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When you’re the main artist on the track and you can’t assert some sort of personality through the instrumentation, there’s a problem.And now we’re getting to the meat of the problem, because the evidence you’re really sold out comes not just from the instrumentation, but from the content of the songs.You see, Avril Lavigne came from the world of pop-punk with Let Go and Under My Skin, two albums I still hold are pretty damn excellent for an early 2000s female act.She had a certain bratty authenticity in her delivery that didn’t drain her of the very real fragility she could display on her ballads.It’s sort of like Pink’s preference for loud distorted guitars and heavy drums, or Maroon 5’s pretensions to funk – it isn’t much, but it’s not homogeneous.And thus when I start hearing tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on a Katy Perry album, with autotune (albeit a bit subtler, because you can actually sing) and electronic production, I just have to shake my head and wonder why.That’s why you hear about acts ‘selling out’ – the point where artistic integrity is cast aside in order to produce trend-riding material that might sell well, but lacks a certain individual flavor.And given the alarming trend of acts selling out in the past few years – Maroon 5, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, I could go on – I knew it was just a matter of time before everyone’s favourite country princess might be coerced over to that dynamic. Sorry about the cynicism, but in this day and age, particularly when it comes to pop music, it only makes sense.
I’ll grant that Avril had it easier – she was working with a pop climate that was marginally more mature and ‘real’ in 2002 than yours was in 2008.At The Disco and Fall Out Boy and the Backstreet Boys and, well, you and who appreciates all these acts completely without irony.I get that some of your appeal was the ‘cuteness’ of it all, for lack of a better term (I’ll come back to this), but I genuinely think you have some well-written material that has some widespread appeal outside of the target demographic. I’m not sure where, but I’m fairly certain it started with Speak Now, the first album of yours of which I wasn’t really much of a fan.You know, how with Pink it was her vindictive, painfully raw feminism, and with Avril Lavigne it was her bratty, shockingly sincere adolescence, and with Maroon 5…well, they always wrote the soundtracks of douchebags, but there was a distinctive loss of personality in their material.
In short, you’re not a country guitar virtuoso like Brad Paisley – but neither has anyone expected this of you.