It’s been about eighteen months since the first American Idol champ, Kelly Clarkson, trotted her way onto the Top 40 airwaves with “People Like Us”. Though the single easily made the top ten (#7) at Hot AC radio, it barely touched top 30 on the CHR chart, and the anthemic song quickly faded away. After a minor Country chart entry (“Tie It Up”) and a successful Christmas album in Wrapped In Red, the 32-year-old chanteuse is once again ready to take over the national surveys, leading off her forthcoming studio set with a pulsing pop single about the unexpected rekindling of one’s romance and the joys and passion that come with it.
“Heartbeat Song” was co-written by Clarkson, along with Audra Mae, Kara DioGuardi and Jason Evigan. Both Evigan and Mae have been active on the top 40 scene as of recent, but “Heartbeat” marks a bit of a comeback for DioGuardi, previously a co-writer on the singles “Walk Away” (Breakaway) and “I Do Not Hook Up” (All I Ever Wanted). Timed at 3:18, Clarkson begins with a cold opening: “This is my heartbeat song and I’m gonna play it / Been so long, I forgot how to turn it up.” Over a percussive, electro-pop beat, the protagonist notes that she’s met someone who possesses a “different, different kind of fun”, when she’s “used to feeling numb.” Excited by the prospect of the occurrence, she’s “anticipating what’s to come / like a finger on a loaded gun.” It is then that the inevitable emotional rush commences: “I can feel it / rising temperature inside me / haven’t felt it for a long time.”
During the second verse, Clarkson continues to tell about the surprise nature of the budding relationship, but realizes in retrospect that “I never would have had a doubt / if I’d have known where I’d be now.” The physicality of love now plays into it, from “hands on my hips” to a “kiss on your lips.” She also reflects on the nostalgia of a once-present idea of young love and the dream of finding that special person, relaying that “I can’t believe I ever breathed without you” and that she is “alive and brand new” with the man she chose. It’s quite a sweet and tender message, one that is sure to resonate with a varied audience that is thirsty to hear a new single from their beloved hitmaker.
All wrapped up in the production of the All I Ever Wanted and Greatest Hits – Chapter One eras, the song doesn’t find any new ground musically, but certainly fits in with the sound of most of the big songs today. Yet, it’s safe; though it’s a leadoff single, something a little bit riskier could’ve been just as well-received. It’s Kelly Clarkson, after all. Gloss is the way pop music goes, and the 80’s driven synth and guitar arrangement suits her voice. Vocally on point, it’s not her most strenuous affair, but the results are still solid. The initial reaction across social media and forums is positive thus far.
On CHR radio, I’m expecting a giant debut with a peak somewhere in the range of “Catch My Breath” or “Mr. Know It All”, both of which made it into the high teens. On the Hot AC chart, we have an interesting case in which “Heartbeat” by Mat Kearney is already charting within the top 40, but Clarkson is about to steamroll over that with another top five winner. Sorry, man. This is one “Song” that will rule radio and retail for the first half of the year whether you like it or not. Now, are you “gonna play it?”