Live TV is by nature unpredictable. If it's a glam-heavy awards show devoted to ego- and attitude-fuelled rock stars - Sunday's (June 17) MuchMusic Video Awards, say - it's damn near unstable.
Jam a firecracker like Avril Lavigne into the fault line and you can almost feel the ground start to shift at the intersection of Queen and John.
Lavigne is notorious for her MMVA appearances.
"The first time was when my butt crack was showing," she says with youthful pride during a recent phone interview. "The second time I pulled my pants down with MMVA written all over it. So this time maybe I'll keep my pants up."
Not that a lack of Avril ass should be considered a barometer of growth or maturity in the cocky pop princess.
Sure, she's tossed aside the Home Hardware T-shirt. (Hell, she's even been known to ditch the black Dickies and Converse sneakers for a dress!) But she's still only a few years past singing in church choirs and at county fairs. And in true rock rebel fashion, she's spat at the occasional stalkarazzi and flipped them the bird.
But if you think you know Lavigne, have her pegged as a punk primadonna with too much publicity, well, you're only seeing part of the picture.
Surprisingly, given her antics (and her incredible popularity with tabloid-devouring teens), she and her rocker hubby-of-one-year, Deryck Whibley of Sum 41, have managed to stear clear of the gossip glossies you find near the checkout counter.
Lavigne says she's made a conscious effort to avoid the tabloid trap.
"I go out, but I don't go out every single night, and I don't go to certain places where there are paparazzi," she explains.
At the same time, she's become a lot more media-savvy.
When I was the first journalist outside of Napanee to interview Lavigne in 2002, months before the release of her debut disc, Let Go, she was a potty-mouthed teenager with too much eyeshadow who seemed clueless as to the dumb shit that came out of her gob. She even asked if journalists might say bad things about her.
Who knew how far she'd come?
"I get how it all works now," she says when I bring up that early interview. "So I'm careful with what I say, because I know people can always take it and twist it around and put it in a big headline and make a bigger deal out of something that really wasn't that big a deal to me."
Still, I have to ask if, as she sings on the title track of her latest disc, The Best Damn Thing, she's a drama queen waiting for her Cinderella scene?
"I'm sure I can have my moments, like any girl, but it's just a song and I've really exaggerated," she says.
Then she admits that, just as she sings on the album's first single, Girlfriend, "I am a motherfucking princess!"
Unlike the poppy girl-positive tracks on smash Let Go or the moody girl-positive tracks on her last album, Under My Skin, there's a definite girl-versus-girl competitive dynamic running through many of the songs on The Best Damn Thing, her third straight chart-topping LP. It has me wondering what kind of message Lavigne is trying to send her mostly teen, mostly female fans.
"You would probably be referring to The Best Damn Thing," she says.
Actually, I was referring to Girlfriend's lyric about wanting to make a a guy's girlfriend disappear, and Everything Back But You's line about a "bitch slut psycho babe" and pretty much all of One Of Those Girls.
"The ones that have that vibe are completely just made up," she says. "I didn't really think about it that way. It's not serious to me.
"Look at the single Girlfriend. It's like, I'm married - it's clearly not what I'm going through. That's what I like about this record: there are a handful of songs that are completely made up and just stories and having fun and being playful and poking fun at guys. I'm not really in that headspace, but I am a girl and I've had my frustrations with guys, so I can express that."
Pressed about how her fans might interpret the music, Lavigne gets a bit defensive.
"I'm really big on being true to myself. I've done a really good job of focusing on who it is I am and what it is I want, and that has always been my message to my fans: don't worry about what other people think; do what you want to do; be yourself and be strong."
At one point, I ask Lavigne whether she worries about losing rocker credibility with fans as a result of her increasingly airbrushed image in glamour magazines, à la Hilary Duff.
"Umm, I don't think I'm like Hilary Duff," says Lavigne, her bubble-gum disposition suddenly burst, our discussion of her "artistic vision" and "growth as an artist" quickly forgotten.
"I am 22 and I am a woman and I am married." I can almost hear the foot-stomp over the staticky cell as Lavigne wheels her way from L.A. to Santa Monica.
Admittedly, Duff is only 19 and single. But both currently have albums somewhere on the pop charts. Both are trying to convey a more adult appearance and attitude. Duff has her own clothing line, Duff's Stuff, which is sold at Kmart; Lavigne aspires to have her own clothing line, which I can only imagine might swamp the racks at Wal-Mart or maybe Target.
"I feel like I still have my sense of style, which is a little bit rock-influenced," she says. "I like stripes and polka dots and studs. I'm doing it more in a rock-glam fashion sense, if I have to label it myself."
Looking at the MMVA roster, which also features Duff, I amuse myself by wondering who would win if Lavigne fought Duff in the UFC.
I consider each singer's chances - Lavigne's scrappiness versus Duff's longer reach and sharper nails - and conclude that in a stand-up fight the Napanee Banshee would foot-stomp Duff into submission. However, if the battle went to the ground, Duff would choke Lavigne unconscious with her own necktie - if she's still wearing one.
Of course, the moment celeb-slamming Web weenie and MMVA attendee Perez Hilton climbs into the cage, all bets are off. Perez has a serious hate-on for puffy pop stars who take themselves too seriously, Lavigne in particular, and he regularly devotes googles of HTML code to tearing Lavigne a new asshole and wishing her career would die.
Of course, it's highly unlikely that Lavigne and Duff will try to lay a smackdown on each other when they perform at the MMVAs. It's not like either of them is Lindsay Lohan, after all.
But you never know what might happen if Lavigne runs into Hilton.
Additional Interview Audio Clips
On the MMVAs
On her future
How her music has changed
On the meaning in her lyrics