I love trying to figure out who female empowerment break up songs are actually about.
Like, Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” is probably inspired by John Mayer or Harry Styles, Alanis Morissette’s “U Oughta Know” lines up with her traumatic break up with Full House star Dave Coulier and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” has got to be about her experience working under music mogul, Clive Davis.
Okay, okay, okay…Kelly Clarkson and Clive Davis were certainly never romantically involved, but they did have a messy professional break up after the “disappointment” of her third studio album, My December.
Back in 2009, their feud over the album hit the tabloids. Now, Clive Davis is releasing a memoir where he dishes on Whitney Houston’s substance abuse, his bisexuality and how horrible Kelly Clarkson is because she argued with his opinion and cried in his office once. In response, Clarkson wrote an impassioned essay on WhoSay that basically called Davis out for slander, and in response to that post, Davis said that his book was “fact-checked”.
To be quite honest, I don’t really care who said what and who cried what tears over the course of their professional relationship. Stuff happens when creative people with strong opinions about their work get together and millions of dollars are at stake. People cry. Arguments happen. Blood feuds emerge. I’m sure both are remembering things the way they personally remember them happening. I bet that Clarkson passionately disagreed with Clive Davis and that Davis was horrified that an artist would have the gall to question him.
That’s not what’s interesting about this story.
What’s interesting is that it all boils down to the question of what can a person do if they feel they are being bullied by their boss.
Clarkson stated that the reason she took to WhoSay to state her version of the events is “I refuse to be bullied and I just have to clear up his memory lapses and misinformation for myself and for my fans. It feels like a violation.”
Clarkson isn’t just setting a story straight. She’s standing up to one of the titans in the music industry–and that’s important.
Look, a lot of people want to be stars. It’s why we have singing competition shows like American Idol. It’s why people give up everything to move to Hollywood. It’s why some people change everything about themselves from their names to their appearances in order to be better liked by audiences and industry moguls.
A lot of people are talented enough to be stars, but it’s moguls like Clive Davis who decide who gets the opportunity to be offered to the public as such.
Because of this, singers, actors, writers, and other creative types can very often be bullied into doing things that make them feel less than comfortable just for the chance to have a job.
For instance, pretty much every actress (including myself–and I’ve never even been a professional performer) has been told to lose weight or they wouldn’t get roles. Mila Kunis was famously told by a producer if she didn’t pose for a sexy magazine she’d never work again. In Clarkson’s case, she reportedly had her opinion as an artist undermined by her boss, but to make matters worse, that boss publicly humiliated her.
There’s no reason for the public to dislike Kelly Clarkson. I mean, she’s always come across like your older sister’s best friend. Meaning, she’s friendly and nice and you know she must be intrinsically cool because your sister hangs out with her, but you don’t know her well enough to know anything particularly private or crazy about her. She just comes across as a genuine human being who speaks her mind and photobombs at the Grammys.
But Clive Davis has repeatedly gone after Clarkson in the press for her behind-the-scenes behavior in a way he hasn’t done for any of the other artists he’s worked with over the years. Which means one of two things: either Clarkson is a particularly black-hearted person in an industry of morally corrupt souls or Davis is enraged that Clarkson dared question his opinion.
By all standards, Clive Davis is a very smart man who knows his business, but that doesn’t mean he’s infallible. Sometimes people in positions of power assume that power equals perfection. It doesn’t. We’re all human.
I’m not saying that Clarkson was right and Davis was wrong. I wasn’t there. I’m not a music industry expert. I don’t know. What I am saying is that this sounds like a misunderstanding that blew up into a public power struggle because people like Kelly Clarkson aren’t supposed to disagree with people like Clive Davis.
Oftentimes people of a higher status get away with horrible things because the people below them are afraid to speak up. They’re threatened. Kelly Clarkson wasn’t threatened by Clive Davis’s power in private meetings and she apparently isn’t threatened by them now.
Basically, Kelly Clarkson broke the rules because she had a voice and spoke out. That’s it. Not because she was right or because she was wrong. That doesn’t matter here. What matters is simply that she spoke up.
Speaking up scares people who think they are above you and don’t have to listen to you. Speaking up also scares men if you’re a woman or the majority if you’re in a minority. That doesn’t mean that you should be afraid to speak up. It usually means that you should.
Because, honestly, if what you’re saying is wrong or crazy or just stupid, the people above you don’t have to listen to it anyway.
People like Clive Davis are afraid of their inferiors’ opinions because they’re afraid they might be right–and where would that leave all their so-called power?
It’s not just what doesn’t kill you that makes you stronger, it’s what you have the courage to say on your own that does. Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, Kelly Clarkson is the victor here because of her courage.
Featured image by Mike Blake/Reuters via NY Daily News