Avril Lavigne is a funny artist, isn’t she? It’s tough to think of anyone in the pop game who’s changed her image less over the course of her career: While her solo pop-rock contemporaries (Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Ashlee Simpson) switched their sound up — shifting into dance-pop, putting ’80s synths to work, attempting sonic departures both big and small — Lavigne’s staunch refusal to be anything other than the moody, scrawny girl with eyes smudged in kohl, making the same infectious punk-lite radio pop in the same likably ridiculous Hot Topic ensembles, has been one of mainstream radio’s most comforting reliabilities.
Now, having been releasing albums for over a decade (!) and rapidly approaching the age of 30 (!), it seems like time to quit with the adolescent posturing, even just a little bit — which is part of what makes the stubborn nostalgia of her new single, “Here’s To Never Growing Up,” one of our favorite pop songs in a long time.
The name of the song itself says much of what you need to know — it’s the brattiest pop title since Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” — but that titular puerility notwithstanding, “Here’s To Never Growing Up” is pretty clever. It’s masterfully derivative, like a career retrospective rolled up into one song: That shouty opening refrain is all “What the Hell”; the twangy guitar riff that drops on the verses feels borrowed directly from “Complicated”; and funnily enough, the layers of “Oh-whoa-oh” and the big gang vocals in the chorus evoke nothing more than Rihanna‘s “Cheers (Drink to That),” which featured a prominent sample of Lavigne’s “I’m With You.”
And lyrically, it has much in common with the former track: A celebratory anthem about YOLO-ing (and whatever the kids are doing these days) that follows in the trend of songs extolling the virtues of youthful fucking-around, be it One Direction‘s “Live While We’re Young” or Taylor Swift‘s “22,” rolled up with the self-empowerment It Gets Better-pop of Ke$ha‘s “We R Who We R” or Selena Gomez‘s “Who Says,” plus a hearty injection of the drinking-as-a-symbol-for-being-yourself metonymy that’s at the crux of P!nk’s “Raise Your Glass.” It sounds like all of those songs, and it doesn’t really sound like any of them, either, way too dated in its eschewal of the dance beats that have come to dominate mainstream radio and way too goofy in the rough-around-the-edges karaoke splendor of its hook. It’s a quintessentially teenage song, equal parts wise and idiotic, an inexplicable Radiohead shoutout and a line about telling strangers to kiss her ass wedged between all those lovely, happy-sad lines about blissful moments that pass too quickly and the ephemerality of youth.
So sure, “Here’s To Never Growing Up” is childish and annoying and as bratty as a pack of kids trashing a mall food court, and it’s also totally brilliant, wistful and euphoric and wonderful, like the best moments in Avril’s catalogue. She’s the perpetual teenager, and that ethos is captured perfectly in “Here’s To Never Growing Up.” Now, especially, let’s hope she doesn’t.