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A Musical Analysis of 2011's Best Song

  • Jul 12, 2011
Excellent Canadian Avril Lavigne takes an emo-focused and boyfriend-related spin on the world economic crisis with the instant modern classic, What The Hell

You say that I'm messing with your head
All 'cause I was making out with your friend

The song opens strongly in a basic statement that echoes Geoffrey Chaucer's remarks many centuries ago about how bureaucrats had eliminated the "fairies" and how creativity was being pooped upon by the very people who seek to take the energy out of life. "Fuck 'em", says Ms Lavigne, in an enthused response.

Love hurts whether it's right or wrong
I can't stop 'cause I'm having too much fun

This celebrates the human desire to embrace freedom, screw around and send a picture text message of your middle finger to societal structures. Or a photo of your wiener to some chick on another coast just because you can. It's very simple - I have a camera and I have a Twitter account.

You're on your knees
Begging, "Please
Stay with me"
But honestly I just need to be
A little crazy

Musical scholars will surely be debating this stanza for many decades to come: is it a reference to the Egyptian rebellion or the Tunisian uprising? Reframed in the emo-slash-boyfriend context, the message couldn't be clearer: "I'm sick of being under your thumb and I'm not scared anymore. And I have Facebook". 

All my life I've been good,
But now...
I'm thinking, "what the hell?"

This magnificent quote is reminiscent of the classic movie Network - who can deny that "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" could be transformed into such a catchy little hook? Ms Lavigne clearly addresses the financial crisis here and speaks for a large silent majority who have worked hard and seen their assets dwindle. It's an impassioned cry that reflects everyone who was told to invest in a 401K only to see Goldman Sachs and AIG destroy the entire economy get bonuses from US taxpayers.

All I want is to mess around
And I don't really care about...
If you love me If you hate me
You can't save me
Baby, baby
All my life I've been good
But now...
What the hell?

And finally, the words deliver a shocking and surprising conclusion that she simply doesn't care what her ex-boyfriend thinks. It's clearly rooted in a post-911 world that has detached Washington from voters and a feeling that many people have - you held me back, you betrayed me, now I'm catching up and to hell with you. 

Lavigne once again demonstrates her mastery of international politics and a firm grasp of social reaction at the roots. "What the Hell?" enables listeners to connect emotionally on these complex topics and understand the parallels between teen relationship angst, the global finance crisis and the long-term battle between human needs and the societal structures that frustrate them.

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July 18, 2011
Given recent events in my life, this song has been my anthem for the past couple of months. Fantastic breakdown, Sir Beswick ;P
July 18, 2011
Sorry to hear that...

July 18, 2011
Eh, over it :P

And thank you for that.  Now my Monday is so much more hunky-dory.
July 12, 2011
Very in depth. I would not have made the Chaucer connection.
July 12, 2011
I was really reaching on how it relates to the career highlights of Vanilla Ice but I couldn't quite make it there.
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James Beswick ()
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"What the Hell" is a song by Canadian recording artist Avril Lavigne, taken from her fourth studio album Goodbye Lullaby (2011). The song, written by Lavigne with its producers Max Martin and Shellback was released on 7 January 2011 as the lead single from Goodbye Lullaby. The song was successful, reaching number one in Japan, the top five in Asia, the Top 10 in Europe, Australia, South America, Mexico, Canada, and the Top 20 in the US, peaking at eleven. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, with many complimenting its catchiness and comparing it to her 2007 single "Girlfriend".
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