Radio Rant: Avril Lavinge – What The Hell

*Yaaaaaaaaaaawn* Hello, everyone. Ugh, what day is it? Tuesday? Already…? Crap. Ok, here’s the deal: I was sick last week (I made a case for zombies existing on Thursday), my sleep cycle became a mobius wheel, and I totally sucked at sleeping over this weekend. So I’m just a little bit tired. But I’m awake, I’m here, let’s do this.

What the hell (no pun intended)? Avril’s still around? Waitaminute, I reviewed a Britney Spears song last week, and now I’m on Avril? Oh God, did I somehow sleep my way backwards in time to 2004?

If this was 2004, I’d probably–well, I wouldn’t have admitted it, but Avril was a guilty pleasure. She’s always dressed up her brand of manufactured but snappy pop rock to suit whatever’s popular; in 2002 she was a bratty skateboarder, in 2004 she was a bratty goth Evanescence fan, and in 2007 she was a (wait for it) bratty pop rawker. With the dominance of electropop, whatever will she do in 2011?

“What The Hell” starts with a “retro” (re: jacked from a ballpark organ) keyboard riff and some handclaps because why the hell not. “You say that I’m messing with your head/All because I was making out with your friend” well…yeah, if the rest of the song implies you’re in a relationship with the guy, making out with his friend might send some mixed signals. “Love hurts, whether it’s right or wrong/I can’t stop because I’m having too much fun” Ah, right, we’re in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” kind of song, aren’t we? Great.

Alright, this song is almost completely empty. The music makes the mistake of downplaying Avril’s rock personality in favor of that damn keyboard whine and the dumb cheerleader beat from “Mic–wait, wait, wait. She already used that same beat in “Girlfriend”. And while that song was (oddly enough, saved by being) hyper obnoxious, “What The Hell” kinda just stands there.

At least until the chorus. Then the synth really kicks in, and oh thank God, some guitars knock life into the song. And this chorus does have a pretty strong hook; it’s catchy, kinda easy to singalong to, and once it gets in your head, it won’t leave. At the same time, it’s kinda conflicted; it wants to jump into pure craziness, but something about the synth line just isn’t doing it.

There’s no way to say it gracefully, so I’m just going to put it out there: this bridge is irritating. Leading in with “La la la la la la la” wasn’t the best idea, and the rest of it sounds like it’s trying too hard to have fun (no one’s buying “I’m messing with your head/When I’m messing with you in bed”). The prerequisite vocal riffing over the last chorus does add some oomph where the song needs it, and we end things on a suddenly quiet note.

It’s not so much that “What The Hell” is a bad song (although I certainly wouldn’t call it good) as much as it is that this is a bad fit for Avril. This feels more like P!nk material, or like something Katy Perry would do if she hadn’t gone club pop. I was able to catch a video of the song live on YouTube, and it does sound better with a live instrumentation. Another note, the double tracking on Lavinge’s vocals is more than a little grating; we know she’s always had a flat, nasally singing voice, we don’t need to emphasize it. But it’s hard to genuinely hate this song. It’s not good, but it’s something I’ll tolerate on the radio and forget about once it’s off.

About bgibs122

I enjoy music and music culture; I hope you do, too.
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