What goes around comes around when it comes to hit songs' borrowed lyrics.
CATCH(Y)PHRASES: Sometimes a song's lyrics lift an unfamiliar expression to pop culture prominence, from R.E.M.'s 1991 hit "Losing My Religion," a Southern saying that translates to losing one's patience, to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" last year. ("'Deep' is an adaptation of a kind of slang phrase in the U.K. called 'roll deep,' which means to always have someone that has your back, and you're never on your own," Adele has said).
Other smashes don't impart such obscure knowledge.
Good thing they're catchy.
Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" follows in the tradition of hits that have co-opted familiar phrases. Her survivor's anthem rebounds 4-1 on the Billboard for a third total frame at the summit. (As it ascends, "Stronger" becomes the longest-reigning leader by an "American Idol" graduate. Previously, Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" (2002) and "My Life Would Suck Without You" (2009) and Clay Aiken's "This Is the Night" (2003) all spent two weeks at No. 1).
What other songs serve as proof that even if their lyrics aren't entirely original, if their melodies are, they can attain chart success?
How about these words (and music) to live by:
"It's Now or Never," Elvis Presley (No. 1, five weeks, 1960)
"Some Guys Have All the Luck," Rod Stewart (No. 10, 1984)
"When the Going Gets Tough," Billy Ocean (No. 2, 1986)
"It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over," Lenny Kravitz (No. 2, 1991)
"Live and Learn," Joe Public (No. 4, 1992) (honorable mention: "You Learn," Alanis Morissette, No. 6, 1996)
"The Best Things in Life Are Free," Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson With BBD and Ralph Tresvant
"What Goes Around … Comes Around," Justin Timberlake (No. 1, one week, 2007)
Despite the evolution of the title of Clarkson's latest hit to cliché status, the idea that trials can help lead to triumph actually dates to Friedrich Nietzsche. The renowned German philosopher is credited with originating the phrase in the 19th century.
(Not that he's listed as a writer on the song).
"This is one of my favorite songs on the album," Clarkson has said of her fifth set's title cut. "Everybody loves the message, 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' It's a perfect representation of my life."