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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Avril Lavigne: Let Go


AVRIL LAVIGNE: LET GO (2002)

1) Losing Grip; 2) Complicated; 3) Sk8er Boi; 4) I'm With You; 5) Mobile; 6) Unwanted; 7) Tomorrow; 8) Anything But Ordinary; 9) Things I'll Never Say; 10) My World; 11) Nobody's Fool; 12) Too Much To Ask; 13) Naked; 14*) Why.

Question: AVRIL LAVIGNE? Why????? What's up with, like, GOOD music?

Answer: Hey, wouldn't you be bored, too, if all you ever had to review was good music?

Q: But it's not like you haven't written about bad music altogether. What about those fifteen awful Aretha Franklin albums all in a row?

A: Nah, that was just side effects of the trade. «Know your enemy» is a fairly wise maxim, and Aretha sure as hell isn't the enemy, no matter how much crap there is in her catalog.

Q: But Avril Lavigne? I mean, Avril Lavigne? Who the heck is Avril Lavigne? Who the hell is going to be listening to Avril Lavigne in five years' time? Hell, who on Earth is listening to Avril Lavigne right now? And how is it possible to write anything insightful about Avril Lavigne? I mean, even the T&A factor don't work properly this time!

A: Well, yeah, it's probably true that Avril, per se, does not offer all that much insight. It is far more interesting to take a look at the world in which a person as completely gray and un­re­mar­kable as Avril Lavigne could sell 16 million copies of her debut album, Let Go, earn the sucking-up of pretty much all mainstream press in existence, and become one of MTV's lead darling girls of the entire decade.

Q: Come on now, surely there is nothing particularly amazing or unpredictable about that. People are sheep and MTV people are their fascist shepherds, and Avril is just one of their poster girls. Nobody gives a damn about the actual music on Let Go being just a bunch of trivially rehashed pop-punk power chords; all that matters is that Lavigne is (a) «one of us» and (b) «a rebellious spirit». Nobody expects her dumb teenage audiences to sit and scratch their heads and think stuff like «hmm, this music is sort of simple and generic and unoriginal compared to Sigur Rós», and the dumb teenage audiences predictably satisfy expectations. What else is there to say?

A: Well, maybe not much, but sometimes it takes a good listen to an «awful» album like Let Go to properly trigger the thinking process, rather than to a «decent» recording. For instance, no one would probably insist that, in terms of complexity of melodies and arrangements, Let Go is in any way inferior to any «true» punk album ever released (the ones that really go after the three-chord aesthetics, I mean).

Q: You know better than me that it's not the complexity that counts, it's the catchiness and the energy and the spirit and the relevance. Don't tell me you get a kick out of comparing Let Go with The Clash. The bitch calls herself «punk» and she'd never even heard the Sex Pistols before crapping out this shit­pile.

A: Well, at the risk of offending somebody who cares, I'd say that Let Go got catchiness — at least, some of the singles, like 'Complicated', are instantaneously catchy, and some choruses eve­n­tually reach even my subconscious on subsequent listens ('Anything But Ordinary', 'My World'). Energy? Spirit? Look at her videos — she sure as hell is willing to invest quite a bit of energy in those performances. Crashing guitars into windshields and all. I mean, she certainly believes in the things she plays. She believes that the real-life opposition between «punk» and «ballet» is still relevant, and that in this opposition, «punk» = «Good» and «ballet» = «Evil», to be overthrown by the «cool people».

Obviously, we can be bitter about it and say she's really as dumb as that, to believe in that shit, but to just call her a «fake» and be done with it would be rather rash. How is she more «fake» than, say, The Apples In Stereo, who have built their entire career on mimicry and we still love them? Who is more «fake» — herself, clearly grounded in the realities of her life, no matter how generic it might be, or Björk, who has spent a lifetime constructing an alter ego as far removed from reality as possible? And «relevance» — that's absurd; she's been relevant for millions of people for almost a decade.

Q: Yeah, for millions of dumb people happy enough to chew on MTV's cud. I give you it may not be her fault; she's just another brainwashed victim herself, deeply believing that her music helps people out to «break stereotypes», «be themselves», «live their own lives», that she's doing some­thing honest and brave and artistic when in reality she's just a helpless cog in the machine, and her pathetic underdeveloped brain lacks the capacity to understand that. Really, what else is there to say? What next — shall we, God forbid, start discussing her lyrics? "He was a skater boy, she said see ya later boy, he wasn't good enough for her"? Aren't we doing the bitch, and all of her croonies, way too much of a favor even mentioning her existence?

