Those who think that pop-music junkies represent music fandom's lowest common denominator should read the comments left on iTunes about "Girlfriend," Avril Lavigne's cheerleader chant from hell. "The avril i looked up to was her own person, and proud of it. She wasn't afraid to act like herself, and rebel against things she didn't agree with. Who is she now?" That's a brilliant observation of Lavigne's disappointing third album, The Best Damn Thing. The lyrical sophistication and musical leaps she made on 2004's Under My Skin are gone; instead, Thing relies heavily on sub-Good Charlotte punk pop, bland hooks and downright insipid sentiments. For all its Joan Jett-like pop power, "Girlfriend," at its heart, is about two girls fighting over a guy, the very same bullshit that breaks up countless adolescent friendships -- and the very sort of stereotypical chick behavior Lavigne used to scorn. The album isn't completely without merit, though: "I Don't Have to Try" begins with a Peaches-type rap and features Lavigne doing her best riot-grrrl squeals, while "Hot" and "Contagious" are calorie-free pop pleasures. Neither, however, are enough to save The Best Damn Thing from falling flat.
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