By Sean Ross, New York | January 20, 2015 10:51 AM EST
It was Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004. Mainstream top 40 radio was a mix of hip-hop, “extreme” alternative crossovers and, for pop balance, teen punk. WHTZ (Z100) New York, which had just launched an urban sister station, WWPR (Power 105), was trying to make its way back to the mainstream, although sometimes that meant 50 Cent‘s “P.I.M.P.” and Matchbox Twenty‘s “Bright Lights” in close proximity, without anything good in the middle.
A year or so earlier, Kelly Clarkson‘s “Miss Independent” had been one of the few legit uptempo pop hits. By December, Clarkson was back on the radio with “Breakaway,” which, as of that day, was just a soundtrack single. The waltz-tempo song, which took a while to prove itself as a real hit, didn’t do much for the fun factor of the format, but it further established the first American Idol winner as a an act with more than one radio smash.
That afternoon, “Breakway” hadn’t peaked yet. I had just pulled into the grocery store parking lot and there was a surprise on Z100: another new Clarkson single. And that was how I heard “Since U Been Gone” for the first time.