A: I don't know, I've thought like that for a long time, but I'm not exactly sure these days. We can always pretend to ignore «artists» like Lavigne — the «we» in question meaning «elitist listeners who have given up on humanity as a whole» — but perhaps, if «we» are at all interested in not dwindling down eventually to something like 0,000001% of the population (statistically nearing to­tal non-exis­tence), it would make sense to at least try and spot the few good things about the girl, if only to make certain that we actually care about the rest of the world.

Sure, it's pretty damn grim to see what used to be «The Beatles type» vs. «The Stones type» mu­tate into «Britney or Avril?» these days. It's a tasty, juicy matter for sociologists, perhaps, but har­d­ly for raffinated music lovers. On the other hand, «we» keep seeing ourselves falling into our own trap. «We» do not like to come across as too pretentious and smarmy (or do we?), and «we» normally have no problem about enjoying simple music, but «we» can never resist poking fun at the likes of Lavigne and her fans, either. Maybe there's more to be said about Lavigne than just a bunch of jokes about skater boys?

Q: Come on then, let's hear it! Any deep intellectual considerations on Let Go and its overall im­por­tan­ce? Any provoking remarks on how to integrate its values with those of the culturally ad­vanced members of society?

A: Well...

....uh...

...Nah.

It's a pretty damn terrible record, to tell the truth. But I'm still thinking.


Check "Let Go" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Let Go" (MP3) on Amazon

20 comments:

  1. It's a catchier record than her protege's Jagged Little Pill. Plus, she has a better vocal performance of the two.

    I'm not making any claim what that achievement should be constituted as, though.

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  2. You're never gonna finish the A's if you keep reviewing crap like this. *shakes head*

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  3. Lol George, you're really a brave guy to review these records after listening to such great music, but see I think I get your point; at least myself I always try to dive my head into the new pop stuff, though I rarely get nice surprises. Let's read your review now ! :P

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  4. Cardiac Avril Lavigne ArrestJanuary 2, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    To write anything insightful about Avril Lavigne - AT LEAST HER CRAP COOKIES ARE FAR LESS STINKING THEN THE GAGA-SHEMALE ONES. Sorry, now when i'm done with advocating (yeah, i'm terrible at that), i want to state that i wanna read every Avril-the blond review from George. At least it's entertaining. And then it possibly bring you some extra clicks to this fine blog. Go on! And happy new year, btw. Her music is ok, when everyone is drunk on new years eve. So lets ffall down and pray to "ze sk8er boi".

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  5. Cardiac Avril Lavigne ArrestJanuary 2, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Hey, wait, i'm sure Avril is reading Only Solitaire. That's why she covered Bob Dylan! She is a Dylan type of chick, you see. With sk8board.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTt7eCq02hM

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  6. I'm a shameless rabid Avril fan with no taste in music, but that Bob Dylan cover is horrible anyway.

    Her only time pulling a somewhat decent rendition of 'Heaven's Door' is on the Roxy Theatre:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7VZiww7D9E

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  7. Cardiac Avril Lavgne Fanatic ArrestJanuary 2, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    My intrigue with her - does she finally mature into a typical MTV slut from Hell, or gonna pretend she has her "intimate special world" issue. Wat da ya saiz sk8a-boyz ???77

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  8. Cardiac Avril Lavigne Fanatic ArrestJanuary 3, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    Meanwhile the new single is out and it's even more catchy then Complicated ever hoped to. George is gonna have a few guilty pleasure minutes more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB3et7kmRQc
    It's called What The Hell...so The Sluts from Hell direction is getting closer, hell yeah.

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  9. And I was just hoping that we would get to the real meat really soon.

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  10. Well I am such a recluse I honestly had almost no idea whom this Avril was before you threatened to review her two weeks ago. I think I'd seen a few of her videos some years back but that was it.
    As for the "review", it was certainly very interesting although probably not very relevant to me personally, and I am looking forward to next sunday.

    Oh, and I will download all of her albums now and sit through them at least once while trying to keep my concentration purely on the music. Heck, if George sat through them thrice (and I do assume you did, right George? Not that I'd blame you were it otherwise) it's the least I can do.

    As for the intellectual discussion... well, there's really very little I can add. Sure, I've always wondered why people would listen to modern soul & r'n'b when all those Ray Charles, Al Green, etc. records are still floating around (not that all modern soul & r'n'b needs be crappy mind you, I'm talking more about the basic sound of it all) but I've long since given up trying to understand why my fellow youth act like they do, and I'm hardly talking purely about choices relating to musical taste here. I don't know why they smoke, drink, dress ugly, get tattoos, watch reality shows, harass eachother, shoplift candybars, throw rocks at cars, wear hideously applied make-up and whatever even worse things they do when I'm not around. I've always figured that listening to Britney Spears or Justin Bieber was just more of the same. But then again I suppose there was a time when they would have doing all those things and been listening to The Beatles and Stones.

