Sarabeth Murray

Kelly Clarkson is a definite break-up song trailblazer. It’s true that the 2000s was a time when pop kind of delved into that rage stage, attempting to characterise itself as a form of soft-core, head-banging style grunge. So naturally, post American Idol win, this was the perfect time for Kelly to enter the scene, with her netted fingerless gloves and bangs half hiding her eyes. And her introspective, reflective, thought-provoking break up songs never disappoint.

Perhaps the most famous one, Since U Been Gone, has always been my favorite. We had one of those old, home-style karaoke machines when I was a kid. It was purple with two silver microphones stretching from the box via thick cords. I believe we only owned one CD, which meant the list of songs was pretty limited, but my sister’s and my passion for belting out Teen Pop top 10’s wasn’t restricted by this at all.

Since U Been Gone was a valued companion of ours because not only could you scream-sing as loud as possible, but it also provided the opportunity to bounce around like Mexican Jumping Beans and whip your hair every-which-way without risk of looking crazy because it was to the thrillingly nerd-approved-screamo tone of the song (looking back on this, I think we successfully turned karaoke into a sport; we would have dominated on an Olympic team). Regardless, the song was pretty solemn for kids to be wildly raging to.

From Clarkson’s side, despite the unapologetically unrespectable use of ‘u’ in the title, her romantic conclusions are somewhat mature. Look at her, realizing that she can be an independent woman; she doesn’t need no man. Feminism long last at work in the pop industry (maybe?). But the songs seems to sum up some sort of emotionally abusive relationship… Clarkson claims she can now ‘breathe for the first time’. I mean, I don’t know about you, but if we are taking this in its most literal sense, a lack of oxygen could lead us down a pretty dark path of assumptions. On the historical side of things, which one always must turn to in times of need, I’m feeling allusions to imperial colonialism and the challenge of freeing one’s nation from the grip of foreign rule. Are you with me?

Here’s the thing, we started out friends. It was cool but it was all pretend.

Certainly the presence of a foreign nation in any state would create a little tension, but it is the exit from this foreign presence that can be most perilous. Naturally 19th century Africa was a struggle for imperial power, European countries dying to claim a chunk of that monstrous southern continent. And yes, that struggle enhanced tensions in WWI because imperial powers were already on edge with each other about who owned what and who was challenging who and who’s power was the most powerful; we’ve heard it all before. But post WWI a bunch of those countries who, prior to the war, had been in some sort of middle of the road colonial state were turned into mandates and re-distributed to the winners of the war.

Tanzania was one of these (although not called Tanzania at the time but that is what we will go with to save the wordiness that would ensue with factual accuracy) and it was made a mandate in 1919, allocated to the mighty British Empire. The official idea behind mandates was that the countries weren’t colonies, per se, but were areas that needed a little guidance and assistance from respectable, developed, almighty Western governments. A little influence from the West would act as some Pepto-Bismol, and, similar to the pink sticky goop you’re supposed to swallow when you feel a little queasy, would cure any issues and send the mandates well on their way to good health. I’m not sure why the forced intervention of foreign power would be seen as the answer to any question of stability in a country, but I guess it’s a 20th century thing.

Quite frankly, it’s hard not to question the motives of Britain in Tanzania. I mean, it’s not as if the country were forced upon them and they were reluctantly accepting of the burden of their expanded empire. ‘Another country that we can exploit for resources and leave destitute and struggling after it becomes too much effort to exploit? Do we have to?’ – heard at a tea parlor that held a gathering of British gentlemen, between slurps of Twinnings and the crunch of Custard Cremes. But regardless, Tanzania was successful in freeing itself from these restrictive imperial bonds, with Nyrere, an Edinburgh-educated political activist, relieving Britain from their invasive duty and establishing essentially a socialist, dictatorial state.

Now, although heavily criticised for failing to promote true economic development in toddler Tanzania, I think that this step, despite its perhaps dauntingly authoritative nature, was one of progress. Other countries who wanted out of their committed relationship with Britain, who clearly advocated a unique form of one-sided polygamy in which they achieved the occupational equivalent of dating multiple girls, all of whom lived on the same street, had to struggle to leave it. And I mean struggle. Most mandates went through years of political campaign and bloodshed before they could even see the outline of the word independence on the horizon. Nigeria, Botswana, Bahrain and Zimbabwe, to name a few, had to experience drawn out pain, beginning with disagreements about where to eat dinner, to fights about which movies to watch, to throwing plates at each other over jealous exes, to serious discussions about breakup, through changing Facebook statuses. They then embarked on the sad movie and song period, the crying whilst demolishing a bag of Twizzlers period, the unfollowing on Twitter, blocking on Instagram and deleting on Snapchat. If you catch my drift.

Tanzania, contrastingly, basically ended things for their new, taller, darker and more handsome beau. Easy as. Now this isn’t to say that Nyrere can be wholly praised for his authoritative socialist state. Sure, it had its downfalls, its inefficiencies, and its, some would say, oppression. But the transfer from reliant, obedient, mistreated mandate to independent state was remarkably quick and remarkably painless. And that avoidance of years of ‘break-up recovery’ that I have so inelegantly alluded to, was maybe worth the risk of a one-party state.

Kelly was all too familiar with the smothering type that Britain turned out to be. It wasn’t healthy for Tanzania to remain in that clingy relationship. And with Nyrere, Tanzania could breathe for the first time and was so moving on, yeah, yeah.