For the last 20 years or so, I have had a healthy ambivalence towards Avril Lavigne. I don't get worked up over manufactured pop stars and pop songs; sometimes they're fine, they have a purpose, whatever. If I happen to be exposed to the music, maybe it'll be tolerable, who knows.
But I recently learned about the Avril Lavigne song "Dolphins" and I'm utterly, utterly captivated.
That screenshot unfortunately does not include the song's stellar outro:
Give me a D
Give me a O
Give me a L
Give me a P
Give me a H
Give me a I
Give me a N
Somehow this song has existed across lyric websites since at least 2007—except, as far as anyone knows, the song itself has never actually existed. Ethan Chiel on Fusion tried looking into this situation years ago, but to no avail:
Summer 2007 seems telling: it's right after Lavigne released The Best Damn Thing, the album that included the single "Girlfriend." LyricsMode ultimately offers no information about the source, just that 3,467 visits to "Dolphins" particular lyric page have been made. LyricsMode's webmaster, Oleg Kashtalyan, told me via email that the Dolphins page "was added by unregistered user on our website, so we have no information about author and data."
The CBC has reported that some people have indeed tried to contact Avril Lavigne and/or her representatives for an official comment on this mysterious meme song, but to no avail.
The popular "very online" newsletter GarbageDay also investigated this phenomenon recently:
Based on a Twitter search for "dolphin avril," the earliest mention I could find about the song was from 2011, when a Avril fan account appears to have auto-tweeted a Hot Lyric page for "Dolphins". It was then mentioned once in 2012, once in 2013, and then there was another flurry of activity in it in 2015. The 2015 spike appears to correspond to "Dolphins" trending on Tumblr at the same time. But the 2015 Tumblr meme references previous Tumblr posts about the song. Chiel traced the fake song lyrics back to at least 2007. But it may be even older. I found a Google cache that may date the song all the way back to 2005. I also searched for Portuguese results, as well, on the off chance it originated in Brazil, like the theory that Avril Lavigne was secretly replaced with an actress named Melissa. Though, Brazilian stans seem just as confused about "Dolphins".
The song has all the hallmarks of a messageboard in-joke. I tried searching 4chan and LiveJournal archives from 2007, but didn't find anything. I have this deep suspicion it started on a fan board, but I can't prove it. So, unfortunately, Avril Lavigne's "Dolphins" will remain a mystery.
There are some fan cover versions of the song on YouTube, but is it even technically a "cover song" if the song isn't real in the first place?
And this is perhaps why I'm so fascinated by "Dolphins." It's kind of a perfect manifestation of wholesome Internet absurdity. Some bored teenager probably thought they were being funny back in 2007 when they added the lyrics to LyricsMode, a fairly trite jab at the general vapidness of pop music. Okay, fine. But that gag took on a life of its own—a meme in the original Richard Dawkins sense of a viral idea that perpetuates its own existence through culture, the survival mechanism of a pure thought. 14 years later—probably twice the lifespan of the original prankster!—and it still thrives, mutating into its own artform, as evidenced by the YouTube "covers." Now, the fake song is, in fact, a real song. It literally willed itself into existence. Because ideas have power, which is why you should be careful with which you let inside your head, lest they come to life as YouTube covers of non-existent songs or the protagonist of a Grant Morrison comic book.
But I may be overthinking this. It might just be a symptom of the Mandela Effect. Or worse, it could be a depressing indictment on how disinformation never really goes away, and how virality, even as a joke, can still take on a life of its own, until it manifests into reality. Just like a political rumor: if you keep insisting that the Avril Lavigne Dolphin Song is real, then enough people will eventually believe it, and that's all you need.
In other words, Dolphins are you. Dolphins are me. Dolphins are everyone that includes you and me.
Image via Wikimedia Commons and Pexels (altered)