Kelly Clarkson was not joking when she said that her upcoming album Chemistry is a combination of songs that tell of the good parts of love, the angry and very ugly parts of love, and the “Red Flag Collector“ part of love. While “I Hate Love” is a song that loathes the thought of falling in love – and loathe is not even a strong enough word for it – “Red Flag Collector” is about the betrayals that love makes possible.
Before performing “Red Flag Collector” – a track she called “angry” – at the Belasco Theater, she explained, as she did for the other tracks, the meaning and the inspiration behind it. Hearing her talk about the single, it’s easy to notice the slight crack in her voice even as she tries to maintain a comedic air, but she carried on bravely, saying that the song’s writing came about during her “divorce.” “Things get said that you’re like…what?” she explains, adding, “You just get caught off guard and you’re like I need to write a song or I’m gonna set my house on fire.” She went on to joke that she felt, at the time, that the first one was healthier.
“Red Flag Collector” may just be Clarkson’s most vulnerable record from Chemistry to date – and yes, I say that with a straight face knowing “Mine,” “Me” and “I Hate Love” exists. Regardless of Clarkson calling it her “angry” track, there’s not much anger to be gleaned through in its lyrics – not half as much as “I Hate Love” in any case. While anger may have inspired her to put pen to paper and write this song, the song is really just mostly about dealing with betrayal and figuring out how to move past it.
From the very first verse, you can hear Clarkson resolutely set on moving on, as she sings “Sure, you can have the towels / You can take my money / Drag my name ’round town / I don’t mind, I changed it anyway.” The following lyrics speak about someone who gave their all, got burned by their lover, and as if that isn’t enough, got needless blames heaped on them by the other person.
This is a one-of-a-kind track, with the whistle – courtesy of Jaco Caraco – and the harmonies giving it a more soulful pop kind of vibe and elevating the emotional message of its lyrics in a way that did a lot of credit to the song.
At this point, it’s clear that we need rolls of tissues by our side when Chemistry finally drops on June 23. Thanks, Clarkson, for playing with our emotions and making us feel things in a more heightened sort of way.
Nmesoma Okechukwu is an entertainment journalist, editor and freelance writer. She covers pop culture, music, lifestyle, literature, movies, and environmental preservation.
Nmeso's work ranges from writing profiles, essays and features for various online and print publications to doing commercial copywriting, musician bios and press releases, editorial consulting, live interviews and video production.
You can also find her interviewing talents, campaigning for the preservation of the natural environment and championing the eradication of extreme poverty.