Q: If Avril Lavigne feels so much contempt for relationships, why is her most recent CD almost completely about love and relationships?

Ini Li, Rockville

A: I downloaded (legally, kids) Avril's new album, "Under My Skin," and Ini's right -- almost every song is about broken hearts, loneliness, getting back together, breaking it off. I also read stacks of interviews with the pouty, faux-contrarian pop princess, plumbing the special wisdom on can only achieve between the ages of 17 and 19. (Wait! She just turned 20 last week! Know she knows everything.) While she copped an I-don't-need-a-boyfriend attitude, her real contempt was for being "labeled," pegged down, asked questions. She also dislikes reporters, even as she cultivates media attention. (Which means she could someday be president! Except she's Canadian.)

When reaching for an artistic persona, Advil (I mean, Avril) at first picked on not-so-curiously attuned to teenagers: Don't touch me, I'm angry, I'm better off alone, I hate you and what you did to me, and oh, by the way, I love you. In promoting her second album, she has talked about being a "hopeless romantic." So, was the independent spirit of the first album all a pose, engineered by her record company and other handlers and image-makers?

Gosh, ya think? Of course they insist she sing about boys -- pro and con, just make it about boys. There will always be a "sell by" date on a teenager who gets turned into a pop artist, because they age right out of the winning format. They change. Their fans change. Everyone moves on, but nobody tells the poor pop star until it's too late, and she has to flail about in her twenties and thirties, releasing progressively more boring albums about each new self-discovery. You think Avril sounds inconsistent and bitter now?

Wait five years.

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