We do a lot of ridiculous stuff here at the Sleeping Village--that, I can not deny. However, this mammothian effort on the part of Ancient Hand serves as a response to said frivolity. Nothing--and I mean nothing--is more serious than dissecting, in painstaking detail, the seminal debut of early 2000's pop-punk monarch Avril Lavinge. This, dear readers, is a magnum opus. Also, for the haters: Avril is metal as fuck. There. I said it.
The miniseries before ye is divided into a glorious fifteen parts. After a long hiatus, today marks the fifth installment: "I'm With You." If you missed our introductory statement, check it out here! - Ed.
"I'M WITH YOU"
Written by: Ancient Hand
Balladry is an art form long explored, revered, and judged by humans. The act of composing a ballad is a long-documented and discussed one, with many people seeing William Shakespeare as a popularizer, pushing balladry to the forefront of human entertainment. While he certainly did write entertaining ballads that have withstood the test of time, his reputation has stretched beyond the intent of his work. While there are moments of genius relating to the communicability found in his catalog--most notably Romeo and Juliet--this can give us an interesting insight into responses to the plague during his time. His works were created to simply be entertainment, and this should be kept in mind when we run the risk of pushing an artist that only seeks to entertain us into a spotlight deemed for legends.
You may be asking yourself, “Uh… did this guy just say don’t elevate people too high, but he’s calling Avril Lavigne’s Let Go one of the single most important pieces of art ever created?” And to that, I would say: yes! You are exactly right! Because while we run the risk of idolizing people that are undeserving of being placed on a pedestal so high we can’t see the top, Let Go is being examined, in the context of this long-winded review, as a piece of art to be studied and applied to the world around us, not as a person we should be praising and considering the savior of art and integrity.
Now, balladry has seen countless evolutions over the course of the word’s existence. Whitney Houston’s take on the word including world-famous runs and vocals that are so loud they’re about to breach the line of being painful (though they never cross that line, mind you) became famous in the latter half of the 20th century. Mariah Carey’s groovier and more tender adoption of this method, wherein the love she discusses in her ballads is evident in the sensual nature of her voice. Eventually, though, the art form would see another evolution, popularized by-- you guessed it!-- Avril Lavigne.
I am simply shocked at how incredible the first leg of this record is. We discussed the angelic “Losing Grip,” the laid-back “Complicated,” the relatable “Sk8er Boi,” and now the chilling “I’m With You.” The quality here is absolutely unparalleled, and it’s especially surprising given that this song is a ballad. It’s not another hard-rock anthem for the ages. It’s a soft, tear-jerking ballad that makes use of emo motifs (lyrically and sonically) and even features moments totally outside of any ballad wheelhouse. Before I spoil just how revolutionary this song is while speaking on it generally, we should examine the components of this song that make it the towering hero of balladry that it is.
We start off with acoustic guitars, strings, and dissonant drone-y sounds from an electric guitar that add to this auditory environment of a rainy night in an empty city. Lavigne’s lyrics cut straight to the point: “I’m standing on the bridge./ I’m waiting in the dark./I thought that you’d be here by now,” which immediately establish her state as alone amongst the architecture of this “damn cold night” the chorus informs us of. The main point of this song is reiterated in every iteration of the chorus. This tale, one of an individual stranded amongst a populated city, is emblematic of society in the Twenty-First Century: Isolated, but Together.
Lavgine’s declarations of feeling alone but having someone she’s there with perfectly mirror the strange digital reality we find ourselves in at this very moment (in the Year of Our Lavigne, 2020): alone, but with just the touch of a button, connected to every corner of the world. This unparalleled ease is difficult to comprehend, and it has existed solely through online mediums. Rather than say “I’m taking to a friend I made halfway across the world,” we’re simply “chatting on Instagram.” Now, is this subject matter prophetic? Sure, but what was Lavigne’s true FIRST intent? I believe it was discussing loneliness. This is evident from the title alone; rather than “In the Digital Age: Discussing the Fractures in Society that are Simultaneously Caused and Healed by Online Messaging,” the song is simply titled, “I’m With You.” And this message is Lavigne’s true intent. She’s alone…with you.
The musical stylings of this track are our first true foray into Lavigne’s balladry. Her storytelling prowess carries over from the previous track and offers even MORE room for interpretation. This story follows both you and her, and it is in your heart and ears that you can have the story playout as you so choose. Lavigne single handedly took the next step in balladry: prophesying the future of communication and allowing audience input and interpretation to a degree never before seen. A pinnacle in modern song, an obelisk in modern storytelling, and one giant step for humankind in balladry, “I’m With You” completes the end of the first leg of this album that so many are familiar with.
Stay tuned for our forthcoming discussion of "Mobile."
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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