With her 5th album, Stronger, Kelly Clarkson tried to get as natural of a vocal sound as possible, without the auto-tune and overproduction that were dominating the pop world at the time. She herself stated that “What separates this album are the vocals” and then went on explaining: “A lot of pop producers tend to want to compress the vocals but I was against it. […] Overall, my vocals sound richer and fuller. Over the years, fans have told me that I sound way better live than on the recordings. Capturing that organic strength was one of my main goals for this album. The producers I worked with just let me sing and be me.”
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) was released as the album’s second single and was constructed around the famous Nietzche quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” As the title suggests, the lyrics are about empowerment and overcoming of hard situations. Speculations about the song being written about a specific break-up were denied by Clarkson in an MTV interview: “I didn’t have a bad breakup or anything, I just think life is about relationships so I always write all about these different ones going on in my life.
Billboard praised both the content and the catchiness of Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You), calling it “an anthem that encourage personal reinvention, and dancing”. News Day were equally enthusiastic, describing the track as Clarkson “infusing her tales of empowerment after a breakup with her unique combo of vulnerability and sass”. However, despite the mostly positive reviews, the song was also criticized by websites such as Now and Digital Spy for having clichéd lyrics.
Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) spent 3 non-consecutive weeks at number one in Billboard Top 100, first time being dethroned by Katy Perry’s Part of Me and second by Fun’s We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monae).