2000–03: Let Go
In November 2000, Ken Krongard, an A&R representative, invited Antonio “L.A.” Reid, then-head of Arista Records, to producer Peter Zizzo’s Manhattan studio to hear Lavigne sing. Her 15-minute audition “so impressed” Reid, he immediately signed her to Arista with a deal worth $1.25 million for two albums and an extra $900,000 for a publishing advance. By this time, Lavigne had found that she fit in naturally with her hometown high school’s skater clique, an image that carried through to her first album, but although she enjoyed skateboarding, school left her feeling insecure. Armed with a record deal, she dropped out to focus on her music career, but she still had to inform her parents of her decision. “I wasn’t going to turn [the record deal] down. It’s been my dream all my life. They knew how much I wanted this and how much I’ve put into it.”
Lavigne released her debut album, Let Go, on 4 June 2002 in the U.S., where it reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. It peaked at No. 1 on the Australian, Canadian and United Kingdom charts. This made Lavigne, at 17 years old, the youngest female soloist to have a No. 1 album in the UK until that time. By the end of 2002, the album was certified four-times platinum by the RIAA, making her the bestselling female artist of 2002 and Let Go the top-selling debut of the year. By May 2003, Let Go had accumulated over 1,000,000 sales in Canada, receiving a diamond certification from the Canadian Recording Industry Association. As of 2009, the album has sold over 16 million units worldwide, and the RIAA has certified the album six-times platinum, denoting shipments of over six million units in the U.S.
|“||I don’t get overwhelmed, just because I feel like I’ve kind of prepared myself for it. All my life this is what I’ve wanted, what I’ve dreamed about, and I knew this would happen. I’ve been singing ever since I was really young and I’ve wanted this so bad, and I told myself I would do it.||”|
|—Avril Lavigne on her success, MTV|
Lavigne’s debut single and the album’s lead single, “Complicated”, peaked at No. 1 in Australia and No. 2 in the U.S. “Complicated” was one of the bestselling Canadian singles of 2002, and it was also featured on the teen television show, Dawson’s Creek. “Complicated” later ranked on the Hot 100 Singles of the Decade list at No. 83.
Subsequent singles, “Sk8er Boi” and “I’m With You” reached the top ten in the U.S. Thanks to the success of her first three singles, Lavigne was the second artist in history to have three No. 1 songs from a debut album on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40. For the music video to “Complicated”, Lavigne was named Best New Artist at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. She won four Juno Awards in 2003 out of six nominations, received a World Music Award for “World’s Bestselling Canadian Singer”, and was nominated for eight Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “Complicated” (2003).
In 2002, Lavigne made a cameo appearance in the music video to “Hundred Million” by the pop punk band Treble Charger. In March 2003, Lavigne posed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and, later in May, performed “Fuel” during MTV’s Icon tribute to Metallica. During her first headlining tour, the Try To Shut Me Up Tour, Lavigne covered Green Day‘s “Basket Case“.
2004–05: Under My Skin
Lavigne co-wrote “Breakaway” with Matthew Gerard, which was recorded by Kelly Clarkson for the soundtrack to the 2004 film The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. “Breakaway” would later be included on Clarkson’s second album and released as the album’s lead single. Lavigne covered the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris”, performed with the band’s lead singer John Rzeznik at Fashion Rocks, and she posed for the cover of Maxim in October 2004. She also recorded the theme song for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. “I made the song a little more edgy,” Lavigne said. “There are a lot of loud guitars, and we picked the tempo up a little and sang it with a little more attitude.” Lavigne rearranged the song with the help of producer Butch Walker.
