People Like Us
Album: Greatest Hits – Chapter One
Kelly Clarkson relates to the people who are struggling to pursue their dream in the unrelenting “People Like Us.”
Solemn synths open the single, setting a momentous tone. At the art gallery, she views a self-portrait of the artist, her friend, featured in the gallery. Reflected in her friend’s eyes, she can see the toughness that helped her get through. As a child, her friend loved to draw. She remembered visiting the city’s art museum with her and her mom. Her friend’s mom would point out certain pieces and explain meaning to them. On the way to school, she would sing along in the car as her friend’s mom drove. For her 8th eighth birthday, her friend’s mom bought her a keyboard. It was one of her favorite gifts and how she began to learn how to read music. She knew then she wanted to be a singer. However, she and her friend had teachers telling their parents to have them pursue practical careers. However, they had to learn tune those out who said they couldn’t do it and take a chance. In college, she majored in music while her friend chose art. There, they both encountered constructive criticism from professors and rejection during interviews. After a grueling internship in which she spent fifteen minutes in the bathroom crying for being yelled at for not including a hashtag, she was ready to give up and questioned why she loved music at all. She kept reminding herself only two more months and it would be over. (“We come into this world unknown/But know that we are not alone/They try and knock us down/But change is coming/It’s our turn now/Hey, everybody loses it/Everybody wants to throw it all away sometimes/Hey, I know what you’re going through/Don’t let it get the best of you/You’ll make it out alive.”)
In the chorus, she thinks of her friend. They bonded over their love of art. Without her, she wouldn’t have made it through her internship intact. She kept encouraging her. Both knew they were fortunate to have the opportunity to all. There are many people out there that do not have the means or the access to achieve their dream. They have to fight for any crumble they find. It’s their drive that sets them apart. (“ Oh, people like us/We gotta stick together/Keep your head up/Nothing lasts forever/Here's to the damned, to the lost and forgotten/It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottom/Oh oh oh/We are all misfits living in a world on fire/Oh oh oh/Sing it for the people like us.”)
She stocks sheet music at the store where she works. It has been two weeks and she hasn’t heard back about her auditions. She searches the listings everyday, hoping to see a new job. However, nothing new shows up. It seems hopeless. However, it has given her a tough skin, making her stronger. She has to believe she will find the right fit and keep going. (“Hey, this is not a funeral/It’s a revolution after all your tears have turned to rage/Just wait, everything will be OK/Even when you’re feeling like it’s going down in flames.”)
In the second chorus, she adds people have to fight for what they want. (“Oh, people like us…Oh oh oh/You just gotta turn it up loud when the flames get higher/Oh oh oh/Sing it for the people like us.”)
In the bridge, she says the worst anyone can hear is “no.” It’s subjective and one person’s opinion. Growing up, singing was a need, allowing her to express her emotions she couldn’t say out loud. It was something she wanted and she knew had to try. (“They can’t do nothing to you/They can’t do nothing to me/This is the life that we choose/This is the life that we bleed/So throw your fists in the air/Come out, come out if you dare/Tonight we’re gonna dance forever/Everybody loses it/Everybody wants to throw it all away sometimes.”)
The second chorus is sung once.
The last parts of the chorus are sung to end the single. (“Oh oh oh/We are all misfits living in a world on fire/Oh oh oh/Sing it for the people like us/Oh oh oh/You just gotta turn it up loud when the flames get higher/Oh oh oh/Sing it for people like us.”)
Clarkson’s concrete, adamant vocals are steely, lobbing back condescending comments and unfair mischaracterizations with some powerful words of her own.
The stouthearted “People Like Us” won’t let itself or others give up and be silenced.
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