Avril Lavigne performs in Turin, Italy. Tribune News Service
LONDON: Avril Lavigne has suffered from a few identity crises over the years. There was the literal one, of course — a semi-serious internet conspiracy insisting that she had died and been secretly replaced by a body double. And then there was the musical one. For Lavigne, the struggle to evolve beyond her early Noughties pop-punk era – when tween girls across the world played the boisterous, angst-ridden Let Go (2002) on repeat, and wore poorly fastened ties in her honour – was the real test.
She stumbled several times. There was the playful but ill-fitting 2007 single “Girlfriend”, 2011 album Goodbye Lullaby – which couldn’t decide whether to be glossy or gutsy – and who could forget the heinous, vaguely appropriative 2013 single “Hello Kitty”? Try as she might, Lavigne has never surpassed, nor shaken off, the legacy of Let Go. “You know you’re not fooling anyone when you become somebody else,” she sang on that album’s magnum opus “Complicated”.
But her sixth album, Head Above Water, arrives promising authenticity – with a somewhat concerning insistence. “This is me and my fight,” said Lavigne ahead of its release. “This album tells my story.” A press release announced: “You’re hearing the songstress as she was always meant to sound,” before detailing the 34-year-old’s life-threatening battle with Lyme disease.
A near-death experience led to the album’s title track, a rocky, orchestral number that wouldn’t be out of place on The Greatest Showman soundtrack (which I mean as a compliment). “It was a very spiritual experience,” recalled Lavigne of the song’s traumatic origins. “Lyrics flooded through me from that point on.”
Avril Lavigne’s debut studio album, Let Go (2002), emphasized a skate punk persona in which she has since been often referred by critics and music publications as the “Pop Punk Queen”, due to her achievement and impact in the industry.
Lavigne is considered a key musician in the development of pop punk music, since she paved the way for female-driven, punk-influenced pop music. Since her professional debut, Lavigne has sold more than 40 million albums, making her the third-best-selling Canadian female artist of all time, behind Celine Dion and Shania Twain.
Lavigne’s breakthrough single, “Complicated”, reached number one in several countries worldwide and led to Lavigne becoming the youngest female soloist to have a number-one album in the United Kingdom. Her second studio album, Under My Skin (2004), became Lavigne’s first album to reach the top of the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. The Best Damn Thing (2007), Lavigne’s third studio album, reached number one in seven countries worldwide and saw the international success of its lead single “Girlfriend”, which became her first single to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.