Avril Lavigne’s Four Step Program of Romance and Revenge
In short, it was another pop concert for little girls.
Like it or not, pop stars long ago donned the ceremonial headdress of the Tribal Role Model in society. Kids certainly don’t listen to their parents. The 27-year-old Avril Lavigne was the latest spiritual guide to share her wisdom with her adoring, impressionable acolytes. She performed Thanksgiving Monday at Rexall Place (buy tickets).
Scoff all you want at all the silly, sexist and/or sexually explicit songs on top-40 radio. Hit songs by Avril, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Kay and on and on are far more deep than they sound. The bigger the hit, the bigger the influence and the more powerful the message pounded home therein. These songs are more potent than bubblegum. They are vivid guideposts marking the path to womanhood, instruction manuals for a young lady on how she is expected to behave, how to deal with the opposite sex – boys: how to seduce them, how to debase and spite oneself to win their affections, how to properly dump the cheating bastard and when things especially don’t go your way, how best to claw the eyes out of the bitch that stole that complicated skater boy you had such a crush on.
Parents, especially dads of daughters: look away now if you don’t want to know the inner secrets of femininity concealed in the music of Avril Lavigne, because it is not a pretty sight. It is honest. Question her rock cred all you like, but Avril Lavigne has always been candid about expressing her feelings. And the reader should be reminded than an artist can be just as honest in PICKING a song they didn’t write as if she wrote it herself. If you don’t believe it, you haven’t listened to Ella Fitzgerald. Avril’s polished, produced, candy-like brand of pop-rock goodness just hides the brutal truth as Avril sees it.
The jury is out on whether girls just act this way naturally and therefore their favourite pop songs are simply reflections of real life, or if these songs actually serve to engender a general Machiavellian approach to romance in the merciless quest for reproduction – which of course has an effect on human survival itself. Well, look here, the jury’s back! (Man, that joke never gets old): “No way it’s the songs – girls are just mean” – and this comes from no less an authority than an actual grown woman who’s been around the block and has two teenage Avril Lavigne fans to prove it. Thank you, Mrs. Smith.
Let’s go to the material. Four of Avril’s biggest hits have been selected for today’s study, one from each major studio album, each representing a phase in the artist’s personal romantic coming-of-age, and each performed at Monday’s concert, curiously in reverse order. Behold AVRIL’S FOUR STEP PROGRAM OF ROMANCE AND HEARTBREAK.
It all starts with Complicated, where our hero is complaining about a guy who puts up a false front, whether to impress her or not isn’t clear. The key line is loving, innocence itself: “If you could only let it be, you will see I like you the way you are.” This is 2002 and Avril is still a teenager. From the positive message heard throughout the song, along with putting a value on honesty from lovers, it’s clear the protagonist hasn’t had her heart broken quite yet. She sure is setting herself up, though.
Two years later, here it is: My Happy Ending, an obviously sarcastic heartbreak song if there ever was one. The theme of a dishonest boyfriend surfaces again in lines like “All this time you were pretending, so much for my happy ending.” Added to this is the common problem of how much of a jerk he is when he’s with his asshole friends. She starts banging on them in the second verse: “You’ve got your dumb friends. I know what they say. They tell you I’m difficult. But so are they.” You know this isn’t going to end well. They break up with the singer lashing out, “Thanks for watching as I fall and letting me know we were done.” Well, you’re welcome.
By 2007, we see a different person: Worldly, hardened, cynical, vindictive, mean and determined to get whatever she wants, damn the cost. Lavigne has probably taken the most flack for her biggest hit of all, Girlfriend, which deals with wanting to steal another girl’s boyfriend. Its bratty “Hey hey you you!”chant in a grotesque mockery of cheerleaders frames a bold expression of possibly unrequited desire. Her feelings, again, are clear: “So come over here, tell me what I want to hear. Better yet make your girlfriend disappear” and “In a second you’ll be wrapped around my finger. She’s so stupid. What the hell were you thinking?!” This song must’ve struck a nerve – or reflected the feelings of millions of inner mean girls across the realm. Girlfriend went to No. 1 around the world.
Stage 4 appears to be the deadliest of all: One of Avril’s latest singles from her new album Goodbye Lullaby. Reflecting a fatalist attitude from the title on in, the song is called What the Hell. Make what you will of this: “You say that I’m messing with your head all ‘cause I was making out with your friend. Love hurts whether it’s right or wrong. I can’t stop ’cause I’m having too much fun.” Or this: “All my life I’ve been good, But now I’m thinking: What the hell? All I want is to mess around.” Or this: “I am messing with your head when I’m messing with you in bed.” Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now, eh? Now our hero has taken charge of the mind games she’s been victim to in previous songs. How diabolically ironic. As someone (a man) once said: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. There’s a lesson for you, girls.
Boys: You might want to pay attention, too, if you know what’s good for you.