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Complicated is the debut single by Canadian singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne, released in 2002 from her debut album, Let Go. It was written by Lavigne and The Matrix (Scott Spock, Lauren Christy, and Graham Edwards), and produced by The Matrix.
The single reached number one in Australia (for six weeks), New Zealand and Mexico (for nine weeks), number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three in the United Kingdom. Based on its chart performance, the song is Lavigne's second most successful single (only behind her 2007 single "Girlfriend") and was one of the most successful releases of 2002.
Lavigne broke a record set by Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" when "Complicated" held the number one spot on the Adult Top 40 chart (which tracks airplay on the radio) for 16 weeks in a row. "Complicated" was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Background and releaseEdit
After being signed to Arista Records in November 2000 upon the authorization of the label's CEO, Antonio "L.A." Reid, Lavigne moved to New York with the assistance of Reid. There, she began working on her debut album, Let Go, collaborating with a host of prime songwriters and producers. For six months, the label set up Lavigne with two co-writers, who worked with her upon Arista's instructions. Reid expected Lavigne to record folk songs because she auditioned to them in a "balladic, 'new country'" type. However, the collective failed to click "with a girl who'd just discovered guitar-based rock". For a year, nothing was working for Lavigne and was on the verge of getting dropped off Arista. The management pitched her songs written by other songwriters, but she declined, insisting she wanted to write songs herself. Lavigne relocated to Los Angeles, where she collaborated with songwriter-producer Clif Magness, who gave her ample creative control in the writing process. Lavigne and Magness wrote "Losing Grip" and "Unwanted", songs that she deemed reflective of her vision for the entire album. However, Arista was not thrilled with the heavy-guitar laden songs that Lavigne was writing, prompting the label to look for other producers to match their demands.
Two years since she signed the deal, Lavigne came to the attention of the three-piece production team The Matrix. Arista could not find the right direction for Lavigne, so the team's manager, Sandy Roberton, suggested that they work together. According to member Lauren Christy, they had been listening to Lavigne's early songs and felt they contained "a Faith Hill kind of vibe". As soon as they saw Lavigne coming into their studio, The Matrix felt that her musical direction was incongruous to her image and attitude. After talking to Lavigne for an hour, the singer said she wanted songs with punk rock inclinations. They told her to come back the following day, and in the afternoon during that day, they wrote a song that evolved into "Complicated" and another song called "Falling Down". They played it to Lavigne when she came back the following day, inspiring her what path she should take.
When Josh Sarubin, the A&R executive who signed Lavigne to the imprint, heard the song, he knew it was right for her. Lavigne presented the song to Reid, who agreed the musical direction Lavigne and The Matrix were taking, and set "Complicated" as the album's lead single.
Composition and lyricsEdit
"Complicated" is a song about how people can feign or pretend in front of others. Lavigne said about the song: "People sometimes bother me how they're not real and how they're just, like, putting on a face and being two-faced". Lavigne stated that she experienced this with both boyfriends and female friends.
The video, directed by The Malloys, starts with Lavigne asking her bandmates if they want to "crash" the mall. They respond with enthusiasm, and skateboard there. The video features Lavigne and the band harassing shoppers and employees, generally causing havoc around the mall; for example, Lavigne watches her bandmates try on humorous clothing which is fittingly shown as Lavigne sings the line "You come over unannounced, dressed up like you're something else".
This is intercut with footage of Lavigne performing the song at a skatepark while playing the guitar, with her band performing with her. People can be seen skateboarding around Lavigne as she and her band perform the song. As the line "You fall and you crawl..." is sung, a skateboarder can be seen falling over.
The video was shot at Eagle Rock Plaza, Los Angeles, in 2 days. During the shooting, the mall remained open.
In February 2017, the video reached over 140,000,000 views on YouTube.
The song received generally positive reviews from critics. In 2009, Rolling Stone readers voted "Complicated" as the eighth Top single of the decade. "Complicated" also ranked at #197 in Blender magazine's "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". Billboard ranked it at No. 83 of the 'Top 100 Singles of the Decade'. In an AOL Radio listener's poll, "Complicated" was voted Lavigne's sixth best song.
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the song a B- and said "Avril Lavigne's not kidding about that title, she's the epitome of the blossoming anti-Britney movement". Christina Saraceno of Allmusic described 'Complicated' as "a gem of a pop/rock tune with a killer chorus" and noted similarities between it and the Pink song "Don't Let Me Get Me". Saraceno highlighted the song as a "track pick" in a review of the album, Let Go.
On a more negative note, Sal Cinquemani of Slant magazine described 'Complicated' as "infectious" and "more poser than punk". In a review of Lavigne's second album, Under My Skin, David Browne of Entertainment Weekly noted that "Complicated felt like strung-together bits of Morissette songs".
As of September 2015 "Complicated" has sold 1.1 million digital copies in the US and over 3 million copies worldwide.
The Canadian single of "Complicated" has shipped over 100,000 copies in Canada, where the song has been awarded the gold and platinum single certifications by the CRIA for, respectively, shipments of at least 50,000 and 100,000 singles shipped.The single was certified 2× Platinum in Australia.
- This song has been parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic under the title "A Complicated Song".
- This song is featured in the video games FIFA Football 2003 and Lips.
- This song is available as a downloadable track for the video games Rock Band 4 and Rocksmith 2014.