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May 15, 2007

I first came across the new Avril Lavigne song when Jill gave the pop singer a stern talking to for being "bratty, and perpetually stuck in adolescence."  But since I've been stuck in Chicago traffic with nothing but Top 40 radio to keep me company, I've actually listened to the wretched thing multiple times.  And Christ is it bad.  These have got to be the most immature lyrics ever set to paper:  "She's like, so whatever/You could do so much better/I think we should get together now/And that's what everyone's talking about!"  Squeal!  And then there's this: "So when's it gonna sink in/She's so stupid/What the hell were you thinking?"  It's the sort of writing that makes you wonder whether Avril is the mystery author behind the transcendent "You Touch My Hands For Stupid Reasons" (and yes, click on that link, give them your birthday, and turn up your speakers.  You can thank me later.)

Glad as I am for an opportunity to link to "YTMHFSR," I have to say, Lavigne's joint is one of the few bits of pop culture that's ever depressed me.  I'll take the gore, the violence, the sex and the drugs.  But this is just ugly.  Take the video:  As Slate describes it, "Our black-clad heroine is a horrible little tyrant who subjects the preppy [girlfriend] to all sorts of torments before driving a golf ball into her head at a mini-golf course and leaping triumphantly into a Port-a-Potty with the boy. I may be too many decades removed from high school to really get this revenge fantasy, but the idea that we're supposed to cheer a revolution in which the ruling elite is replaced by creeps who enforce their will with golf-ball beanings seems like a perversion of the punk ideal."  Agreed.  That the song has morphed into some smash bestseller -- particularly on the heels of the Pussycat Doll song of a similar, though less vengeful, bent -- seems a sad commentary on our national id.

May 15, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

For a better musical experience, try WXRT 93.1 next time you're stuck in traffic in Chicago.

Posted by: Dave | May 15, 2007 10:30:10 AM

It's not our national id that's worrisome, its the collective psyche of the nation's middle class junior-high age girls. The capacity for cruelty among that cohort is pretty phenomenal. They internalize all of the unattainable standards they are presented with through pop-culture and advertising, and then enforce them on each other without any sense of moderation. I'd sort of rather they just threw golf balls at each others heads like the 12-16 year old boys do.

Posted by: Sam L. | May 15, 2007 10:32:15 AM

Is there anything more desperate that a pussycat doll wannabe? They are such a degrading spectacle and so desperate, so needy. All part of the whorrification of society. Where what the prostitutes of today think and wear and say becomes the ideas, fashions and phrases of tomorrows mainstream. I'm hoping the pendulum swing back to discreet clothing and sensible shoes occurs in my lifetime.

Posted by: Northern Observer | May 15, 2007 10:43:55 AM

Try living in Canada where, thanks to cultural protections such as mandated Canadian content quotas on radio and TV, Avril Lavigne might as well be played on an endless loop all freaking day long. There is of course tons of great Canadian music, but no, the radio stations have decided that they'd like to meet their quotas by playing Avril every 30 minutes or so.

I'll be watch for a spike in national suicide statistics.

Posted by: moo-cow | May 15, 2007 11:12:01 AM

Avril Lavigne's agent, accountant and banker like this song just fine

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 15, 2007 11:41:08 AM

One of the things that bothers me about these types of "dump your girl" songs is that I feel women should be sticking together. I know it's a bit silly and idealistic but it seems that the gender would do much better if we didn't waste our time on men/boys who are occupied with someone or something else, particularly if we didn't demonize the other women involved in order to achieve, or justify, our goals.
I was always fascinated by Levigne's "Sk8ter Boi", wherein the girl who took ballet classes (which proves that she is a stuck up preppy bitch, one presumes) was punished for dating the skater boi by ending up a lonely single mother.

Posted by: GCF | May 15, 2007 11:46:23 AM

God I love Avril.
So punky and spunky.
This powerpoptart is what we need more of.
Just my opinion.

Posted by: whizid | May 15, 2007 11:54:31 AM

Re: YTMHFSR

Thank you, Ezra. That was extraordinarily funny.

Posted by: Tom | May 15, 2007 11:55:00 AM

I may be giving her too much credit, but I suspect there's a great deal more irony here than you might think. Notice that she's playing the part of both girls.

Posted by: Roger | May 15, 2007 12:10:25 PM

I find that when people claim others are stuck in "perpetual adolescents" it's usually because they feel they had to grow up too quickly and begrudge others the opportunity to take a mellower approach to life.

Posted by: soullite | May 15, 2007 12:40:50 PM

I got yer national id right here: http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/Movies/05/15/people.maximhot100.ap/index.html

:)

Posted by: nikkos | May 15, 2007 12:43:54 PM

I was always fascinated by Levigne's "Sk8ter Boi", wherein the girl who took ballet classes (which proves that she is a stuck up preppy bitch, one presumes) was punished for dating the skater boi by ending up a lonely single mother.

Well, what the lyrics actually say is that the ballet proves she wasn't punk, like him.

And she isn't punished for dating the sk8ter boi by becoming a lonely single mother--she was punished for rejecting him, presumably in favor of whoever got her pregnant . . . .

Posted by: rea | May 15, 2007 12:58:29 PM

Ezra, I agree with everything you said regarding "Girlfriend"(the name of the song, btw). And I can't get that shit out of my head. It's a shame the lyrics are so bad, because the chorus is so catchy.

