Seconds: Perfect Moments In Pop
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
2004-06-03


Comments
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Posted 06/03/2004 - 11:24:42 AM by MyNameIsKenny:
 I am amazed that you found enough things to write about a song this inherently dull to fill out an article.
 
Posted 06/03/2004 - 11:28:17 AM by clockoouut:
 No one comment. This speaks for itself.
 
Posted 06/03/2004 - 01:12:48 PM by holystoning:
 If it is Perfect Pop, then we ought to hear why, exactly, it is such. If it is Perfect Pop, questions of authenticity are moot, or will be in time.

But I take mild issue with the use of the word "playfully". On the contrary: listening to Avril, I hear no individuality. She brings no personality to the songs, she merely sings them straight. Visually, she's a pokerface live. Her tunes resist any attempts to co-opt them or imbue them with personal meaning; they're impenetrable at best and cynical at worst.

Avril is doing nothing to punk. She's not offending anyone; I agree that if she irks the crust-punkers, they ought to turn off TRL and plug in the 4-track. Because boring ol' grungers complained about hair metal, does that make Bulletboys genius? Because boring ol' hip-hop heads complain about pop rap, does that make Cam'ron a genius? Avril has nothing to add to any music dialogue. In interviews she is fidgety and incoherent; her lyrics are sometimes embarrassingly sophomoric and ham-fisted for a nineteen-year-old woman, let alone the professional pop sqauds she works with.

 
Posted 06/03/2004 - 05:10:33 PM by shudder:
 "Musicians who make records with a humourless and 100% reverential attitude to their any style are dry and uninteresting" It's hard to imagine a musician whose music is more devoid of humour than mlle. Lavine.
 
Posted 06/04/2004 - 06:01:25 AM by Monkian:
 The very fact that it provokes this kind of reaction in the comments page says a lot about her and the song I think. To my ear it is a great pop song; plenty of hooks, crisp, satisfying lyrics and it bears repeated plays. Av has... X factor chic. You can't put your finger on it but she has something the other girls don't.
 
Posted 06/04/2004 - 11:58:09 AM by shudder:
 Monkian: Well, what exactly does it say about her and her song? It's fairly plausible that a mediocre or even outright crappy song might provoke a massive bunch of responses in a comments section if it was being praised, no?
 
Posted 06/04/2004 - 12:34:44 PM by clockoouut:
 Monkian - the major complaint here has nothing to do with Avril, but with the fact that we are reading this on STYLUS. This has nothing to do with "hipster backlash" or any of that crap. If I was into Avril and other TRL staples, I would go to MTV.com's message board. I understand that this site is supposed to respresent different people's opinions, but how can I ever trust such opinions when ones like these are featured at the top of the page? "Perfect" moment in pop? There's far too many that deserve an article more than Avril, and THATS why it "provoked this kind of reaction."
 
Posted 06/04/2004 - 01:17:52 PM by MyNameIsKenny:
 Don't speak for me, man. I complained because I disagree with the article. I have no problem with whatever the hell type of music they want to talk about here. If they wanted to talk about why, say, the last Michelle Branch song was so good, that'd be fine with me.
 
Posted 06/04/2004 - 03:17:01 PM by jante99:
 The problem with this piece and the review of Under My Skin is that they manage to at least suspend my judgment for a second that Avril is a legitimate artist. The Under My Skin review actually had me excited to maybe even go out and buy the album until then I heard the single. The only perfect moment in pop you can find in Avril is Sk8er Boi - and only then if you remember that Avril is not (yet) a real artist. Or perhaps I am a complete snob.
 
Posted 06/06/2004 - 11:09:25 AM by holystoning:
 MyNameIsKenny - That Michelle Branch song was good, wasn't it?
 
Posted 06/07/2004 - 04:08:16 AM by IanMathers:
 Y'know, clockoouut, I'm a bit surprised that you're surprised. Plenty of writers on Stylus like pop, and I don't believe we've ever shied away from admitting that some of us like stuff like "Complicated". It's not as if we never talked about it and then suddenly it showed up on the front page. If you don't like the song, fair enough (neither do I - "Losing My Grip" is far better), but please don't think this article is some sort of digression for the site. We've been covering this sort of thing for as long as I've been reading and/or writing.
 
Posted 06/07/2004 - 04:11:59 AM by Monkian:
 I'm a big fan of pop music. The declining standard of chart music is depressing to me. I'm sure that the majority of the readership here couldn't give a flying fook about the chart and spend more time listening to obscure/credible (delete as appropriate) music than I do. I suppose I am coming from a more populist perspective, and I am not offended by the view that Complicated is a great pop record. I am willing to accept that part of the reason I liked this record so much is that I am a pervert.
 
Posted 06/07/2004 - 11:22:32 AM by NickSouthall:
 Words commonly used in popular musical discourse which are ideologically-loaded lies, pt.1; 'authenticty', 'real', 'hipster', 'credibility', 'earn + trust + respect', 'legitimate', 'artist', 'obscure'.
 
Posted 06/07/2004 - 02:53:04 PM by shudder:
 (Critical) Words commonly used in popular musical discourse which are still useful, even if they may sometimes seem to betray an "ideological" tinge: mediocre, derivative, unoriginal, boring, stupid, lazy, maudlin, cloying, insincere, superficial, forced, inelegant, pandering, manipulative, fake/faux, Avril Lavigne-like....
 
Posted 06/08/2004 - 01:15:07 AM by holystoning:
 No offense to the author of this piece, but this installment of Seconds spends very little time discussing the actual song. Most of the writing dwells on Avril's place in pop music, comparing her to existing artists, etc. We get a quick ref to acoustic guitars and a reassuring voice, a some subjective testimony about the lyrics, but that's all... I wouldn't have typed anything initally (as I do enjoy the song), but the article took on Avril, when it should have took on "Complicated". Thus, a lot of us felt compelled to comment.

Like I said earlier, authenticity is usually moot with music; good tunes will be good tunes regardless of motives or the movements of shadowy hands. That's all.
 
Posted 06/08/2004 - 01:41:54 AM by clockoouut:
 Ian - fair enough, maybe it isn't a digression. Regardless, why read about Avril for the 100th time when there are so many songs far less touted and, arguably, far more deserving?
 
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