” she starts. Obviously, it recalls her infamous track where she thanked her ex-husband for reinstalling her faith in men after her father walked out. Something which she also references on track ‘me.’ However, the true selling point in these lyrics is that going back to the rom-com metaphor, she’s decided to make her own movie, and in fact, “I found out my hero’s me” and even more so, in the lesson, “Happiness doesn’t mean smilin’ when it’s your scene.”
They’re like, “Don’t worry. The end is there,” and you’re like, “Shut up.” At the time, you’re just like, “I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to hear the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to hear all the bumper stickers you’re about to feed me.” It’s just sh*tty, and that’s where I’m at, and I don’t want to go through it.See Also
Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1
During her interview with Zane Lowe, Kelly Clarkson explains others describe her as the light in the room. If she could find that brightness again in her relationship just like someone out in the sea goes searching for that ‘lighthouse,’ then they’d be safe, but as she continued to flesh out the song, there was the realization that the bulb would never turn on. There was simply no hope they would find their way back. What immediately sets this track apart from the other two is that there’s no instrumental intro. There’s simply one piano key and Kelly’s vocals, coming in with a realization that’s confused her: “I need a do-over; how did we end up this way?”
“Which road to take? ‘Cause your hand’s no longer holdin’ mine.”
Then the paint strokes of the metaphor come pouring in with the words “shine” and “light,” and what’s poetic about the latter is that after confessing that between the “almost lost” and “all my light” to describe she hasn’t been herself is a pause to not only emphasize the parts of herself that went missing but what could’ve happened if there were truly none of her left. Her vocals turn all dreamy-like during the pre-chorus, all elongated vowels and wistfulness, wishing there wasn’t a full stop placed on the final page. That same tone fleshes out the lyric “No shootin’ stars can fix what we aren’t” found in the chorus, and the parallel to those lyrics is in the second pre-chorus, except it’s harsher. What was once dreams are now replaceable with blame, just like in ‘rock hudson,’ where real life can’t always be a movie.
It’s the track on the album that most portrays the heavy feeling of waking up to a toxic relationship as it simultaneously illustrates the trance someone can be in with the high-pitched “ooohs” and slowly creeping up ivory keys while the echoing of reality is always going to be there through the unexpected halts and drawn out words, especially with it ending on a breath after uttering “What good’s a lighthouse when the light is burnin’ out?”
Upon entering Kelly Clarkson’s chemistry lab full of player variables and toxic chemicals, which track calls out to you the most? Let us know through our Twitter @thehoneypop, and if you need more time to decide, you can continue streaming the album through one of these platforms.
As always, we’ve loved watching this Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 interview, and you can take in the entire thing here, so get a snack, some fuzzy socks, and spend half an hour with our American Idol. There may even be a poetry lesson wedged in there somewhere, too (double points if you’re a fan of Björk!) Then if you don’t want to leave the airy, white-walled space, we have various articles covering these in-depth chats with other artists, such as Ed Sheeran, on our Facebook and Instagram pages!