Us Weekly confirmed in June 2020 that the American Idol alum filed to legally end her marriage to the manager. The twosome, who started dating in 2011, wed in 2013.
“They clashed on so many levels, and being in quarantine together [during the coronavirus pandemic] heightened their problems to the point of no return,” an insider told Us at the time.
The pair — who share daughter River (born June 2014) and son Remington (in April 2016) — subsequently entered a messy court battle over finances, property and custody of their kids. It would be nearly two years before they finalized their divorce, with the Grammy winner agreeing to pay Blackstock $45,601 a month in child support until River and Remi “reach the age of eighteen,” graduate high school or otherwise become self-supporting. She was also ordered to pay monthly spousal support of $115,000 until January 2024 and a one-time, tax-free fee of $1,326,161.
While Clarkson was granted primary custody of the children, the “Since U Been Gone” singer and Blackstock share joint physical custody.
As she navigated changes in her personal life, The Kelly Clarkson Show host penned her 10th studio album.
“My producer and I were laughing yesterday because I was like, ‘Remember that time we wrote, like, 25 songs in a week?’ A lot of those are the ones that are on the album,” Clarkson told Variety in June 2022. “I literally wrote most of these almost two years ago. Then I told my label, ‘I can’t talk about this until I’ve gone through it,’ and it’s just taken some time to do that. That’s one of the reasons we’ve done a lot of Christmas stuff the past two years — because I was like, ‘Well, that’s happy!’”
In March 2023, she confirmed the title — Chemistry — is reflective of her past romance.
“I’ve been working on this project for close to three years now. I wasn’t sure I was going to release it, but I am. The album is called Chemistry,” she revealed via Instagram. “I was trying to find a word, it might be one of the songs on the album, but I was trying to find a word that really described the whole thing. I didn’t want everybody to think I was just coming out with some ‘I’m angry,’ ‘I’m sad’ — just one or two emotions. This album is definitely the arc of an entire relationship. That whole relationship shouldn’t be brought down to one thing. There’s the good, the bad and the ugly kind of thing going on. Chemistry can be a really amazing, sexy, cool, fun thing, but it can also be very bad for you. So that’s why I named it Chemistry, I thought it was the perfect title to describe the entire album.”
Chemistry dropped on Friday, June 23, and Us is breaking down the most-telling lyrics:
‘Skip This Part’
Clarkson tackles navigating a highly publicized split, singing: “Are you happy now? Will you ever be / And it’s all over town, ‘Why did she leave him?’”
After the second verse, she adds, “If I could escape all this gossip and shame, oh, I would / What it’s gonna take to get me through this break is no good.”
‘Red Flag Collector’
“Sure, you can have the towels / You can take my money / Drag my name ’round town / I don’t mind, I changed it anyway,” Clarkson sings, referring to the hefty divorce settlement and her decision to legally change her name. Us confirmed that she not only dropped “Blackstock,” but tweaked her name to Kelly Brianne, still going by Kelly Clarkson professionally.
In the chorus, Clarkson seemingly references their fight over their Montana ranch. While she wished to sell the property from the beginning, a court ordered that Blackstock — who testified that he wanted to leave the entertainment industry to pursue a career as a full-time rancher — was responsible for the costs of the Montana land and Clarkson could only sell if he failed to make the payments. He was given a 5.12 percent share —equaling $908,800 of its total $17,750,000 value.
“So run your mouth, puff your chest / Play cowboy in the wild, wild west,” she sings. “I don’t mind, take what’s left / High road livin’ is what I do best.”
‘I Hate Love’
During an NYC performance in June 2023, Clarkson admitted she was “really angry” when she penned this song, adding that it’s about when “you can’t stand the person, but you, like, you love them and you’re just like, ‘Why?’”
“I hate love / And The Notebook lied / It’s Complicated is more like what happens / So you can keep Gosling and I’ll take Steve Martin,” she sings, comparing iconic romance movie The Notebook to Meryl Streep’s messy love triangle with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) and new love interest (Martin) in the film It’s Complicated.
She appears to slam Blackstock for his winnings in their divorce again the chorus: “Beatin’ my head against a wall / Little by little, you took it all / Love’s no friend of mine / Countin’ your blеssings on my back.”
‘Favorite of High’
Clarkson sings about the other side of chemistry in this track: “You’re my favorite kind of high / Rushin’ through me like a fire / And I need you to know / I say I won’t, but I do / When it comes to lovin’ you / I don’t have no control / You’re my favorite kind of high.”
Clarkson sings about an ex crossing a line and stealing her shine — “I hope one day someone will take your heart and hold it tight / Make you feel like you’re invincible deep inside / And right when you think that it’s perfect, they cross a line / And steal your shine like you did mine” — which may refer to the messy legal battle with Brandon and his dad, Narvel Blackstock.
The performer was sued by Narvel’s Starstruck Management Group — who managed her for more than 13 years — in 2020, alleging Clarkson owed Starstruck $1.4 million and an apparent $5.4 million in future commissions. Clarkson responded to the suit, which is ongoing, by alleging Starstruck company violated California Labor Code.