Lavigne’s second studio album, Under My Skin, was released on 25 May 2004, debuting at No. 1 in several countries, including Australia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, the UK, and the U.S. The album has sold more than 10 million copies. Lavigne wrote most of the album’s tracks with Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk. Kreviazuk’s husband, Our Lady Peace front man Raine Maida, co-produced the album, along with Butch Walker and Don Gilmore. Lavigne went on the Live and By Surprise twenty-one city mall tour in the U.S. and Canada to promote the album, accompanied by her guitarist, Evan Taubenfeld. Each performance consisted of a short live acoustic set of songs from the new album. At the end of 2004, Lavigne embarked on her first world tour, the Bonez Tour, with stopovers in almost every continent and which lasted for the entire 2005 year.
|“||This record definitely proves that I’m a writer and people can’t knock that, because each song comes from a personal experience of mine, and there are so much emotions in those songs.||”|
|—Avril Lavigne, The Ledger|
“Don’t Tell Me“, the first single off the album, went to No. 1 in Argentina and Mexico and reached the top five in the UK and Canada and the top ten in Australia and Brazil. “My Happy Ending”, the album’s lead single, went to No. 1 in Mexico and the top five in the UK and Australia. In the U.S., it reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 1 in the Mainstream Top 40, making it her fourth-biggest hit there. The third single, “Nobody’s Home“, did not make the top 40 in the U.S., reaching No. 1 only in Mexico and Argentina. The fourth single from the album, “He Wasn’t“, reached top 40 positions in the UK and Australia and was not released in the U.S.
Lavigne won two World Music Awards in 2004 for “World’s Best Pop/Rock Artist” and “World’s Bestselling Canadian Artist”. She received five Juno Award nominations in 2005, and picked up three, including “Artist of the Year”. She won the award for “Favorite Female Singer” at the eighteenth annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and was nominated in every MTV Award show shown around the world.
2006–08: The Best Damn Thing
While Lavigne was in the studio for her third studio album, Fox Entertainment Group approached her to write a song for the soundtrack to the 2006 fantasy-adventure film Eragon. She wrote and recorded two “ballad-type” songs, but only one, “Keep Holding On“, ended up being used for the film. Lavigne admitted that writing the song was challenging, making sure it flowed along with the film. She emphasized that “Keep Holding On”, which later appeared on the album, was not indicative of what the next album would be like.
Lavigne’s third album, The Best Damn Thing, was released on 17 April 2007, which Lavigne immediately promoted with a small tour. Its lead single, “Girlfriend”, topped the Billboard Hot 100 the same week The Best Damn Thing debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. “Girlfriend” was Lavigne’s first single to reach this No. 1 position. The single was a worldwide hit; it also peaked at No. 1 in Australia, Canada, Japan, and Italy and reached No. 2 in the UK and France. “Girlfriend” was recorded in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Japanese, and Mandarin. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry ranked “Girlfriend” as the most-downloaded track worldwide in 2007, selling 7.3 million copies, including the versions recorded in eight different languages. “Girlfriend” ranked on the Hot 100 Singles of the Decade list at No. 94.
“When You’re Gone“, the second single, went to No. 3 in the UK, the top five in Australia and Italy, the top ten in Canada, and was very close to reaching the top twenty in the U.S. In December 2007, Lavigne, with annual earnings of $12 million, was ranked number eight in the Forbes “Top 20 Earners Under 25”. “Hot” was the third single and has been Lavigne’s least successful single in the U.S., charting only at No. 95. In Canada, “Hot” made the top ten, and in Australia, the top 20. The Best Damn Thing has sold over 6 million copies worldwide.
During this era, Lavigne won nearly every award she was nominated for, including two World Music Awards for “World’s Bestselling Canadian Artist” and “World’s Best Pop/Rock Female Artist”. She took her first two MTV Europe Music Awards, received one Teen Choice Awards for “Summer Single”, and was nominated for five Juno awards.
In mid-2007, Lavigne was featured in a two-volume graphic novel, Avril Lavigne’s Make 5 Wishes. She collaborated with artist Camilla D’Errico and writer Joshua Dysart on the manga, which was about a shy girl named Hana who, upon meeting her hero Avril Lavigne, learned to overcome her fears. Lavigne said, “I know that many of my fans read manga, and I’m really excited to be involved in creating stories that I know they will enjoy.” The volumes were released on 10 April (one week prior to the release of The Best Damn Thing) and in July, respectively. The publication Young Adult Library Services nominated the series for “Great Graphic Novels for Teens”.
In March 2008, Lavigne undertook a world tour named The Best Damn Tour to support the album. In that same month, she also appeared on the cover of Maxim for the second time of her career. In mid-August, Malaysia’s Islamic opposition party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, attempted to ban Lavigne’s show in Kuala Lumpur, judging her stage moves “too sexy”. Her concert on 29 August was considered as promoting wrong values ahead of Malaysia’s independence day on 31 August. On 21 August 2008, MTV reported that the concert had been approved by the Malaysian government.