    Why? Geez, I really don't know. Just saying that musical taste in general has deteriorated is probably true, but seems simplistic and only leaves one yearning for more answers.
    Such as, why has it deteriorated? Maybe musical taste was always pretty bad but music in the 60's and 70's was just good enough to break through the barriers? Maybe it's just that every generation must embrace whatever new sounds are pumped out and seeing as true musical innovation is so hard to come by all the truly talented people are busy with much to difficult and just plain weird stuff to be embraced on a major scale?

    Bah, I don't know. And really, I wouldn't want "we" to dwindle away completely, but as long as I have my Al Stewart records by my side, I won't kill myself over it. Even if no one else I've ever met has even heard of the man.

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  11. Wow, 10 comments in less than 24 hours (okay, 4 of them by the same person). Now we all know about who is the major driving force in music today. I really need to move into this teen pop reviewing business on a serious basis.

    Andrew: I disagree. Not only is Jagged Little Pill at least marginally more intelligent than Lavigne's stuff, I can still remember at least half of its songs, whereas for "Let Go" it's just the two singles. And Glen Ballard is at least a real composer, unlike this "Matrix" team that writes stuff for Lavigne.

    Sidharta: Actually, I'm pretty much through with the "A's" for the 2000s section anyway, so with these Avril reviews I'm just giving a chance for the other As to catch up.

    Cardiac Arrest: Happy New Year to you, too. You're quite right about the clicks - it's all part of a wicked plan for Avril fans to discover that there are other artists starting with "A", too. Not that I'm expecting much out of this, but if even one brainwashed teen happens to discover the Allman Brothers Band through his/her love for Avril Lavigne, the mission is a success.

    Anton: Few people are willing to make conscious efforts to improve themselves, and today, it's so much easier to go with the flow than it ever was, because the whole industry of making you go with the flow is so much more huge and cunning than it used to be. Worse, the machine has gotten so clever it is now able to create the illusion of you fighting it - like with Avril and her records. The only question is, no one knows who is the guiltier side: the wicked hunters or the dumb prey.

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  12. Anton J: Times ain't changing that much, unless you are coming from 50-60'es. Our lovely Avril is basically Samantha Fox minus the tits, and a bit less of a slut-factor yet. And ma'am Sam Fox happened to be in the 80-es, good 25 years ago! Yammy.

    Well, now that i'm done with time machine, i'll go dig me some Captain Beefheart record.
    Avril fans, if you read me, girls, go dig him too. He is your next idol !

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  13. Question: At the end of the day, if the people who bought this album enjoy it, does it really matter what you or I think?

    We can complain about people's money being better spent on albums that we think are better. You can question an artist's and record company's motivations, look at everything from plenty of different angles, and wonder why someone is a success. But if the music is enjoyed by the people who bought/downloaded/whatever it, isn't that enough?

    As for me, I haven't listened to this album in six or seven years, but I recall finding it fairly enjoyable and likeable. Oh, I know there are a few silly songs, and it's certainly not a masterpiece of songcraft. It's just a simple pop album. Whether or not I'd still enjoy the album, I have no idea. But I might track down a cheap copy and find out.

    Now, the important stuff. Are you going to review Boston Spaceships or not? At this rate, by the time you get there (if you choose to review them!), they'll have released another three or four albums.

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  14. Brad: Of course - if this is just a simple pop album that people buy to enjoy for a moment and then move on to other things, that is enough.

    Problems begin when the album gets an amount of promotion and media attention that is ridiculously inadequate to its actual content. In these cases, yeah, I think it matters what you and I think. The important thing is that our thoughts should not come across as another, alternate wave of brainwashing "from the other side", but as simply a way of showing that there IS another side.

    The Boston Spaceships - isn't that another of Robert Pollard's projects? I'd rather do Guided By Voices first, some day.

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  15. If she is integer and I have to choose between Avril Lavigne and ballet music it will be the latter without any hesitation. Having written that: I am more or less a fan of Therapy? Compared to this band AL is a sissy.

    MNb

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  16. George: I ummed and ahhed, and scratched my chin, but couldn't come up with a particularly coherent set of thoughts.

    I guess it isn't such a bad thing if someone's first musical love happens to be Avril Lavigne (who they discovered through the massive hype she garnered), if it fosters a love and appreciation in music. One would hope the enjoyment they got from her music leads them to explore deeper into music. (Say, for example, discovering Bob Dylan through her cover of Knockin' on Heaven's Door).

