of the week

This week’s suggestion came in from Molly Flump who said, “Please can I request Complicated by Avril Lavigne for single of the week. It’s my favourite song. I remember seeing the music video for the first time when I was 9 years old and wanting to be as cool as Avril. This song was my gateway into music.” Well Molly, as the song was unleashed to the world in 2002, we all know how old you are, but I’m sure you’re not too worried about that.

The song was released in America and Lavigne’s native Canada in September 2002 and such was its instant appeal, it charted on import in the UK one month ahead of its official release. It has a lot of meaning to a lot of people including Avril herself who said of it, “Complicated was a life-changing experience. I sang the song one time, in one take. My producer, Lauren Christy, was like, ‘Cool, you’re done.’ That’s really rare. It was just Lauren and myself. No one else was there.”

The song’s appeal is, in itself, not complicated because it’s very much a typical relationship story that millions can relate to and that’s the way to get your career off the ground, appeal to the masses.

Like many of Lavigne’s early songs it describes real situations that can happen to real people even if the actual song is not about anyone in particular and that’s the case with Complicated. “When we were writing Complicated, I thought, This is totally a song that could be on the radio,” she explained to Emily Tannenbaum. “I remember thinking that in my little brain, being like, ‘I can totally hear this.’ I felt really good about it. I loved it right away. The inspiration for it came from how it really bothered me when my male and female friends would be in the world putting on a face and not being true to themselves, but I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind when I wrote it. I was a teenager, so it’s more about what people are like in general. The same with Sk8er Boi — high school experiences, different groups and cliques, and stuff like that.” In a different interview she explained, “It came at a cultural nexus, as the internet was becoming a popular medium for discussion, but you still had to watch videos on MTV, hear singers on the radio, and read about them in magazines.”

When Avril, who was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1984, landed on the scene it was viewed that she was competing with stars like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera who had all begun their careers in 1999, but what set her apart, was that she played guitar and had written or co-written all of her 18 UK hits whereas the aforementioned three had a hand in writing a few of them. She was also feisty and raucous and had a tomboy style about her. Her debut album, Let Go, had a touch of grunge about it and was probably influence by her relationship with Deryck Whibley, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist with Sum 41 who she had begun dating in 2002. Two years later they married but just over two years later she filed for divorce.

Complicated was pushed by MTV and was voted number one on Total Request Live. It also won for Best New Artist in a Video at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, and MTV named it the second best video of 2002 after Without Me by Eminem. Additionally, she received two Grammy nominations for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance but she lost out to Norah Jones on both counts.

The official video was shot in the Eagle Rock Plaza shopping mall in Los Angeles, thankfully as she was unknown at the time, it didn’t attract too much attention. The video opens with her on a skateboard meeting up with three guys who were bored and she suggested they ‘crash’ the shopping mall. Those three guys were the members of her real band and were, guitarists Jesse Colburn, bass player Mark Spicoluk and drummer Matthew Brann. Later on you see a fourth member who was her other guitarist Evan Taubenfeld.

Avril worked hard in the early days to make a name for herself: “It was the first song I went around and played for all these radio stations. I had to work very hard,” she told Laura Snapes at The Guardian. “It was a total whirlwind, and it happened super quick. My life was a never-ending promo tour. So when I think of the song, I think about how, as a new artist, I was in two to three cities a day, flying at 6am, waking up at 4am to get to the airport. It taught me so much about hard work and how that pays off. I love performing the song even to this day because it has so much meaning behind it. Now when I’m up onstage singing it, I think of all my tours and how long I’ve been singing the song. I look back on it fondly.

Just to think, that song is now 22 years old and there will be a proportion of ‘kids’ who won’t have ever heard that song but, it was brought to a new and younger audience when Olivia Rodrigo covered it and performed it throughout her debut tour in 2022. And to think that Olivia was only one year old when it came out.