Avril Lavigne and religious controversy
Former punk rocker sings about devil
Songwriting is both a skill and a creative art form, as the best and most well written songs are those which tell a story, are relatable and convey meaning or some significant message, through both the lyrics and music video. Unfortunately, sometimes these stories, messages and meanings are lost, or misinterpreted due to a variety of factors, a situation which has recently occurred with Avril Lavigne’s newest single, “I Fell in Love with the Devil”. Although this song tells a relatable story of Lavigne’s painful personal experience, because of all the “offensive” religious imagery within its music video, it has quickly, and in my opinion, unfairly, become labelled as anti-religious.
After a six-year break from songwriting, during which she battled Lyme disease, Lavigne has returned to the music world with the release of her sixth studio album, Head Above Water. While her album’s first single and self-titled track is a positive upbeat song about personal strength, perseverance and asking for God’s help and protection through a difficult time, there’s a noticeable shift in mood with I fell in love with the Devil. Although this song also centres around a serious subject matter, it embodies a darker tone, especially with its hauntingly beautiful music video, produced by Elliott Lester.
I have watched this music video numerous times and each time I do, I am captivated by the beautiful surroundings, colour contrast, special effects and Lavigne’s powerful vocals, which are excellently woven together to tell the story of a woman leaving behind a toxic relationship. At the same time however, it is hard to ignore the abundance of religious imagery displayed, such as the hearse, black clothing, coffins, crosses, graveyard and Devil.
While these religious elements are a positive contribution, adding both beautiful and creative symbolism, others –such as her strong Christian fans – view their incorporation as offensive, anti-religious and even blasphemous. As a result, Lavigne has received a great deal of backlash and negative criticism, evident through multiple harsh social media comments such as one Instagram post which states, “this is a turn off. Get your soul right with Jesus. . . the only one who can save you, yet you hold his cross and blaspheme his name. I pray for your salvation.”
Although I understand that Christian fans are confused and upset by the religious imagery presented in this music video, the anti-religious controversy and criticism surrounding this song is absolutely ridiculous because it reflects an inaccurate understanding of the story and message behind Lavigne’s song and disregards how religious imagery is creatively being used to symbolize to her own personal experience.
At one point, Lavigne walks through an empty graveyard where she encounters the Devil, whom she can’t help but be drawn towards. In this scene, she is not attempting to glorify, or promote the idea of falling in love with the Devil, as some accusatory statements suggest. Instead, the Devil represents not only the individual Lavigne fell in love with whom had a negative impact on her, but also symbolizes the unfortunate reality that some people have a dark side that isn’t discovered until much later. As Lavigne stated, (on Facebook and Instagram) “some of the darkest people in the world can be disguised as angels ... sometimes your heart conflicts with your head and leads you into situations you know aren’t right and once you’re there, it’s very difficult to get out.” This last part of her statement is also depicted within the video, when Lavigne struggles to pull herself away from the Devil’s embrace.
Additionally, seeing Lavigne dressed in black holding a cross, while hearing her sing lyrics such as, “someone send me an angel to lend me a halo ... wake me up from this dream … please save me from this hell,” doesn’t suggest that she is trying to mock Christianity, or exalt evil. Instead, this scene symbolizes the moment in Lavigne’s past relationship when she realized, as her lyrics express, that she was “in trouble” and wanted to free herself from her toxic lover, who was “no good for her.”
A third controversial aspect of this music video is the two coffins, one which Lavigne, dressed in a white lace dress is lying in, and the second which she smashes near the end. Although some people view Lavigne lying in a casket as an insult to Christianity, I perceive the coffin as a physical representation of Lavigne’s toxic relationship. The fact that Lavigne is lying inside a coffin with a clear lid overtop, symbolizes how trapped Lavigne has become in her relationship that she fears, as her lyrics suggest, being “(buried) alive.” At the same time, this religious imagery also foreshadows the music video’s empowering ending, as Lavigne’s white dress symbolizes the new beginning she obtains after smashing the coffin. This near final moment is my favourite part of the entire video because it demonstrates a great level of empowerment. Not only does this action represent Lavigne breaking out of the harmful relationship and away from her toxic lover, but it also enables her (as stated on Instagram) to “bury the constant heartache and trauma, close the casket and never look back.”
Although the song’s music video does contain religious imagery and is undoubtedly darker than her most recent releases, Lavigne’s song not only has a personal and significant meaning, but also provides a remainder to everyone (as stated on Instagram) ” to not let someone else’s demons bring you down.” “I Fell in Love with the Devil” is a great song and its music video should be enjoyed and appreciated for its beauty, creativity and strong message rather than criticized on the sole basis of perception. If you are upset, or offended by a song’s lyrics or music video, instead of making harsh, accusatory and often false statements about an artist or their music, without taking the time to learn about the song’s meaning and background, simply don’t listen to the song, or watch the video.