Avril Lavigne: Complicated
vril Lavigne is a pain in the ass. Take the pop song “Complicated”: Avril’s boyfriend is called out, and severely scolded for trying to act cool around his other friends. She informs him that she prefers him in one-on-one situations, and that he is “not fooling anyone” with the tough guy act.
Perhaps she is being a meanie. Don’t we all act differently around our friends, when compared to the way we behave alone with our partners? Different behaviour for different social situations—it’s not too complicated, really. If anyone is to blame for complicating the relationship, then perhaps it is Avril herself? Accept your partner: flaws, contradictions and all, girl.
Of course, Avril’s talent is for provoking defensive reactions like this—her cutting observations bite even harder when married to that gleaming punk-pop backdrop. When I play this song, I can’t help but feel that Avril is, or may well be, directing her criticisms at me. Seeing as this is unlikely, I can only conclude that she may have hit a little too close to home.
Of course, these defensive reactions are mild when compared to the bile one encounters when Avril’s name is mentioned around folks who like their punks to be as raw and authentic as possible. You know, the sort of people who whinge that she hasn’t earned the right to be a punk, and her music is just pop with a thin punk veneer, and she should not be hi-jacking punk’s image if her music is MTV fodder, yadda yadda yadda.
None of which really makes for a particularly convincing anti-Avril argument, of course. The notion that a teenage musician shouldn’t be able to pick’n’mix whatever music and image from pop history that she pleases is a dreary one and, if strictly enforced, would make for an incredibly boring musical environment. There are no rules dictating that punk must always be wholly employed and consumed—it can be treated playfully, and artists can adopt whatever aspects of the style they wish (musical, visual or otherwise). Musicians who make records with a humourless and 100% reverential attitude to their any style are dry and uninteresting: Avril’s mixture of punk, FM rock-lite, pop and soft metal is a winning one.
And never more so than on “Complicated”. Opening with some relaxed acoustic guitar, Avril re-assures us with her treated vocals—“That’s life, that’s the way it is.” Musically, it’s fair to say that she bears some relation to Alanis Morisette. However, Avril is certainly the sharper, wittier lyricist. Alanis weighs down her often-pretty melodies with reams of impenetrable self-analysis, without telling us anything particularly interesting. No doubt she would deem Avril’s uncluttered observations to be too low-brow and not stream-of-consciousness enough.
Indeed, this song has very little to do with Punk, in its strictest sense. Avril has inherited some of punk’s trappings, and this frequently gives her added bite. Yet, she knows when to bring out the sing-along rock ballad with teen-friendly lyrics and beefy MTV-pleasing production. The video is probably the reason Avril gets labeled with the punk tag. Without the image, there’d be little to clue one in as to the song’s punk debts. It’s as excellent as the song, though—not dissimilar to the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”. Teens crash mall Cause mischief . Etc. A delightful slice of organised mayhem, all told.
Of course, one could point out that Avril’s attitude in this song (nagging her boyfriend to act and dress a certain way) is not dissimilar to that of the girl she taunts in her other classic “Sk8r Boi”. But with a tune as good as this, it would be silly to make such complaints. Avril rocks, and the fact that boring old punks complain about her is further proof of her genius.
By: Kilian Murphy
Published on: 2004-06-03