The single was released as the first single from the soundtrack on July 19, 2004.
"Breakaway" was originally written by Avril Lavigne, Bridget Benenate and Matthew Gerrard.
According to Bridget, the song was written in 2002 when she was working with Gerrard for Avril Lavigne's debut album "Let Go."
Bridget explained that Avril came to her to write the song, saying:
"Avril talked about her life and what things were important to her – she was the inspiration for the song. Matthew began creating the melody and track, and I started working on the lyrics. I remember staying in bed for three days, writing 25 versions of the lyric. I love being in bed and writing lyrics, and having my dog Jet and my kitty Dash on the bed. Anyway, we finally finished the lyric, then we completed the demo."
After the production of the song was deemed unsuitable for Avril's album, the song was passed to several artists including Samantha Moore before finally being recorded by Kelly Clarkson.
Bridget Benenate also added that it was Mitchell Leib, the President of Music and Soundtracks for Walt Disney Pictures and Television/Buena Vista Music Group, who secured "Breakaway" as one of the soundtracks of "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement."
In an interview with MTV, Kelly said that she recorded "Breakaway" to tide fans over until September that year before she released the first single from her second album.
Nevertheless, the song's huge success prompted its inclusion on the album where Kelly decided to name the album as "Breakaway."
Kelly expressed that "Breakaway" was different from everything she has done, saying that it "is a simple song, and I think that it's simplicity is what's beautiful about it. Whenever writers or producers come to work with me, they take advantage of the fact that I can really belt it out. What's cool about 'Breakaway' is that it doesn't take advantage of that. The song just uses the simplicity of my voice."
In April of 2014, Avril Lavigne's original demo of the song leaked onto the internet nearly a decade later.
"Breakaway" is a pop rock and soft rock song with a length of three minutes and fifty-seven seconds.
It is composed in the key of C major, with a tempo of 160 beats per minute.
T.U. Dawood of Dawn lauded the song for being the best track on the album, writing "Breakaway is an enchanting single that will have you humming along to its infectious, gentle chorus and the inspiring lyrics."
It has a chord progression of Am7–GB–C-F(9) and Kelly's vocal range in the song spans two octaves from the low note of G3 to the note of D5.
Sam Lansky of PopCrush.com thought that Kelly's vocal floated over strummed guitars and airy drums, a combination which elevated the inspirational message of the song
Dave Donelly of Sputnikmusic noted that "Breakaway" successfully contrasted typical acoustic verse with a soaring pop chorus which was interspersed by Kelly's controlled but powerful voice.
Lyrically, the song is about growing up and moving on in life.
Courtney Duffield of "Yahoo! Voices" gave a positive remark to the lyrics, writing:
"The song tugs at the heart strings, because we can all identify with how hard it is to breakaway and take a risk."
Natalie Nichols of The Baltimore Sun considered "Breakaway" as Kelly's anthem which is about a small-town girl going for her dreams.
Kelly admitted that she could relate to the song, saying:
"It describes how I got into the business, verbatim. I did grow up in a small town, I wanted to get out, I felt like there was something... not better for me, but something different for me. I didn't feel like I fit in at school. Whether you are a DJ, or if you work with computers, or if you're a teacher, everyone has that point where they feel, 'I'm bored and this isn't what I wanted to do with my life."
The accompanying music video for "Breakaway" was directed by Dave Meyers, which was shot in two days from July 10 to July 11, 2004.
In the video, the younger version of Kelly was portrayed by Lindsay Kruger.
According to Meyers, working with Kelly was a pleasant experience because he felt she was good and honest although he had initial doubts in the beginning. He explained:
"I was a little worried, her coming off 'American Idol,' it inherently feels manufactured and I didn't know how much of it was true artistry. But when I met her, she really does have a good, solid vibe. It was an honor to bring some of that out of her."
Since the song is autobiographical, Kelly decided to act out most of the lyrics in the video.
Meyers also realized that the song was featured in "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" and he struggled to find a way to address the film-footage in the music video, saying:
"Since it's a movie tie-in, the idea stems from trying to figure out a new way of addressing the film-footage requirement they put on you, so we came up with the idea of her attending the premiere, which is very much something she will do in real life."
The video begins with the younger version of Kelly sitting at the back seat of a station wagon.
Singing the first verse, she witnesses a depressing scene of her brother quarreling with her sister who are scolded by their mother.
She slowly clasps both her hands before the video shifts to the present day where Kelly is seen arriving on the red carpet with her publicist for the world premiere of "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement."
After posing for the photographers, Kelly enters the cinema and watches the film. The next scene switches back to a young Kelly who is sitting and looking around her neighborhood at her house's rooftop as a plane is seen flying across the sky.
The video switches back to the older Kelly who is now watching the aforementioned film in her laptop inside the plane as it goes through a mild turbulence.
Kelly is also seen reminiscing about her past job as a worker in a movie theater, singing with her co-workers.
The next scene shows Kelly singing with her band in a backyard party which is shown alternately with scenes from the film as well as a montage of her family and co-workers waving away from her.
In the final scene, the younger Kelly is shown praying by her bedside.
The video was uploaded to MTV's website on August 9, 2004.
It reached number five on the "AOL Music Top Video" chart in September of 2004 with 740,176 million streams.
Kate Aurthur of The New York Times praised the music video for successfully illustrating the message of a girl following her own dream, which is a central theme shared by the song, the movie and Kelly's biography.
She also lauded the director of the video, Dave Meyers, for his ability to use Kelly's evolution as an element to overshadow the distracting clips from "The Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement" despite noticing that the use of visual metaphors in the music video was overwrought.
