2022 marks, insanely, two whole decades since the release of Let Go, Avril Lavigne’s smash hit debut album, which sold a staggering 16 million copies and prompted a shit-ton of wristband sales.
However, rather than sitting back and waiting for those nostalgia listens and special-edition dollars to roll in, Lavigne is going for it. Due to a pop-punk resurgence largely fueled by TikTok, 20 years after “Dude, you wanna crash the mall?” she might be more beloved than ever. Despite being just 37, she is seen as enough of an industry veteran to be something of an elder stateswoman of the pop-punk genre. A generation of new artists have grown up listening to her, and are now helping to propel her comeback.
Willow — as in Smith — brought her in to guest on “Grow” from her 2021 album Lately I Feel Everything, telling Kerrang!, “The fact that Avril has been doing pop-punk music for so long gives her the power of just killing it.” Paramore’s Hayley Williams has said she doesn’t believe her band would have been signed if not for Lavigne’s success, and Olivia Rodrigo describes herself as a “huge fan.”
Genre-straddling British performer Yungblud introduced her on stage as the “emo queen” before dueting with her on a live-streamed show, later describing singing with her as “the best day of my fucking life.” Machine Gun Kelly, who successfully segued from a rap career to a new one as a black-tongued pop-punk GQ cover star, is a friend and has covered “Sk8er Boi.” Newer breakthrough bands Like Meet Me @ The Altar and Wargasm have mentioned growing up listening to her, too.
Lavigne herself recently told Zane Lowe of Apple Music: “I’ve been doing this professionally for 20 years. Yeah. It’s crazy. People come up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I grew up listening to you,’ or, ‘I started music because of you.’ And it’s super-humbling, and it’s really cool. And I’m stoked that pop-punk music — it’s coming back around right now and people are falling back in love with it. […] In a weird way, it feels bigger than ever right now.”
Last February, she finished recording her new album, which will be released at some point in 2022, supported by the only two figures in pop-punk who arguably have even more influence than her — Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and Goldfinger frontman turned super-producer John Feldmann. The pair have their fingers in a lot of pop-punk pies, with Barker constantly working with breaking artists and Feldmann somehow producing nine or ten enormous-selling albums a year.
Naturally, Feldmann is producing Lavigne’s as-yet untitled record, and in November, she signed to Barker’s label, DTA Records. The announcement was made on Instagram with images of Lavigne and Barker — not a man concerned by the societal push to wear shirts at meetings — celebrating the contract by smashing up a cake.
She’s going to have a great year. And it’s about time, because Avril Lavigne is, was and always has been fucking brilliant.
The three-track run of “Complicated,” “Sk8er Boi” and “I’m With You” is legitimately incredible, 11 minutes and 12 seconds of audio gold. “Sk8er Boi” — which is excellent, even though it’s quite clearly about a guitar player rather than a skateboarder — is, possibly, going to be made into a film imminently. Lavigne recently told iHeartRadio’s She Is the Voice podcast, “I’m actually going to turn this song into a film and take it to the next level.” The song was first optioned in 2003, and various screenwriters and studios have been involved over the years, but Lavigne insists it’s actually happening this time.
“I’m With You” is a stunner of a power ballad. It was briefly considered for the lead single treatment, a move that could have led to a very different public perception of Lavigne. The world was introduced to her as the singer of “Complicated,” getting up to vaguely contrived hijinks in a shopping mall while wearing two ties and a dozen sweatbands, but if the first anyone heard of her was this total belter and then they saw the silly side later, who knows?
Lavigne’s big songs regularly topped critics’ year-end lists, and her voice has always been praised. But somehow she’s been seen as less than the sum of her parts, her music treated as a guilty pleasure rather than legitimately great. Her success came along with sneers of inauthenticity and accusations of being a poseur or a music industry “product.” While “Complicated” arguably has something to answer for here — if singing a song about authentically being yourself and avoiding affectations, perhaps don’t do it wearing multiple ties — it’s hard not to conclude it had more to do with her gender than anything else.
The 2021 pop-punk resurgence is a lot more diverse than the first wave — Lavigne was pretty much the only female face in an all-white, all-male genre. None of the sillier elements of her output were significantly sillier than the stuff being put out by the dudes around her, but she was vastly more pilloried for it. And she couldn’t win — she was mocked for the tie-and-Dickies look, but when she reinvented her image on subsequent records as more conventionally feminine, she was accused of selling out by the same people who claimed she had no credibility in the first place. As pop singer Chloe Moriondo put it to The Guardian earlier this year, “People clowned on Avril for being a girly woman in pop-punk and doing her own thing and now they’re so heavily praised for doing that.”
Lavigne is, again, still only 37. She was literally a child when Let Go came out. She’s packed a lot in professionally — six albums, an occasional acting career, a reinvention or two and various business ventures, all under constant media attention. Personally there’s also been a lot going on. She was married to Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley for a few years, then dated Brody Jenner for a while. She married Chad Kroeger of Nickelback in a big castle on Canada Day, scientifically the most aggressively Canadian thing that could ever take place despite happening in France. “Love’s not easy,” she told Lowe. “I’ve been through the wringer.”
She spent a chunk of the early 2010s severely unwell, suffering from Lyme disease. In 2015, she said, “I was in bed for fucking two years. […] It went undiagnosed for so long that I was kind of fucked.”
Lavigne is now in a relationship with Mod Sun, a rapper turned pop-punk artist. The pair met after she followed him on Instagram after he posted a Live clip of Machine Gun Kelly kicking his windshield in (and people say romance is dead). After first collaborating professionally, sparks flew, and Mod Sun now has Lavigne’s name tattooed on the back of his neck, with an anarchy symbol for the A. (Awwww.)
Now happy and healthy, Avril Lavigne is hopefully set for a 2022 in which the world at large finally comfortably acknowledges how much she rules. Or, to put it in her parlance, there’s none gr8er.