Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone

I’m aware that many of our readers have a nagging suspicion that music video clips are the ultimate vapourware of our generation — expensively-generated three-minute visual vignettes that wash over you like a Bertelsmann-sponsored summer shower. Well I’m here to grab you by the virtual lapels, shove a qwerty keyboard-numbed digit in your sternum and tell you in no uncertain terms: 

How can I be so unequivocal? I can, because once in a while a music video comes along that actually has a point.
“Hang on,” I hear you say. “I’ve seen what video clip you’re talking about… It’s the Kelly Clarkson chick… and that Since U Been Gone song. Talk about disposable pap… She’s hardly Suzi Quatro, is she?!”
Easy mistake to make.
The first time I saw Since U Been Gone I fell into much the same trap. I thought, okay it’s one of those ‘soft bit/loud bit’ songs that can be roughly paraphrased with these lyrics:
‘You’re a boy/You suck/I’m a grrrl/I rule
Up yours/get stuffed/mess with me/I’ll trash yer flat.’
Okay, maybe that doesn’t scan as well as it might, but you get the idea: it’s a ‘riot grrrlz unite’ tirade against hopeless blokes and their inability to understand a woman’s need to ‘rock out’.
But it occurred to me that Since U Been Gone is nowhere near as aimless as all that. As I say, there’s actually a point to it.
Which, rather curiously, prompts me to step back 50 years into a New York loft apartment where we find a portly, truculent Afro-American geezer penning a jazz classic entitled Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. It was Charles Mingus’ paean to the (then) recent passing of jazz legend Lester Young. Mingus didn’t suffer fools gladly — in fact he put quite a few in hospital — but I’ve little doubt he would have nodded approvingly at the thought of grunge-sprite, Kelly Clarkson, taking her art back into a New York loft with a song that by rights should be subtitled Hello Pork Pie Hat.
That, I’m convinced, is the whole point. Since U Been Gone is a woman’s personal odyssey in reclaiming lost millinery — simple as that.
The video clip finds Kelly sitting pensively in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment trying to figure out where the confounded hat might be. She looks a little like Britney Spears on her day off and about as amused as John Connor’s ‘mom’ in Terminator 2. Being one of those riot grrrlz, her search is somewhat haphazard. Kelly kicks off her quest in the bathroom, upsetting a tub of Nivea Visage in the process. Next, the wardrobe. After pulling out a bunch of sweaters and even trying on a flat cap for size, she’s still no closer.
Ah ha. Kelly has a moment of clarity: the hat stand — that’s got to be it. And where are all hat stands? Near the door. On the way to the door she knocks over some rather neat shelving, a CD stand, carelessly catapults a photo frame through a glass coffee table, and disgorges a poultry farm’s worth of feathers from some pillows. Never mind, accidents will happen.
After a few intermittent visits downstairs to a gig she happens to be fronting, Kelly finally finds her hat and promptly exits the building. Just as well, I might add, as before you can say ‘Housekeeping!’, she narrowly misses her ex.
This is storytelling at its best. File next to John Steinbeck and Henry James. — CH

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