Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Is Avril Lavigne a plagiarist or merely a speaker of the single human language?


In July 2007 punk princess Avril Lavigne found herself in a storm of controversy when '70s power pop band The Rubinoos claimed Lavigne's 'Girlfriend' stole from their song 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend'. Across the Internet, amateur musicologists listened to the songs and made their judgements about the validity of the accusation, with opinions varying wildly on the subject.

Avril countered the accusation by saying she'd never heard of the Rubinoos. This is almost certainly true, as we are talking about the same woman who in 2003 mispronounced the name of rock icon David Bowie when announcing Grammy nominees. If she can't get Bowie's name right then it's fair to assume she's unlikely to know the band that did the theme song to Revenge of the Nerds.

What was all the fuss about?

For the Lavigne-loving public these accusations were an unwarranted outrage, and an unfair dismissal of her talents. For those in the anti-Avril camp the claims supported their position that Lavigne was more pop tart than punk princess.

In her defence Avril pointed out both songs are essentially similar to the Rolling Stones 'Get off my Cloud' and the Ramones 'I Want to be your Boyfriend.' So if anyone should be angry it should be Sir Mick. Luckily for Lavigne he's too busy being a rich old rock star to care. Besides, according to Avril, the ''Sid Vicious for a new generation'', "All songs share similar lyrics and emotions. As humans we speak one language."

What were the consequences?

Unfortunately for Avril, over the next few weeks more accusations surfaced, with a former writing partner first claiming, then retracting another plagiarism claim. To add to the grief people also noticed similarities between her song 'I Don't Have to Try' and the Peaches tune 'I'm the Kinda.'

Perhaps Lavigne's greatest defence against claims of stealing a '70s rock song is her well-documented ignorance of pretty much any music released before 1995. She once said, "People are like, 'Well, she doesn't know the Sex Pistols.' Why would I know that stuff? Look how young I am. That stuff's old, right?"

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