Judge not, lest ye be judged

Avril Lavigne, A Simple Plan, Gob
Portland Memorial Coliseum
April 27
8 p.m.
All ages

As much as I appreciate cheap entertainment and low blows at celebrity icons, I have never wanted to get into that business myself, which is why I will be eschewing all of the expected criticisms of teen-pop phenomenon Avril Lavigne.

The music wasn’t produced for people like me, and I don’t feel that I have any right to be criticizing it.

On a related note, I believe Rolling Stone should stop putting artists on the cover of its magazine if it can’t even pretend to respect them for four pages, but that is another story. Maybe next time Good Charlotte comes through town?

With this in mind, I scoured an Avril message board for quotes that would support the proposition that, while her music is not applicable to any part of my life, the audience for whom the music is meant is responding well and, I would suggest, is being positively influenced by their idol. Chelsea writes that Avril’s Let Go is “my favorite CD and the first one I bought. I think she really let it all out and let go with this CD.” Another fan, Serra, writes, “I first saw this CD in a big supermarket and I fell in love with Avril that day … she looked brilliant (unlike Britney!).”

It is obvious here that less mainstream music could not have been accepted by these girls the way they have embraced Avril. Hopefully that will change in the future, but for now their only access to music is from “a big supermarket” and they are not likely to find anything better there, at least not that will appeal to their unrefined ears. While the quality of Avril’s music when compared against much of what is available in underground, feminist rock is negligible, these girls can only really find one point of comparison within the media offered them, Britney Spears. Needless to say, they are much better off with Avril, who supposedly writes her own songs, plays guitar and doesn’t have to conform to the jailbait image that these girls already recognize.

A comparison could easily be made between Avril and the Spice Girls. While in many quarters, the Spice Girls’ manufactured image and the presence of the male guru behind their music made older observers scoff the group’s two-dimensional “girl power” rhetoric, other critics pointed out how the group’s target audience was being presented with a product, manufactured as it was, that would appeal to them and that bore a message infinitely preferable to the majority of music aimed at their group.

A very encouraging example of this is the number of young women on the message board who claimed that Avril, who doesn’t play on her album and only brings the instrument out for a cameo onstage, influenced them to play guitar. Rachel writes that the songs on Let’s Go are “good fun to play on the electric guitar” and H.J.C. writes that “Avril’s style is awesome and I can’t wait to slam on my guitar soon,” possibly implying that she has yet to get one but that Avril inspires her to want to play.

The last hurdle that these fans face is Avril’s infamously stoic stage presence, which provides a danger of killing the buzz that surrounds her album. Fortunately, Avril fans don’t seem as concerned as I am. April writes “she didn’t show any emotions during the show … I was right next to the stage and she looked so cool up close! … She sang for 20 minutes than had to leave right away. She rocked at that concert!”

With their exposure to music as limited as it is, these fans could do a lot worse than Avril. They seem to love their hero as much for her apparently defiant attitude and style as for her songs. And if they continue searching for music that is more and more defiant and authentic, they will make it to the underground in no time, taking their Avril-weaned guitar skills with them.

Editor’s note: Next week, find out what our favorite rock critic thought of the big show.