Single Review: Avril Lavigne “Don’t Tell Me”

Don’t Tell Me
Year: 2004
Album: Under My Skin

It’s a year later and Avril Lavigne is still playing the “punk rock rebel” angle. Her marketing and public relations hasn’t changed at all since the last album. The website’s layout is similar to the original one. The only differences are the colors used and the main picture. They are sticking with the same strategy that worked the last time and hoping it will again.

But Avril Lavigne has been overplaying her image. Quotes like: “people saying that I can’t write, which pisses the fuck out of me, because I’m a writer. Don’t you fucking dare try to take that from me.” (Rolling Stone, June 2004) Yes, so the tween can know she’s bad, she’s bad, she’s really bad. And the whole world has to answer right now, and once again, Avril will tell us again, she’s bad.
However, her music reveals that she’s like the dozens of suburban high school girls who brag about a nonexistent fight they won against a bunch of tough girls from the city. She just wants to be perceived as bad.

In “Don’t Tell Me,” Avril Lavigne tells a guy that she doesn’t want to have sex with him. Written by Lavigne’s bandmate, Evan Taubenfeld and herself, the single reads like a step-by-step ‘how to avoid sexual assault’ brochure. There’s the “sweet guy cover” in the first verse (“while you gave me that kiss it was something like this/it made me go ooh ohh.”) Then he quickly changes to a bad guy later in the same verse (“Did I not tell you/that I’m not like that?”) However, she needs to fight him off in the second verse (“I got you in my pants/ I’ll have to kick your ass and make you never forget”). Later the guy makes her feel for guilty (“This guilt trip that you put me on/ won’t mess me up/I’ve done no wrong.”)

Sexual assault is a tramautizing and a violent act, regardless if there is sex involved. However, Lavigne trivializes it and slaps it with a clunky, unempowering hook. For suvivors of sexual assault and rape, it gives out the message that it is simple to fight someone off and all women need to do is to talk firmly. Yes, talking firmly will solve the situation in a pinch. Except in after school specials. Sex, ironically, is tagged a ‘bad girl’ thing, as she sings (“the one who gives it all away.”) It’s an either/or situation without any gray area in between.

Lavigne nonchalantly sings the lyrics. There isn’t any real anger or hurt behind her voice. She is distant from the situation and only stops to snarl for a few seconds during the verses. However, it feels like a voice effect than an emotion.

“Don’t Tell Me” is a heavy-handed and ignorant single, devoid of any real knowledge of sexual assault or the emotions in causes in women who have to dealt with it.


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