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