Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

“Where have I heard these Big Piano Chords in the verse before?”

Tom: In a world increasingly dominated by vertical video and square video, music video directors continue to use EXTREME WIDESCREEN. And I have a question for you, Tim: where have I heard these Big Piano Chords in the verse before?

Tom: I mean, good power ballad, weakened a bit by that “drown, drown, drown” bit and the middle eight, but with a properly intense chorus and a voice that is still clearly Avril Lavigne despite being surrounded by a lot of instrumentation and production.

Tim: It is, and there’s also a nice vocal variation between the trademark shouty vocals and the softer parts required in the early parts of the verses and the pre-chorus, rather than just an adjustment of volume, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Tom: But I’d swear I’ve heard that effect in the verse before. You know, where it sounds like someone’s pushing most of the keys on a grand piano at the same time, just to emphasise that this is still a big moment despite being the slow bit of the song. Any ideas?

Tim: Hmm…Let It Go? I mean, upping the backing for the second verse, or even the second part of the first verse, is hardly novel. What is novel, mind, is using a typeface in a lyric video with an apostrophe that horrific.

Avril Lavigne & Jonny Blue – Baby It’s Cold Outside


Tom: I know this song is problematic, to say the least. I know there’s debate over whether the lyrics are really creepy or actually charming in context. I know that it’s been deconstructed plenty of times.

Tim: My biggest problem with it is that, like all traditional American Christmas songs that date from the 1950s, it’s just really quite boring.

Tom: Well, there is the Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews version, which I once heard described as “Grandad seducing Minnie Mouse”.

Tim: Well then that’s now on my ‘watch later’ list, but is this one a bit interesting?

Tom: This version — which is startling traditional version, given the words “Avril Lavigne” there — is the most frustrating song I’ve heard in a while.

Tom: Why is Jonny Blue always starting his line early? Avril’s barely got two words into her bar before BOOM QUIET NOW I MUST SING OVER YOU. It’s a duet, not a bloody competition.

Tim: Yeah, it does kind of remind me of the Battle round on The Voice – ostensibly to judge who can sound better in a duet, but quickly degrades into a shouting match which isn’t really pleasant for anyone. This isn’t so bad, but your point still stands. And they haven’t even really made it interesting.

Saturday Flashback: Avril Lavigne – My Happy Ending

“Maybe she’s just making her way through heavy ’00s rock bands”

Tim: This week, Avril Lavigne announced, via the traditional method of an Instagram post, that she and Chad Kroeger were separating; seems an appropriate time to wheel this out, I’d say.

Tom: Topping Mika’s Happy Ending is going to take some doing. But then, she was there first: this is now more than ten years old.

Tim: Partly because, well, “so much for my happy ending”, but also because this was the first song she released that indicated a heavier sound – Let Go was a very pop album, and the lead single from Under My Skin was in a similar vein. This, though, well, it’s almost a sign that she and Chad were destined to be together, isn’t it?

Tom: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s a bloody good track, though; it basically sums up that mid-2000s angry-pop phase really well. Not sure about that destiny, though.

Tim: Fair point – probably more that she and Sum 41 lead singer Deryck Whibley were destined to be together, but then they broke up first, and then she started with Chad. Maybe she’s just making her way through heavy ’00s rock bands, I dunno.

Tom: Smash Mouth next, then?

Tim: Fine by me. Whichever she eventually chooses, I’m sure right now she’s sitting on the floor, back against the wall, bottle to her lips, and listening to this track. Though hopefully not reading this write-up.

Avril Lavigne – Hello Kitty

“Absolutely bloody awful.”

Tim: Oh no. No, please don’t…

Tom: Sometimes we cover tracks because they’re good. Sometimes because they’re remarkable. And sometimes…


Tom: …they’re absolutely bloody awful.

Tim: Yep. I pretty much never delete songs from my iTunes library. Here, I made an exception.

Tom: I mean, it’s like gawping at a trainwreck. The product placement.

Tim: Actually, there I’ll interrupt you – product placement based on kids toys is definitely not always a bad thing. Though admittedly it is most of the time, so do continue.

Tom: Well, that was hardly product placement: Mattel sued and lost over that. But yes: there’s more awful yet. The dubstep breakdown. The lyrics. The melody, or the lack of it. The video. Oh, the video.

Tim: Regarding the video, I think it’s the first video I’ve ever seen by a major artist to have more thumbs down than up. It doesn’t remotely surprise me. It’s utterly horrific.

Tom: Bieber managed it, but that was riding on a wave of dislike for him rather than his music. This… it’s terrible.

Tim: Just terrible.

Avril Lavigne – Rock N Roll

Another day, another pop act going vaguely rock.