    We all have to start somewhere: the first albums I owned were by Richard Marx and Roxette.

    Anyway yes, Boston Spaceships are another one of Robert Pollard's projects (along with the Circus Devils, his own solo albums and releases with whoever else he decides to work with this week): they're supposedly now his main band, since the break-up of Guided By Voices. (Ignoring the fact that GBV have reunited with the "classic" lineup and have been touring). Though, you do raise a good point: it makes sense to go through his claim to fame and most well known band first.

    Incidentally, after browsing some old boxes of records, I came across a cheap copy of Alan Stivell's A L'Olympia: I couldn't believe my luck after you'd just reviewed it. Your review made it sound quite interesting... I'm looking forward to giving it a good listen.

    (I also picked up a copy of Somewhere in Afrika by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, which I strangely remembered you giving a good review to on the old site. Had a quick listen to the first side, which is pretty decent).

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  17. Well, I did start with Avril Lavigne. And got into Kate Bush within 2 years.

    There's no argument who's the better of the two, but I do enjoy both.

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  18. For your consolation, IT WAS NOMINATED TO "BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR" AT THE GRAMMYS. It didn't win of course, but to be honest it wouldn't surprise me (if Katty Perry has the same nomination this year.....)

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  19. George! It's 2014, and I do hope you are still on track to complete your A-Z treatise.

    I've read a lot of reviews since yesterday (it's been an Only-Solitaire binge session this weekend) but I'm going to start my comments here on this review:

    I love your confidence and unyielding perspective on what "good music" and "good artists" are. I happen not to agree with some (or even a lot) of it, but I can see and respect where it is coming from. Further, this review specifically calls out your inner devil's advocate, which -- aside from your astonishing writing skills -- is your **saving grace** as an otherwise highly-skilled derider of corn-syrup-coated music and production.

    Based on this hilarious review, it's clear that you are indeed going through a healthy internal mock-debate that you already know the outcome of, but at least showing us that you have some animal instincts that do, in fact, prefer salt, sugar and fat in their food, despite the fact that we all know all three of them are essentially unhealthy ingredients -- that they do make our lizard-brains happy temporarily with a -jolt- of primitive satisfaction.

    I have an aural sweet tooth, and gravitate towards pop-syrup naturally. Yet, I'd like to think that I'm a thoughtful guy like yourself, and think similarly as you do about the world we both inhabit.

    I, like you, prefer the artist to have a philosophy from which they share their poetry. I, too, prefer a band's or artist's talent to be on unadulterated display so that we can engage with them in a deeply meaningful level. Too often, though, these artistic puritans don't create aurally pleasing outcomes (for me) - equivalent perhaps to a meal purely consisting of quinoa and tofu. I'm cool with quinoa and tofu, but quite frankly, they taste a lot better to me when mixed with a tasty sauce that likely has some sugar and fat contents.
    Especially when reading your Aerosmith reviews, it was clear to me that the "sauce" used in their later, more popular work turned you off...whereas I feel it enhanced the vaguely talented troupe that you yourself were frankly not **all that enamored by** yourself in the 70s!

    I'm not a health-food nut, but I eat healthily. I don't go to fast food restaurants more than 2-3 times a year (and I'm an American!), yet when I do, I'm not going to lie that I enjoy the -jolt- of disproportionate (and unhealthy) amounts of fat, sugar and salt carried through a vessel known as a Whopper, Big Mac, or Pizza Hut pizza. This is the metaphor for me enjoying "Complicated" and "I'm With You" from "Let Go."

    So I see you as the health nut who knows darned well that good food doesn't always taste the best, but it's the best for us. But I also see you as someone who understands the draw of guilty pleasures of Fast Food just like the unwashed masses do. However, you deride and ridicule the unwashed masses as the "downfall of society." This is where I am at odds with you: The unwashed masses I believe **are** society. So, I see it as the default: pop music, fast food, sex in the back seat of a pick-up, dancing in da club for a hookup, getting in fist fights to show social dominance...this *is* the default. This is not me, mind you -- far from it -- but it's The World. The Average Person is Average. And to deride the default as not good enough is to essentially not admit that there is actually a reality around us that reflects reality.

    Keep on truckin', George. I LOVE what you write. And if you were any more empathetic toward "average" then you probably wouldn't be so much darned fun to read anyway. Keep on hating on Average for what it is - Average. Heck, if there weren't elitist critics, then there'd be nobody to describe Average for us except for The Average. And that wouldn't be very interesting to read at all.

    Cheers!

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  20. That was one enlightened comment Jon D

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