Meaning Behind the Song: “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne

There are many songs Avril Lavigne’s name is synonymous with, her massive hit “Girlfriend” being one of them. Co-written by Lavigne and controversial songwriter and producer Dr. Luke, the latter of whom was taken to court by Kesha in 2016 after allegations that he sexually assaulted her, “Girlfriend” marked a departure in sound for the pop-punk artist, one that took her to the top of the charts in multiple countries.

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Released as the first single off her 2007 album, Best Damn Thing, “Girlfriend” had teens everywhere chanting along to the song’s signature lines hey hey / you, you / I don’t like your girlfriend / No way, no way / I think you need a new one. Below, we look at the story behind “Girlfriend.”

Meaning Behind the Song

According to Lavigne, it didn’t take long for the the lyrics to the song to spill out. The singer admitted to MTV News that she wrote the song in a matter of minutes while she was drunk and ready to leave the studio around 11 p.m. Before she left, she asked Dr. Luke to play a few “punk rock” notes on the Les Paul electric guitar they borrowed from famed pop-punk producer, the late Jerry Finn, which set the song in motion.

“So Dr. Luke played the chords for ‘Girlfriend’ and it just flew out of my mouth,” Lavigne recalled to Glamour. “I sang, hey, hey/you, you. We wrote that chorus as I had my bag on about to walk out in, like, two minutes. He laid the guitar down, wrote the beat with his electric drum, and I ran in and laid down a scratch vocal. And I thought, ‘Oh my God,’ this song’s going to be huge. It was just one of those moments that don’t happen a lot. It is really magical.”

Describing it as “funny and sarcastic,” the song started off as a joke. But Lavigne had a feeling it was destined to be a hit, particularly when listening to the chorus. She got that affirmation when she played the song for trusted confidants before the song’s release.

“I took a C.D. home from the studio and played it for my friends and everyone was like, ‘This is going to be the song of the summer,'” she describes. “I haven’t really done that with any other song. You can get a really strong sense for songs that are special.”

The singer asserts that the song was not based on personal experience, as she was married to Blink-182’s Deryck Whibley at the time. In fact, the song started off as a joke, Lavigne not taking herself too seriously in the writing room.“It was just a joke and we were laughing and we’re like, ‘This is funny,'” she described to Pop Matters in 2007. “It’s so out there.”

The singer also said that when she was making Best Damn Thing she was inspired from her time on tour to create “fun” songs, with “Girlfriend” setting that precedent. Between the pulsating beat and hand claps, “Girlfriend” carved a new sonic lane from her typical punk sound, leading her into a more mainstream pop sound.

“My second album felt a little darker,” she explained to Glamour. “It was deeper and moodier. The Best Damn Thing was more fun pop rock… It was a fresh sound for me, and my sound had evolved in my style.”

Legacy

Despite being a hit, the song wasn’t without controversy, as Lavigne and Dr. Luke were taken to court by songwriter James Gangwer and Tommy Dunbar of the Rubinoos. The band recorded a song called “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” in 1979 written by Gangwer, who filed a copyright infringement lawsuit that was ultimately resolved.

“Girlfriend” launched to No. 1 in 14 countries around the world, including the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. The song was translated into seven different languages, reaching No. 1 in many of those countries including Italy and Spain. “Girlfriend” has become one of Lavigne’s signature hits that she still reveres to this day.

“I love the song to this date,” she professed to Glamour, saying that it felt “really good” to watch the song go No. 1. “I took that song on tour, and it was so special that I played it twice at my shows. I opened with it and closed with it. Because, when else can you pull that off? That’s how big the song was.”

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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