Song: ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’
Artist: Kelly Clarkson
US chart peak: 6
Release date: April 12, 2005
Writers: Kelly Clarkson, Max Martin, Lukasz Gottwald
Producers: Dr Luke, Max Martin
Quintessential Max moment: That little pause before the chorus crashes in
Video synopsis: The worst episode of Don’t Tell The Bride ever
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, Kelly Clarkson’s had less than favourable things to say about some of the songs she’s made with Max. Perhaps part of the problem was that the songs themselves existed before Kelly was brought in, making her role less proper co-writer and more just lyric tweaker/editor. She also famously hated the way her voice sounded on ‘Since U Been Gone’. That song’s follow-up, ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’, however, is one of Clarkso’s favourites, with it almost becoming the title track of her second album, ‘Breakaway’.
Maybe one of the reasons she’s a fan of it is because it was sent to her in its embryonic form, as Dr Luke explained to Billboard in 2010: “We had just done ‘Since U Been Gone’, which everyone was happy with. We sent a rough version of ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’, without any lyrics, to Kelly and [big record label boss man] Clive Davis. It was in part an olive branch to Kelly, because there was miscommunication on ‘Since U Been Gone’, where Kelly had written some lyrics and Max and I didn’t know about it and we had finished the song. So we wanted to write ‘Behind…’ with her from the beginning, but we were in different places. She had just won American Idol and was on tour, so she’d email me lyrics, and I’d email her my thoughts. The only wrote face to face was the bridge.”
‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’ plays an important role in the career of Kelly Clarkson. Both ‘Behind…’ and ‘Since U Been Gone’ were full of emotion following her recent break-up with boyfriend David Hodges (of Evanescence ‘fame’), and while the lyrics to the former were already written by the time of the actual split, things were tweaked to reflect what happened. Kelly had this to say to Entertainment Weekly about how ‘Behind…’ and ‘Since U Been Gone’ work as a pair: “‘Hazel Eyes’ is about the dipstick who completely screwed up and now is unhappy and you’re happy. And then you’re just shouting praises at the fact that he’s miserable in ‘Since U Been Gone’.” Keen to document the fallout more specifically, ‘Never Again’, the seriously pissed off, Max Martin-less, first single from her third album, ‘My December’, can be read as a sort of sequel. Listening to ‘Never Again’ now, it’s clear the ragged emotion was born in the similarly frayed ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’, which should rightfully be your favourite rock song of all time.
And ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’ really does rock. It also pops too, obviously, this is Max Martin, but those opening guitars feel properly jagged and angry. While ‘Never Again’ perhaps doesn’t sweeten the pop pill quite enough, Max makes sure ‘Behind…’ keeps its eye on the radio prize (that springy electronic drum beat, those lovely cooing backing vocals, the gloriously simple chorus melody, that odd but memorable title and hook that makes it jump out). Obviously underpinning it all is a vocal performance from Clarkson that makes you believe every single word, her head sounding like it’s about to pop off during the ad-libs in the final chorus or so. While the song ‘only’ peaked at Number 6, it actually spent a whopping 15 weeks bounding around the Top Ten, which is really quite good when you think about it.