The CD single performs a different function that the 45's of our youth, which makes a big assumption that Avril Lavigne's fans are old enough to remember when 45's were still made (they should: the mass production of 45's ended circa 1990, but they are still made in limited quantities for jukebox operators who have not upgraded to newer CD jukeboxes). In the old days the purpose of the single was to give you a taste of what could be found on an album and you could have the hottest single without having to pay for the entire album. But from time to time you could find some songs on the "B" side that you were not going to find on an album, such as the Beatle's "You Know My Name, Look Up My Number" and Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Springs." That is why the chief attraction on the "My Happy Ending" CD-Single from Avril Lavigne is not the title song, but the two live acoustic versions of that song and "Take Me Away," along with the previously unreleased "Take It."
With her sophomore album, "Under My Skin," Lavigne (who may well be the second most hated artist on Amazon after Charlotte Church), heads off in a more mature and arguably better direction. After her singles "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi" both went top 10 I had Lavigne pegged as another female teenager singer-songwriter with pop sensibilities and shallow lyrics. But for "Under My Skin" there are two key changes. The producer is now Don Gilmore (engineer on Pearl Jam's "Ten" and producer of several Linkin Park albums) and fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk (who I recognize from "Time" on the "Uptown Girl" soundtrack) has a hand in writing half of the dozen tracks and does piano, keyboards, and string arrangements as well. Do Gilmore and Kreviazuk get the credit for making "Under My Skin" a better album or does Lavigne actually get most of the credit? Damned if I call tell, but somebody did some serious upgrading of the lyrics.
Lavigne is writing songs about the down side of teenage boys, which is an expansive subject matter to contemplate. After all, teenage boys are the modern equivalent of the giant dinosaurs of the past that needed a second brain at the other end to help them along. When dealing with them the fundamental rule is to remember that whenever the other brain is engaged, do not believe anything that is being said. The consistent perspective in these songs is rather retrospective, as the charm and illusions on the teenage infatuation that passes for love is dispelled by the harsh realities of being a teenage girl. It is not surprising then that "My Happy Ending" is about anything but:
You were everything, everything that I wanted
We were meant to be, supposed to be, but we lost it
And all the memories, so close to me, just fade away
All this time you were pretending
So much for my happy ending
The theme is rather pessimistic from the start as we see in first track, "Take Me Away," which establishes the idea that teenage love is pretty confusing:
All the pain I thought I knew
All the thoughts lead back to you
Back to what was never said
Back and forth inside my head
I can't handle this confusion
I'm unable; come and take me away
But since I keep thinking that this perspective smacks more of realism than pessimism, it seems to me that in the final analysis Lavigne is not only comforting young women but giving their male counterparts broad hints on what they are doing wrong. If there is anything to be pessimistic about it is that teenage boys will get the point, no matter how sharply it is made or how nice the vocal harmonies. Too bad, because the teenage girls that know these lyrics by heart are going to give them some rude awakenings (see: "Don't Tell Me").
Anyhow, after watching the DVD of Lavigne in concert, where she looks totally bored while singing her songs, these acoustic versions stand out because there actually seems to be some passion and purpose to her singing. There are at least four most live acoustic tracks by Lavigne out there, especially if you happen to frequent a certain "French" department store, but with "My Happy Ending" and "Take Me Away" you would already have the best pair of the bunch, plus the unreleased "Take It." With only one actual track from "Under My Skin" this is a pretty good CD-Single for Lavigne's fans to pick up.