I may be giving her too much credit, but I suspect there's a great deal more irony here than you might think. Notice that she's playing the part of both girls.

Hah! Next thing you know, some one will be saying that Alanis's "Ironic" really is ironic.

Posted by: RickyDomingo | May 15, 2007 1:28:53 PM

The girl in Sk8ter Boi is punished because even though she liked him, she was too afraid of others looking down on her to date the guy she really liked. It had nothing to do with her taking ballet, it had to do with her following the crowd instead of going with her heart.

I think that song is actually a great message. That the things society tells you to want aren't necessarily the things you should want.

Posted by: spike | May 15, 2007 1:34:30 PM

shorter ezra:

"damn kids these days, with your facespaces and googlebooks.... GET OFF MY LAWN!"

Posted by: rigel | May 15, 2007 1:39:55 PM

Fascinating that when we get a Nice Girl fantasy to compete with the legions of Nice Guy ones, the Nice Girl is a big bitch.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | May 15, 2007 1:49:40 PM

Thou shalt not make repetitive, generic music....

Posted by: GCF | May 15, 2007 1:49:51 PM

I didn't see the little nerdy redheaded girl as a member of the ruling elite (where were her friends?), but as a member of some sort of oppressed nerd subculture. Avril in this video actually struck me as being closer to the ruling elite model. Is that just my old Willow Rosenberg crush warping my mind? In any case, I was rooting for the little redhead all the way through the video, even after I knew how things were going to go.

I always used to have a soft spot for Avril before this, because I liked the fact that the music industry had deigned to market an A-list pop princess to social outcasts. That's over now.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 15, 2007 2:46:39 PM

I agree the subtext of the cideo is disturbing, not only for the "bratty girl wins" ethis, but the fact that the "girlfriend" resembles Ugly Betty, with all the ugly implications that brings. I do wonder what anyone working creatively with Avril was thinking, also because the lyrics work against the images too - sticking to her tried and true formula of saying "I am more kinky/outrageous/interesting than the silly girl you're dating" which is the point of Sk8er Boi as well.

All of that said, though, I do find the song catchy, and the build up in the chorus to its conclusion is musically better than I think people realize. If I could let go of the ugly video, I'd like it just fine. But then, I have the music tastes of a 16 year old girl. Still. :)

Posted by: weboy | May 15, 2007 2:49:38 PM

Now that I read the Slate article, I see that they get the dominant culture / subculture lines right:

"The charm of Lavigne's early hits was the conviction with which she played the underdog: the tomboyish punkette who was deep enough to see the beauty in the "sk8er boi" spurned by the status-conscious popular girl... Avril's rock 'n' roll high school seems a lot like every other godawful high school, only its evil alpha girls have jet-black hair and wear Ramones T-shirts."

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | May 15, 2007 5:18:02 PM

Fascinating that when we get a Nice Girl fantasy to compete with the legions of Nice Guy ones, the Nice Girl is a big bitch.

No, "Sk8er Boi" was the Nice Girl fantasy. "Girlfriend" is the "I'm an Alpha Girl and I'll Take Whatever I Want" fantasy -- or, in the words of the song, "I think you know I’m damn precious/And hell yeah I'm the motherfucking princess." For whatever reason, there seem to be a lot of those bullying "Im'a steal your boyfriend cause you uptight and ugly, girl" songs popping up lately.

I have to admit, when this video was first linked to on Stereogum a couple of months ago, I thought for sure the song would tank. Obviously, I underestimated how much people fetishize the Heathers, and how adeptly Avril was able to shift from being your introspective girl's teen-pop idol to, well, the new Fergie.

Posted by: DJA | May 16, 2007 12:09:41 AM

I think that song is actually a great message. That the things society tells you to want aren't necessarily the things you should want.

I always found the subtext of 'Sk8r Boi' weird, though. Consider the last verse-
I'm with the sk8r boi
I said 'see you later boy'
I'll be backstage after the show
I'll be in his studio,
singing this song he wrote
about a girl he used to know

For the skater-kid-cum-rockstar to write this song about his once-crush for mass consumption is pretty cruel. But by singing it for him, Avril's just the new girlfriend taking revenge on the old, blissfully ignorant that once Sk8r Boi and she break up, he'll have some other girl singing nasty, vengeful songs about Avril. There's a certain lack of self-awareness there that I find really sad. (Nicholas has heard this from me ad nauseam.)
And yes, 'Girlfriend' does make the ears bleed.

Posted by: Urs | May 16, 2007 1:38:32 PM

I'm not sure what the left-blogosphere obsession with "pop" music is about --- as you have noted it surely has nothing to do with quality. Probably some need to show how....whatever the contemporary word for being contemporary is. However, it is an unnecessary slur on Chicago to speak of the necessity of listening to the top 40 in traffic. We do have an NPR station, of course, but there is also WFMT 98.7, probably the best radio station in the United States. I suspect that Avril --- whoever she or he is --- isn't on WFMT's play list,l but if you have any musical taste at all, you should enjoy it. (If not, btw, iPods do work in Chicago. There's really no execuse in listening only to top 40, even if you are stuck in Chicago traffic)

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