2009–present: Goodbye Lullaby and fifth studio album
Only a month after completing The Best Damn Tour, Lavigne began recording in her home studio in November 2008 with the song “Black Star”, written to help promote her first fragrance of the same name. By July 2009, nine tracks had been recorded for the new album, including the songs “Fine”, “Everybody Hurts” and “Darlin”. Several of the tracks were written in Lavigne’s youth. “Darlin” was the second song Lavigne wrote as a 15-year-old while living in Napanee, Ontario. Lavigne described the album as being about “life”. She stated, “It’s so easy for me to do a boy-bashing pop song, but to sit down and write honestly about something that’s really close to me, something I’ve been through, it’s a totally different thing.” The album is expected to be a return to Lavigne’s older musical style and may be largely acoustic. With the exception of the album’s lead single, “What the Hell“, Lavigne described the songs on the album as different from her earlier material: “I’m older now, so I think that comes across in my music, it’s not as pop-rock“.
In January 2010, while simultaneously writing and recording for her new album, Lavigne worked with Disney on Alice in Wonderland-themed clothing designs, inspired by Tim Burton‘s feature film, Alice in Wonderland. She asked the executives if she could write a song for the film. The result was the song “Alice“, which was played over the end credits and included on the soundtrack, Almost Alice.
On 28 February, Lavigne gave a performance at the concert portion of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, performing “My Happy Ending” and “Girlfriend”. Lavigne was honoured to perform at the ceremonies, but she regretted not being able to attend the U.S. vs. Canada hockey match. “They had us on lockdown. We weren’t allowed to leave our trailers, for security purposes.”
In September, Lavigne’s third single from her debut album, “I’m With You”, was sampled by Rihanna on the track “Cheers (Drink to That)”, which is featured on Rihanna’s fifth studio album, Loud. In December, American singer Miranda Cosgrove released “Dancing Crazy“, a song written by Lavigne, Max Martin and Shellback. It was also produced by Martin.
The release dates for Goodbye Lullaby and its lead single were pushed back several times. In response to these delays, Lavigne said, “I write my own music and, therefore, it takes me longer to put out records ’cause I have to live my life to get inspiration,” and that she had enough material for two records. In November, Lavigne was featured in Maxim, where she revealed that Goodbye Lullaby took two and a half years to complete, but she cited her record company as the reason for the album’s delays, stating that the album had been completed for a year.. Goodbye Lullaby was released on 8 March. The lead single, “What the Hell”, premiered on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on 31 December.
Three months after the release of Goodbye Lullaby, Lavigne announced that work on her fifth studio album had already begun, with eight songs written so far. The new album will musically be the opposite of Goodbye Lullaby. Lavigne explained, “[Goodbye Lullaby] was more mellow, [but] the next one will be pop and more fun again. I already have a song that I know is going to be a single, I just need to re-record it!” Later, in July 2011, Lavigne revealed the title of one of the songs from her fifth album as “Fine and Gone”. The track was originally recorded for Goodbye Lullaby but never made the final cut. Lavigne’s fifth album has been described to be released as “far earlier than imagined” and rumors it could be released in 2012, nothing however has been confirmed by Lavigne or her record label as to when the album will be released.
Musical style and songwriting
|“||I know my fans look up to me and that’s why I make my songs so personal; it’s all about things I’ve experienced and things I like or hate. I write for myself and hope that my fans like what I have to say.||”|
|—Avril Lavigne, Girl.com.au|
Themes in Lavigne’s music include messages of self-empowerment from a female or adolescent point of view. Lavigne believes her “songs are about being yourself no matter what and going after your dreams even if your dreams are crazy and even if people tell you they’re never going to come true.” On her debut album, Let Go, Lavigne preferred the less mainstream songs, such as “Losing Grip“, instead of her more radio-friendly singles, such as “Complicated“, saying that “the songs I did with the Matrix… were good for my first record, but I don’t want to be that pop anymore.” Lavigne’s second album, Under My Skin, had more personal themes underlying each song. Lavigne explained, “I’ve gone through so much, so that’s what I talk about…. Like boys, like dating or relationships”. In contrast, her third album, The Best Damn Thing, was not very personal to her. “Some of the songs I wrote didn’t even mean that much to me. It’s not like some personal thing I’m going through.” Her objective in writing the album was simply to “make it fun”. Goodbye Lullaby, Lavigne’s fourth album, was much more personal than her earlier records, with Lavigne describing the album as “more stripped down, deeper. All the songs are very emotional”.
