Four years after Avril Lavigne’s last album, the popular Canadian chanteuse is still just 26 years old—the age when many folks are only starting to wonder what they’re going to do for a living. But pop stars don’t age like the rest of us. And after enjoying consistent success (with five Top 10 hits) for the better part of the 2000s, Lavigne closed out the decade by getting married (in 2006 to Sum 41 lead singer and guitarist Deryk Whibley), launching a clothing line (Abbey Dawn in 2008), then getting divorced (in 2009). Oh, and getting lots of tattoos.
Clearly, much has happened in her life. But judging from the first single from her new album, Goodbye Lullaby, time and experience hasn’t produced either wisdom or maturity. In fact, things are arguably going the other direction. Lavigne’s songs have long since departed from the mostly innocent teenage anthems she once sang about complicated relationships, cute sk8er bois and even sexual abstinence (on 2004’s “Don’t Tell Me”). But now her outlook has detoured into narcissistic recklessness.
Which brings us to “What the H‑‑‑.”
“You say that I’m messing with your head,” Avril begins, “All ’cause I was making out with your friend/ … All I want to do is to mess around/And I don’t really care about/If you love me, if you hate me.” So it appears that not only does Avril want to live for the moment (as myriad pop songs since 1950 have encouraged us to do), but she takes it a step further, saying she doesn’t care who she hurts in the process.
Including her current beau, whom she shucks like a pair of old jeans: “You’re on your knees/Begging please/Stay with me/But honestly/I just need to be a little crazy.”
It’s a rebel yell against control of any kind. “All my life I’ve been good,” she confesses in the catchy chorus. “But now I’m thinking what the h‑‑‑.” (It’s an unbleeped phrase that gets repeated about 10 times.) Rebellion against parental authority isn’t an issue for Avril any longer, so instead she vents about her boyfriend, who seems to have this unreasonable attachment to monogamy. She admits she toys with him sexually, telling him, “I’m messing in your head” while “messing with you in bed.” Then she blames her treachery on his passivity: “So what if I go out on a million dates/You never call or listen to me anyway/I’d rather rage than sit around and wait all day/Don’t get me wrong/I just need some time to play.”
Entertainment Weekly music reviewer Brad Wete said of the racy video’s premiere on ABC Family, “That channel is an odd choice, considering that the video opens with her in bed wearing only a bra and panties singing about kissing her boyfriend’s friends.”
Lavigne eventually tosses on a pair of short shorts and a T-shirt before locking her man in the closet, stealing a taxi and (gently) crashing it. Her boyfriend pursues her across town, getting spurned at every turn (and getting saddled with the bill for her shopping spree), until the two finally fall back in bed together come nightfall—as if nothing happened.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.