The song deals with a woman in a relationship with a dysfunctional man. However she can't let go as, "My life would suck without you." On March 11, 2009, Clarkson performed the song on American Idol which she won in the show's first season. When Ryan Seacrest asked her if the song was about a specific person, she said it wasn't, and added: "I'm not in a relationship right now, but I love the dynamic of the message: You're so screwed up, but you're perfect for each other. I probably will be like that in a relationship someday."
This was written by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, who also wrote Clarkson's 2004 hit "Since U Been Gone
" and co-penned Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl
." Dr. Luke started developing this song with Max Martin a number of years before its release. He told Entertainment Weekly
: "After 'Since U Been Gone,' we wrote all these songs for Kelly. This one, which I think is the first single, we had the chorus a while ago and added the verse more recently."
Dr. Luke added that Clarkson exhumed confidence in the studio: "It's sick. She sings a song in two hours and kills it. You're just, like, 'holy s--t.' She has powerful lungs. She's like the Lance Armstrong of vocal cords."
The cover art for the single shows a heavily made up Clarkson holding a heart-shaped lollipop provocatively near her mouth, the lollipop representing something that sucks.
This leapt from #97 to the top position on the Hot 100, thus breaking the record previously held by Britney's Spears' "Womanizer
" for the biggest vault to #1. This was the second time that Clarkson set the record for the biggest jump to the top spot. In 2002 "A Moment Like This
" leapt from #52 to #1 breaking the 38-year-old record previously held by the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love
Clarkson told PopEater the story of how she heard the news of her giant leap to the #1 spot: "I actually had been up all night the night before because we had this big, huge ice storm, and I have dogs and horses, so I was trying to take care of all my animals. I was up really, really late. I actually literally got three hours of sleep before Barry Weiss, the head of my record label, was calling my phone, but I didn't recognize the number. It was pretty funny. I was so tired. I was like, 'What?' and he was like, 'Congratulations!' and I was like, 'Oh!'"
Clarkson's record was broken in May 2019 by Taylor Swift's "Me!
" which leapt 98 spots from #100 to #2 in its second week on the Billboard Hot 100.
This was the first time that a former American Idol contestant topped the Hot 100 with a song that wasn't featured on the television show.
Prior to the success of this song, the previously best charting tune to incorporate the verb "suck" in its title was by The Murmurs, whose "You Suck" peaked at #89 in late 1994.
Songwriter Claude Kelly ("Circus
"), also has a songwriting credit on this track. He told Billboard
magazine about the songwriting process: "Max had an idea of some of the concepts. They came up with the music, Max threw some ideas at me, and then they threw me in the mix."
Clarkson told The Daily Mail February 27, 2009: "A lot of my songs seem to be about hating guys, so this is my attempt at not being a boy-basher."
Clarkson told Scotland On Sunday that when Dr Luke and Max Martin first sent her this tune, "it was a very different song at first – the story itself didn't really match me. They rewrote it to be more suitable for me. As a writer myself, sometimes it's very awkward to have to portray a song in a way you wouldn't normally do it, so for them to go away and tailor the song specifically for me was really cool. We made it a non-boy-bashing song, as opposed to the songs I usually do."
This came out on top in Time Magazine's list of Best Songs of 2009.
In the last Hot 100 chart of 2009, a remake by the cast of the Fox TV musical comedy Glee debuted at #51. As a result this song became the first chart-topper to reappear on the Hot 100 as a cover in the same year since Bo Bice debuted with "Inside Your Heaven" a week after Carrie Underwood's version topped the Hot 100 in July 2005.
Clarkson considers this both her favorite and least favorite single. She explained to SameSame: "It's my least favorite because when I first heard it, it did not sound like what it sounds like now, and I really had to fight to make that song better than it was, but when I first heard it, it was nothing I would say, the verses were like 'I saw you smoking pot and I thought that was cool' (she sings) and I was like… What? I didn't even get it, it was trying so hard to be edgy and cool that I wanted to vomit! I didn't really like it at all. But Luke, Claude and Max (Dr. Luke, Claude Kelly, Max Martin) were cool with me having a hand in that. It ended up being one of my favorites now to perform live because everybody gets up for that song. And it's a great song now, it's a fun song."
Kelly Clarkson did not have a good experience with Dr. Luke and she lost "millions" of dollars by refusing to share a song-writing credit with the producer on this song. She told the radio station Z100:
"I was making a point to the people working with me, going, 'This is how much I didn't want to do this.' I don't care about the money. I don't care about, oh, 'You're going to be the most famous person ever if you do this.' That's not what holds weight in my life.
I was like, 'I don't want my name near his. I want to pretend this didn't happen in my life and I want to forget it.'"
In The Office episode "The Ultimatum" from season 7, Michael plays this when he learns Holly didn't get engaged.
Clarkson performed this on Saturday Night Live on the March 14, 2009 episode.