On paper, the combination of Avril Lavigne and the lyrics “All my life I’ve been good / but now / ohhh I’m I thinking what the hell,” from her new single “What the Hell,” do not seem particularly promising. Not just because we are suspicious that Lavigne has been good all of her life (no offense, Avril), but because at this point when are young female pop singers ever thinking anything but “what the hell”? (What the hell, I’ll date Brody Jenner, smoke salvia, wear latex all day, venereal diseases, embarrassing photographs, yeast infections etc. etc. be damned.) But these pop songs, guys, they will surprise you, especially when produced by manipulative hook-generating geniuses like Max Martin: In other words, “What the Hell” is a straight-up “run home from the office to put your pajamas on in the middle of the day and jump up and down on your bed for hours and hours slumber party” anthem.
Among the glories of this song, none is greater than the service Lavigne does to the phrase “But now,” one of the more common constructions in the English language. The chorus, the previously quoted “All my life I’ve been good / but now / ohhhh, I’m thinking what the hell,” is broken up so all the emphasis is on “Good, but now,” with the “what the hell” fading off to the point that the lyrics actually sound like, “All my life I’ve been good / but now … ” which — forgive us this cheeseball, earnest thing we are about to say about an Avril Lavigne song. Honestly, between this and Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s like we’ve gone all soft inside — imbues the track with a real sense of possibility. These things happen from time to time: A pop song matches banal, clichéd lyrics with the perfect catchy backing track to become something that feels universal (which is really just the nice way of saying clichéd). In the way that “Party in the U.S.A.” and “Teenage Dream,” through no fault of their own happen to encapsulate something elemental about patriotism and nostalgia respectively, “What the Hell” gets at recklessness. Alternate interpretation: We’re so exhausted from dancing around in our figurative pajamas to this song, we’ve the lost the ability to assess it properly. Listen below and decide for yourself!