This song describes a situation many girls of Avril's age are familiar with: Their boyfriend is great when they're alone, but around his friends he acts like an idiot.
Many of Avril's songs of this era were about real people and real situations, but this one is not. "Complicated" was not written about anyone in particular, according to Lavigne. She said, "It's basically about life, people being fake, and relationships."
Lavigne was 17 years old when this song was released as her debut single in 2002. It came at a cultural nexus, as the internet was becoming a popular medium for discussion, but you still had to watch videos on MTV, hear singers on the radio, and read about them in magazines.
Avril was not your typical teenage pop star: She came off as a regular girl who was goofy and fun. Her press played up this image while stressing that she was an authentic talent, writing her own songs that dealt with matters of the heart. She also had a unique fashion sense and set a trend with her look, which incorporated canvas shoes, gaudy accessories, ties and heavy eyeshadow.
This song is very anodyne, even appealing to adults (it went to #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart), but Avril herself became the subject of lively debate on the internet.
Avril's record company, Arista, had her work with several producers before finding a combination that worked. That combination was the songwriting trio of Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards, and Scott Spock, collectively known as The Matrix. They wrote and produced this and four other songs on the album with Lavigne.
Lavigne is listed as one of the songwriters on this track, but there was some question as to how much she contributed. According to her co-writers The Matrix, they wrote most of the song and Avril just changed a few words. Lavigne insisted that she contributed a lot more to the song, including most of the lyrics and the melody.
A huge part of Lavigne's appeal was that she wrote her own songs. This set her apart from singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, and let Arista Records position her as a singer-songwriter like Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton
Many of Lavigne's fans got their first look at her in the video for this song, which shows her in a mall with her guy friends and also at a skate park. The skateboarding scenes (she rides a board in the clip) were key to her image as an indie-punk tomboy with great hair. It helped that Lavigne really was into sports, not just skateboarding but also hockey and baseball. Her next single, "Sk8er Boi
," put her squarely in the middle of that scene.
The video hit #1 on MTV's Total Request Live and spent several days there. It won for Best New Artist in a Video at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, and MTV named it the #2 video of 2002, second to "Without Me" by Eminem.
Much of the video was shot in a mall while it was open for business. The shoot didn't draw much attention from the shoppers because Avril was unknown at the time.
This got a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year, but lost to "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones. In the battle of funny first names, Norah also beat Avril for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best New Artist.
The guys in the video were the members of Lavigne's backing band: drummer Matthew Brann, bassist Mark Spicoluk, and guitarists Jesse Colburn and Evan Taubenfeld. Lavigne earned a lot of credibility for insisting on using these guys for all her live performances at a time when the backing musicians for many young singers were interchangeable.
Weird Al Yankovic wrote a parody of this song called "A Complicated Song," about several unusual situations involving eating too much cheesy pizza, marrying a cousin, and getting your head knocked off by a roller coaster. It is on the 2003 album Poodle Hat
. Sample lyric:Why'd you have to go and make me so constipated
'Cause right now I'd do anything to just get my bowels evacuated
Steph - SoCal, CA