I was listening to Avril Lavigne singing live on Radio 1 yesterday evening. Her voice is powerful and true. Her albums are slickly produced. She has an almost-distinctive sound, that you could describe as “Alanis Morissette‘s Mini-Me“. Vital for a pop star, some of her melodies are memorable and inventive. Where Lavigne’s music falls down is the godawful lyrics.
It’s Joni Mitchell‘s fault. Streams-of-consciousness are fine if you they are original and/or insightful, but, like free verse, a non-rhyming/structureless lyric had better be bloody interesting or it ain’t worth our listening. In this respect Avril Lavigne reminds me of that other “singer-songwriter”, Dido. The common theme of their work is: “My boyfriend’s crap. Waah!”
Lavigne’s latest single delivers the classic post-feminist combination of “I’m a funky, crazy, independent chick with a mind of my own and I can do just what I like with my body” and “He went off with my best friend because I wouldn’t put out like that tart and does my bum look big in this?” Unfortunately it’s difficult to render just how poorly the words scan when sung, but here’s a sample:
“You held my hand and walked me home, I know
Why you gave me the kiss, it was something like this, it made me go oh oh.
You wiped my tears, got rid of all my fears, why did you have to go?
Guess it wasn’t enough to take up some of my love, guys are so hard to trust.
“Did I not tell you that I’m not like that
Girl, the one who gives it all away?
“Don’t try to tell me what to do,
Dont try to tell me what to say,
You’re better off that way.”
Compare this with Dido, from her defiantly named album “No Angel”, as she lurches from:
“What I choose to do is of no concern to you and your friends
Where I lay my hat may not be my home,
But I will last on my own
“‘Cause it’s me, and my life,
It’s my life.”
“When you see her sweet smile baby, don’t think of me.
When she lays in your warm arms, don’t think of me.
“So you’re with her, and not with me, I know she spreads sweet honey,
In fact, your best friend, I heard he spent last night with her
Now how do you feel?”
My impressions from snippets of of interviews with them tell me neither Lavigne or Dido is role-playing or being ironic. You can practically hear them declare to some DJ, “The songs on this album were very personal,” over the intro to another a track of banalities.
Avril, it’s clear that you (and your co-accused, Dido) aren’t ready for sexual liberation yet. When you dress like Lolita at the same time as you bitch like a yellow-eyed nun about your “sisters” sexuality then life’s going to be complicated for you. Luckily, I know how to simplify away your pain—and it’ll work for most of your “wild, mad-for-it, modern-girl” fans too: “Bin your troublesome lovers; find a nice, steady man from the sales department to marry; and shut up.”