Saturday 8th February 2003
Avril Lavigne is heading for a fall. I have many problems with her catchy, but self-satisfied hit record “Skater Boy”.
I know I am 35 and should have better things to do that de-construct the lyrics of a song written by a petulant teenager, but I don’t. I also hope that if I do this then Avril may look herself up in a search engine (oh, she does it, believe me, don’t you Avril?), find this page (providing I’ve spelt her name right) and realise the folly of her youth and change her ways.
OK, I’m working from memory. The song begins,
“He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?”
Let’s skirt over the fact that just because two people are of opposing gender that doesn’t necessarily make it obvious that they want to shag each other. I am a boy and Jeanette Krankie is a girl (admittedly one who dresses like a boy. Could I have chosen a more confusing example?) and….. well maybe I’m wrong on that point.
“He was a punk, she did ballet. What more can I say?”
I would like a bit more information to be honest. Avril seems to be labelling the girl by what she does. The rest of the song argues that such labelling is a bad thing, but Avril does not notice the hypocrisy of her statement.
“He wanted her. She’d never tell, secretly she wanted him as well.”
Here we start to see a recurring problem in the song. She would never tell. How do we know about this secret love? At the moment we possibly presume that the girl is Avril herself.
It transpires that they can’t get it together because the girl’s friends have a problem with the punk’s baggy clothes. Clearly these people are at school. They are all quite superficial. Even had the boy and girl got it together I think it is statistically unlikely that the couple would be together in five years.
The chorus tells us that the snotty girl, tells the boy (who also likes skating apparently, though it isn’t made clear if this is roller or ice) to sling his hook, because he isn’t good enough for her. What a nasty attitude. I would imagine the bloke would probably think “Cow” and forget her.
But the second verse sees an almighty and unexpected twist. It’s “five years from now” (What does that mean? Was the first verse set in the present and the rest happens in the future? Does she mean “five years from then”?) and the snobby girl is in desperate circumstances. She’s landed herself as a single mother and is looking after a kid, all alone (presumably at some point in the last five years, she let her high standards slip a bit). She turns on MTV and sees the skater boy rocking (again whether this is on a horse or simply back and forth is not clarified). She calls up her friends who already know and have tickets to see his show (though at no point have any of these “friends” said to her, “Hey remember that bloke we were at school with? He’s a big rock star now. I wish we hadn't had such a problem with his baggy clothes, we might have been able to get free tickets.”)
She goes along to the show and looks up at the skater boy, slamming on his guitar (he doesn’t even know how to play it). He is the boy she turned down.
Yeah, the boy she turned down for a date at school. Like I say, it seems unlikely that they would still be going out now if she’d said yes. Avril seems to be implying that the single mother life-style she is now suffering is a direct result of her snobbishness. Rather than feeling sympathy for the woman in her early twenties who has been let down by some man and left with a child, she is crowing at her, saying “Does your pretty face see what he’s worth?” OK, this girl judged the skater-boy because of his baggy clothes (in the same way that Avril judged her for liking ballet), but surely she doesn’t deserve to be punished for turning him down, even if she did secretly fancy him.
And how do we know about that secret fancying? Surely the rest of the song will tell us. Perhaps she will go back stage and meet the skater-boy and apologise and say, “Actually the irony is, that I did fancy you all along. Now I’m no longer a teenager I appreciate that it was shallow of me to judge you by your clothing and I would like to apologise, but you’re doing really well now, so I’m sure it can’t bother you that much.”
But no, that doesn’t happen. The girl and the boy never meet again. Instead Avril starts crowing about the fact that she has got the skater boy now, how they are in love and how they rock each other’s world. He’s a superstar. You fucked up and I’m more than just good friends with him. Oh yeah, I’m doing him and everything.
So how does Avril know about this girl? There is no connection between them. The ballet girl never told anyone that she secretly fancied the skater-boy. Presumably they are no longer in touch, so how does the skater boy or Avril know that the girl came to the gig? Clearly the only way Avril could know about this girl is because her fantastic boyfriend has been going on about her. It was obviously of great importance to him. And Avril, overly pleased with herself for having landed a cool rock-star boyfriend (not that she judges by appearances and would presumably still love him if he was an out of work ballet dancer), is fuming with jealousy that her boyfriend had this (apparently) unrequited love at school. So much so that she has invented this scenario where the pretty-faced girl has had her life fall to pieces.
Or possibly she is so in love that she hasn’t noticed that her boyfriend’s story just doesn’t hold together. Perhaps the two actually did get it together and he fathered the baby, but didn’t want to know. Now he’s invented this story that she is a mad girl from school who is stalking him and coming to his concerts. He makes himself appear the victim by saying that he was in love with her, but she never gave him the time of day.
Whatever the truth of this twisted story I think Avril is being short-sighted, both in terms of the relationship and her boyfriend’s career. It is very easy to be smug about how well things are going, but I want Avril to think about how things will be five years from now (or ten years from now, if the concert and everything is actually happening five years from now).
Most rock stars careers have a very short shelf-life. Certainly something as ephemeral as skater-based rock is unlikely to be around for that long. Perhaps the skater boy will re-invent himself, but more likely I think that he will have fleeting fame and then have to cope with the after effects. In the mean-time the ballet girl will have a growing child and probably have found a lasting relationship with someone mature enough to take her and the child on. She’ll probably be finding her feet. She’ll look at MTV and see the skater-boy is having troubles with drugs and money. Her aging but still pretty face will see what he’s worth now, and in any case realise that there are more important things than material wealth and fame. Maybe when she was struggling with a toddler, the glamour of the rock star seemed exciting, but the reality is that it could never have worked out. She is aware that if she did fancy him a bit at school that wouldn’t have been enough to base a life-long relationship on. Sure, she was a bit shallow back then, but through the trials of her life has realised what it important.
Avril Lavigne on the other hand will have had time to see that her skater-boy boyfriend is not all he was cracked up to be. They may have rocked each other’s world to begin with, but things quickly soured. Especially when she started getting much more successful than her boyfriend (largely due to a song she had written about his life, which must have been annoying). She has realised that having a famous boyfriend isn’t as important as being with someone who cares about you.
Another five years from then, something else could happen. My point is that it’s short-sighted to brag about how brilliant your life is. Especially when you are essentially kicking a woman who is down enough already.
I am spending too much time, driving around in cars, listening to the radio and thinking about lyrics that were not made to be thought about.
All the dates for the Talking Cock tour can be found here
Buy the Talking Cock book here
Tickets are now on sale for both my Edinburgh Fringe shows. "We're All Going To Die!" is on at the Pleasance Beyond at 8pm Book here
Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast is at Stand 1 daily at 14.10. Book here
You can get video downloads of Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast from Go Faster Stripe
A video explaining the idea can be seen here
You can buy tickets to the shows from the Leicester Square Theatre website
You can still download the audio for free from the British Comedy Guide or iTunes
You can subscribe to this blog on Kindle. Now only ï¿½0.99 a month here. Or just carry on reading it on here for free.
Also on your kindle (or any smart phone or tablet with the kindle app) catch up on the early years of Warming Up (with extra retrospective additions) with Bye Bye Balham and The Box Lady and Other Pesticles (only ï¿½3.53 each)
[ Email this edition of Warming Up to a friend ]