Tim: Another day, another pop act going vaguely rock, another great lyric: “I don’t care if I’m a misfit, I like it better than the hipster bullshit.”

Tim: Lots of very rock n roll stuff going on here: musically we’ve got plenty of drums and extended guitar solos, and lyrically it’s CRAZY: ripped clothes, sticking middle fingers up, getting wasted – gosh, such raunchiness and clear proof that she is definitely rock n roll.

Tom: Do I detect a little bit of sarcasm there, Tim?

Tim: Me, sarcastic? Eh, possibly. Rock n roll or not, however, this is clearly still pop enough to be a recognisable Avril Lavigne track, and actually a fairly good one.

Tom: Yep: but a modern one in terms of production.

Tim: Indeed, and I say well done to everybody involved – even the lyricist, because I still like that hipster line.

Tom: Given that one of the credited lyricists is Avril Lavigne herself, and another is her husband Chad Nickelback – no, seriously – that’s a bit of a surprise.

Tim: UPDATE of a few weeks later: the proper video’s out. It is, quite frankly, incredible. A joy to behold.


Avril Lavigne – Here’s To Never Growing Up

“This could have been a lower-key song off any of her earlier albums.”

Tim: Apparently, the kids today are all into Radiohead. Who knew?

Tim: Actually, that’s an entirely unfair way of looking at it; given that this was written by Avril herself (with Nickelback’s own Chad Kroeger).

Tom: Ah, Nickelback, the music industry’s punchline.

Tim: If we take this at a slightly deeper level it’s actually probably a sort of autobiographical song. A decade or so ago when she first started out, Radiohead were at the peak of their popularity in the US so really it’s a song about her being a Peter Pan sort of person.

Tom: And certainly, her music doesn’t seem to have changed all that much since then: this could, I think, have been a lower-key song off any of her earlier albums.

Tim: It’s not really a song aimed at teenagers, but instead at people her age. My age. Your age, if it’s not too late for that. Basically, the people that want to be kids forever. The people that don’t want a maturing pop sound but are instead as happy as they ever were with Avril Lavigne’s pleasant but somewhat shouty, pop output.

Tom: That’s certainly a pretty big audience.

Tim: Of course, teenagers could take a lesson from it – she’s 28 now, but she doesn’t want to let go (HA! Let Go.) of her youth.

Tom: I see what you did there.

Tim: Cheers – good, wasn’t it? Maybe she missed it while she had the chance, maybe she’s warning those damn kids to make the most of their childhood and adolescence while they can. Either way, I think this is far more analysis than I’ve ever given to any song before, maybe because it almost speaks to me directly.

It’s a flawed concept, obviously – we all have to grow up, and there’s perhaps a sense of desperation in the “won’t you say forever, if you stay forever we can stay forever young” – but’s a nice idea, and one I can try my hardest to cling to in the face of the gradually dawning reality that is my disappointingly unfulfilled life.

Tom: Wow. That got dark fast.

Tim: Yeah, it did, didn’t it? Damn it, I was in a really good mood when I started writing this. Sorry, everybody. This is basically a perfect example of why pop music should never ever meet real life.

Tom: So in summary: standard Avril Lavigne track, except it makes you feel a sense of existential dread. Fair enough.

Avril Lavigne – Smile

Avril Lavigne has made some good songs. This is not one of them.

Tom: Avril Lavigne has made some good songs. This is not one of them.

Tom: “Last night I blacked out I think / what did you, what did you put in my drink”. A classy date-rape reference there.

Tim: Ah, rohypnol. Every man’s choice when they want their reluctant girlfriend to, um, get a tattoo. Riiight.

Tom: I think the very last frames of the video sum it up for me. She’s smiling at the camera, showing the heart – don’t ask me how that metaphor works – bouncing along after doing all the rolling-on-the-floor shenanigans. She backs away – and the video director doesn’t quite cut away soon enough, as the smile disappears from her face in an instant and the spell’s broken.

I know that’s how all music videos work. I know it’s acting. I know you can’t possibly be that genuinely happy all the time, particularly when you’ve heard your own song for the fortieth time that day and don’t have the energy left. But that’s what this feels like to me – by the numbers pop-punk. Dare I say it – it’s got a bit of the Nickelback about it.

Tim: Re: the metaphor, I sort of get it, but IT’S THE WRONG SONG. What we have in the video – and the whole heart-collecting thing would actually be quite a good video – is a girl who’s had her heart broken and is gradually getting better. By the end of the song, she’s fine, she’s over him, let’s have a one night stand with a randomer thank you very much. This song? Not remotely like that, and it’s STUPID. It could even just work if they changed the word ‘stole’ to ‘broke’. But no. STUPID AAARGH.