In the chorus, she references the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which follows Kate Winslet’s Clementine erasing her memories of her ex after their split: “Go ahead and break my heart, that’s fine (So unkind) / Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (Oh, love is blind) / Why am I missin’ you tonight? (Was it all a lie?) / Someone’s gonna show you how a heart can be used.”
Clarkson’s lyrics include a reference to an ex’s insecurities being the “death” of their relationship. A source previously told Us that the twosome were “on the rocks for a long time,” adding: “She was the high-income earner with a wildly successful talk show, and is the star of another hit show The Voice. Brandon was extremely jealous of it and made her know it.”
In the chorus, she seemingly backtracks on the lyrics in her 2015 song “Piece By Piece,” in which she gave Blackstock credit for helping her feel whole after her father’s abandonment. In “Me,” she declares she can fix herself: “I don’t need somebody to hold me / Don’t need somebody to love me / Don’t need somebody to pick these pieces up / I put together my broken / Let go of the pain I’vе been holdin’ / Don’t need to need somebody / When I got me.”
While Clarkson has been candid about her divorce in various interviews, she’s mindful of how that might affect her kids, and in “High Road,” she sings about struggling behind the scenes.
“It’s just my ego and my pride / I live my life in disguise,” the bridge states. “And when I’m hurtin’, it’s incognito / So everybody thinks I’m a hero.”
During her promotion of the album, the Voice coach has opened up about both sides of feeling chemistry with someone, and in the track with the same title as the album, she sings about that initial connection.
“I can’t help but want you, help but love you / Help me, someone erase my heart,” the chorus states. “I’ve been broken into, how’d you get in here? / Now you’re somethin’ that I just can’t resist.”
According to Variety, Clarkson declared that “Magic” is her “favorite song on the record,” explaining the track is dedicated to people who have “ever felt like, ‘My relationship didn’t work out right, but if I die tomorrow, I have felt magic.’”
“With your eyes on me, I start to tremble / Always you, has been forever,” she sings. “Blurring lines I can’t remember / Fighting words I wanna tell ya.”
Clarkson referred to “Lighthouse” as “possibly the saddest song I’ve ever written,” per Variety, singing about walking away from a relationship “in order to survive.”
“Ain’t got no shine left, I couldn’t hide it / I almost lost all my light, and
I didn’t choose sober, but my eyes can’t look away,” the lyrics read. “I see our true colors; lately, we’ve been lookin’ gray.”
She continues in the chorus: “No shootin’ stars can fix what we aren’t / What good’s a lighthouse when the light is burning out?”
Back in April, she explained of the track: “I needed to get this song out. I wrote most of these songs at 35,000 feet in the air when it was dark on a plane, taking my kids back and forth, and it was exhausting — emotionally, mentally, physically, all the things — while working, and while processing what’s going on and what I’m gonna do. I wrote this song and I was like, ‘I don’t think I should release this. People are gonna be like, is she OK?’ And I wasn’t — then. But I’m good now.”
While it’s clear that Clarkson is declaring her romance with Blackstock wasn’t the real deal in this song, she told Billboard about the lyrics comparing her ex to the late actor — who was privately gay and died of AIDS — can be “misleading.”
“You were my Rock Hudson / It was real, but it wasn’t / No, I never saw it comin’ / I was never what you wanted,” she sings in the song. “Like a real-life movie / Didn’t think it’d happen to me / Guess it didn’t, you just fooled me / Who knew love was so confusin’?”
Speaking to Billboard, she noted: “It’s not referencing Rock’s life, like his personal life and what he was, unfortunately, having to hide from the public. … My producer didn’t have a clue about [Hudson’s] story at all, and I wasn’t even thinking about that. … It’s just about having that movie life that people think that you have that’s so perfect, and it’s not [perfect] behind closed doors.”
In the song, she calls back to “Piece By Piece” again — and this time she’s even more on the nose. “By the way, piece by piece / I found out my hero’s me,” the bridge reads.
The songwriter sings about a partner having feelings for someone else.
“Imagination’s actin’ up again (Oh) / You ripped out pages, then you spoiled the end (Oh) / Fallin’ into love, that ain’t no excuse,” the lyrics read. “Why’d it take a stranger to break the news? / I get no prize for bein’ innocent.”
The chorus makes reference to marriage vows: “Must’ve been my mistake / Swore I heard you say you’d be mine always (Always) / Oh, it must’vе been my mistake / Swore I heard you say ’til your dyin’ day / You would lovе me always.”
Clarkson’s final track reiterates that Blackstock can “keep the money” as she’ll “take freedom.”
Sign up for Us Weekly’s free, daily newsletter and never miss breaking news or exclusive stories about your favorite celebrities, TV shows and more!
“I ain’t no damsel, boy / Me standin’ here wasn’t by mistake / Keep your tame white horse / Away from all my wild mustangs,” the second verse states. “ I miss myself / It’s been a while since I made time for me / Back on the shelf / But it’s right where I wanna be.”