Taylor Swift's "Clean" & Kelly Clarkson's "Sober" Are the Pretty Much the Same, Beautiful Song
In the days since she left her long list of ex-lovers behind for hanging out with every tall, talented lady in Hollywood, there hasn't been a female star out there that Taylor Swift hasn't befriended. From Lorde to Lena Dunham, Ingrid Michaelson to Ina Garten, nearly every powerful woman in the business has crossed paths with the singer over the last few years, whether through deep friendships, cooking classes, or frolics through the woods. One notable woman, though, has been surprisingly absent from Swift's collection of friends: Kelly Clarkson, who, despite covering "Shake It Off" and tweeting her congrats to the singer after the song's premiere, has seemingly stayed out of Swift's friend-making orbit.
Yet while Clarkson and Swift may not have connected yet in real life, their friendship is only a matter of time. Why? Because in addition to both women being smart, badass musicians who love a good break-up anthem or 12, they're also responsible for writing what's pretty much the exact same song. While it may not have been Swift's intention, the closer to 1989, a track called "Clean," is eerily similar to "Sober," the second single off Clarkson's 2007 album, My December .
And before anyone who's just started YouTubing "Sober" tells me how wrong I am, I don't mean similar in sound — the two songs have a very different tone and melody.
"Clean" is an ethereal, slow song with an electro-pop beat, while "Sober" is all alternative rock, a dark ballad that culminates in a huge, shouting chorus. It's the lyrics of the songs that have me feeling a major case of déjà vu. Both tracks deal with the struggle of moving on from a painful relationship and starting anew, figuring out to be yourself without the familiarity of a former, unhealthy love. Even more than that, there's some very specific imagery the two songs share. For instance:
Dead/dying plant life
"Clean:" "The drought was the very worst/when the flowers that we'd grown together died of thirst."
"Sober:" "Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers."
"Clean:" "You're still all over me like I wine-stained dress I can't wear anymore."
"Sober:" "Three months and I'm still sober."
Months passing by
"Clean:" "It was months and months of back and forth."
"Sober:" "Three months and I'm still standing here/three months and I'm getting better."
The word "sober"
"Clean:" "Ten months sober, I must admit/just because you're clean don't mean you miss it."
"Sober:" The entire song.
You get the point. While it's extremely doubtful Swift purposely imitated Clarkson while writing "Clean," the similarities between the songs are undeniable — not that that's a bad thing. Both "Clean" and "Sober" (below) are great songs, full of power and energy and eloquent, memorable lyrics. Even with their likeness, both tracks still feel unique, representative of two very different journeys in their writers' lives.
And if Swift did accidentally copy Clarkson a bit too closely? Well, it clearly worked out well. "Clean" is one of the 1989 singer's most powerful songs to date, and if there's any musician worth her imitating, it's Clarkson. Like many of Swift's other contemporaries, the "Sober" singer is a huge force in pop, but what makes her stand out is her commitment to making music that's emotional (but not schmaltzy), important (but not preachy), and commanding (but not manipulative). She's empowering and confident— and exactly the type of musician Swift should be emulating. As "Clean" shows, she already is, but the song's lyrics aren't the only way.
In the past year, Swift has, like Clarkson always has, embraced her independence, explored different sides of her talent, and spoken out on the issues she feels are most important. It's been a welcome change in the singer, showing a growing maturity and keen self-awareness. Whether or not she was the inspiration, Clarkson would most surely approve — and she and Swift can chat all about it, once the two musicians become best friends (and co-songwriters? A girl can dream).