On the week ending August 28, 2004, "Breakaway" debuted at number sixty on the Billboard Hot 100.
On its tenth week, the song jumped from number twelve to number ten to become Kelly's third Top 10 song in the chart, following "A Moment Like This" and "Miss Independent." It peaked at number six on the week ending November 20, 2004.
The song spent forty-six weeks in Billboard Hot 100, a feat that was later achieved by its immediate successor "Since U Been Gone."
It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on February 5, 2005.
"Breakaway" also debuted at number thirty-seven on the US Pop Songs on the week dated August 21, 2004.
Three months later, it peaked at number two on the week ending November 13, 2004 and was held off the top spot by Nelly featuring Tim McGraw's "Over and Over."
The song entered Billboard Adult Pop Songs at number thirty-six on the week dated August 21, 2004, before peaking at number two on the week ending February 12, 2005.
"Breakaway" also made an appearance on the US Adult Contemporary at number thirty on the week ending September 18, 2004.
The song fell out of the chart after its debut, before re-entering the chart at the same position of number thirty in its second week.
Six months later, it topped Billboard Adult Contemporary, dethroning Los Lonely Boys' song "Heaven" on the week ending March 12, 2005.
The song spent twenty consecutive weeks at number one on the chart before being dethroned by Michael Bublé's song "Home."
However, the song returned to top the Billboard Adult Contemporary for the twenty-first week on the week ending August 6, 2005.
With this achievement, "Breakaway" tied the record with Celine Dion's "A New Day Has Come" as the longest-running Adult Contemporary chart-topper by a female artist.
"Breakaway" is also the longest-running chart-topper to come from a film in Billboard Adult Contemporary history (surpassing the nineteen-week record held jointly by Phil Collins's song "You'll Be in My Heart" from "Tarzan" and Celine Dion's song "Because You Loved Me" from "Up Close & Personal").
It remains as Kelly's longest-running number one in her career As of October 2012, "Breakaway" has sold 1,850,000 paid digital downloads.
Internationally, "Breakaway" was a commercial success.
In Australia, the song debuted at number fourteen on the week ending September 26, 2004 before peaking at number ten, three weeks later.
It was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of over 35,000 units.
In New Zealand, "Breakaway" entered the New Zealand Singles Chart at number nineteen on the week ending October 18, 2004.
Six weeks later, the song ascended to a new peak of number twelve. On July 8, 2006, the song debuted and peaked at number twenty-two in the United Kingdom.
In Ireland, it debuted and peaked at number twelve on the week ending June 29, 2006.
Elsewhere in Europe, "Breakaway" peaked at number six in Belgium, number eight in Austria as well as number nine in the Netherlands.
While reviewing the album, Shirley Shipin of Rolling Stone opined that "Breakaway" was the highlight of the album where Kelly sounded "more Avril than Ashlee."
Rhonda Lynn of Florida Entertainment Scene praised the acoustic guitar in the song which is instrumental in holding the whole structure together.
Tammy La Gorce of Amazon.com thought that the song would not wear out due to its "rock-friendly thumps, dips, and rolls."
In a different perspective, Joan Anderman of Boston.com remarked that "Breakaway" is not new or exciting-sounding but he admitted that the "hit single accomplishes the rare feat of being thoroughly middle-of-the-road without sacrificing grace or intelligence."
Chuck Taylor of Billboard felt that the song was a weak choice as a single compared to Kelly's previous hits, writing:
"Breakaway sounds more like an Irish folk song propped up with pop production than the anthemic material with which Clarkson has won over legions of fans."
Kathi Kamen Goldmark of Disney Family.com felt that the song was tedious, simultaneously dull and so emotionally overwrought that it almost sounds like a parody of itself.
Michael Wood of The Village Voice described the song as "a swoony acoustic folk-pop that Goo Goo Doll Johnny Rzeznik would trade his hair gel for."
Jill Salama of Oprah.com listed "Breakaway" as one of her nine favourite Idol singles of all time, writing:
"There is nothing that gets us more than a song about a girl going out on her own. Making a wish, making a change and, of course, breaking away. But seriously, this song is more than just a high school graduation anthem."
Bill Lamb of About.com ranked "Breakaway" at number four in his list of Top 10 Kelly Clarkson songs.
The song received a nomination in the category of Song of the Year: Adult Hit Radio at the 2005 Radio Music Awards, but lost to Green Day's song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."
It was one of the recipients of BDSCertified Spin Awards in November of 2004 with 100,000 spins accumulated throughout the year.
On March 5, 2013, Billboard ranked the song #5 in its list of "Top 100 American Idol Hits of All Time."
In August of 2004, Kelly first performed "Breakaway" on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
In February of 2005, she performed "Breakaway" as well as "Since U Been Gone" on "Saturday Night Live."
On September 23, 2005, Kelly appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and performed "Breakaway" as well as "Because of You."
While touring at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio during her Breakaway World Tour, she performed "Breakaway" while signing several autographs for her fans near the stage to purposely let the crowd belt out the chorus.
"Breakaway" was also included in the setlist of Kelly's 2009 All I Ever Wanted Tour where she performed the song in the Hammerstein Ballroom without any dancers, acrobatics, moving set pieces and no special effects.
Caryn Ganz noted that Kelly belted the ballad song effortlessly by walking back and forth across the stage with her right hand on the mic and her left resting on her chest.
Jim Cantiello of MTV opined that her "low chest-voice cooed the verses of 'Breakaway" and complimented her vocal prowess throughout the concert.
On April 3, 2012, Kelly performed "Breakaway" as an encore to her Stronger Tour at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Los Angeles where she told the audience that people started supporting her because of the song.