Should Have Been Bigger: Avril Lavigne’s “Smile”
Avril Lavigne took some sonic risks on Goodbye Lullaby in 2011. Working extensively with then-husband Deryck Whibley, the pop/punk princess stripped back some of her punched-up productions to explore a different direction. “I’m older now, so I think that comes across in my music, it’s not as pop-rock and it’s a little more mellow and it’s deep,” she said in an interview with MTV at the time. As the duo’s relationship fell apart, heartbreak became a recurring theme on the project. However, that was not immediately evident based on the lead single.
Linking up with Max Martin and Shellback on “What The Hell,” she showed off her pop sensibilities. The plucky anthem put a more defiant spin on her breakup. “All my life I’ve been good, but now I’m thinking ‘what the hell?’ All I want is to mess around,” she chants on the rambunctious chorus. Following in the footsteps of 2007’s “Girlfriend,” it flew up the Billboard Hot 100. Landing just outside the Top 10, it was a welcome return to form. However, Avril struggled to replicate the feat with her equally buoyant follow-up single, “Smile.”
Another collaboration with Martin and Shellback, the rock-infused production was equally out of place on the album. Thematically, it was forward-thinking as she moved beyond her heartbreak with a new partner. “You know that I’m a crazy bitch. I do what I want when I feel like it,” she sassily belted on the very iconic opening lines. Speaking to a partner, she revealed that he balanced her out. “But you don’t really give a shit. You go with, you go with, you go with it. Cause you’re fucking rock and roll.”
Things get even more loved-up as she moves into the chorus. “And that’s why I smile. It’s been a while since everyday and everything has felt this right,” she emphatically declares. “And now you turn around, and suddenly you’re all I need. The reason why I, I smile.” Although the heavier instrumental felt out of place on the acoustically driven LP, it seemed like a ready-made hit and was a favorite for fans and critics alike. The accompanying video made the track all the more appealing.
Directed by Shane Drake, it paid tribute to Avril’s punk roots. Tossing in some neon-green highlights and picking up a bottle of spray paint, the diva delivered a playful visual with a twist. The throwback-themed delight added an additional push, but it wasn’t enough to propel “Smile” up the charts. In the US, it stalled at number 68 on the Hot 100, and it only climbed up to number 59 in Canada.
Although it had a bit more luck in international markets, “Smile” truly deserved so much more. Avril easily could have landed at least another Top 10 effort, but the odds were not in her favor. However, the single lives on as a fun and uplifting highlight in her discography. As the icon gears up to release new music in the coming weeks, I can only hope that it has as much defiant energy as this underrated gem,
Revisit “Smile” below while we wait for Avril’s comeback!