Lavigne has an alto vocal range. Growing up, Lavigne listened to Blink-182, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty and Shania Twain, and her influences include Courtney Love and Janis Joplin. Because of these influences, musical genres, and her personal style, the media frequently defined her as punk, something she denied being. Lavigne’s close friend and guitarist, Evan Taubenfeld, said, “It’s a very touchy subject to a lot of people, but the point is that Avril isn’t punk, but she never really pretended to claim to come from that scene. She had pop punk music and the media ended up doing the rest”. Lavigne also commented on the matter: “I have been labeled like I’m this angry girl, [a] rebel… punk, and I am so not any of them.”
While Lavigne denied being angry, her interviews were still passionate about the media’s lack of respect for her songwriting. “I am a writer, and I won’t accept people trying to take that away from me”, adding that she’d been writing “full-structured songs” since she was 14. Despite this, Lavigne’s songwriting has been questioned throughout her career. The songwriting trio, the Matrix, with whom Lavigne wrote songs for her debut album, claimed that they were the main songwriters of Lavigne’s singles, “Complicated”, “Sk8er Boi” and “I’m with You“. Lavigne denied this, asserting that she was the primary songwriter for every song on the album. “[N]one of those songs aren’t from me”. In 2007, Chantal Kreviazuk, who wrote with Lavigne on her second album, accused Lavigne of plagiarism and criticised her songwriting. “Avril doesn’t really sit and write songs by herself or anything”. Lavigne also disclaimed this, and considered taking legal action against Kreviazuk for “clear defamation” against her character. Kreviazuk later apologised: “Avril is an accomplished songwriter and it has been my privilege to work with her”. Shortly thereafter, Tommy Dunbar, founder of the 1970s band, the Rubinoos, sued Lavigne, her publishing company, and Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald for allegedly stealing parts of “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” for her song “Girlfriend”. Gottwald defended Lavigne, stating, “me and Avril wrote the song together…. It has the same chord progressions as ten different Blink-182 songs, the standard changes you’d find in a Sum 41 song. It’s the Sex Pistols, not the Rubinoos.” In January 2008, the lawsuit was closed after a confidential settlement had been reached.
Lavigne became interested in appearing on television and in feature films. The decision, she said, was entirely her own. Although her years of experience in making music videos would be to her advantage, Lavigne admitted that it was the singing that actually removed any fear of performing before the camera. She specifically mentioned that the video “Nobody’s Home” had the most amount of actual “acting” in it. Her first television appearance was in a 2002 episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, performing “Sk8er Boi” with her band in a nightclub. She later made a cameo appearance in the 2004 film Going the Distance. The main characters bump into her backstage at the MuchMusic Video Awards after her performance of “Losing Grip”.
She moved into feature film acting cautiously, choosing deliberately small roles to begin with. In November 2005, after going through an audition to land the role, Lavigne travelled to New Mexico to film a single scene in the 2007 film, The Flock. She starred as Beatrice Bell, the girlfriend of a crime suspect, appearing alongside Claire Danes and Richard Gere. Gere gave Lavigne acting tips in-between takes. On her role in The Flock, Lavigne said, “I did that just to see how it was and to not jump into [mainstream acting] too fast”. The Flock would not be released in American theaters, and because it would not be released in foreign markets until late 2007, it would not be considered Lavigne’s debut. The film made $7 million in the foreign box office.
Lavigne’s feature film debut was voicing an animated character in the 2006 film Over the Hedge, based on the comic strip of the same name. She voiced the character Heather, a Virginia Opossum. The process of recording the characters’ voices was devoid of interaction with other actors. Lavigne stated, “All the actors went in individually, and [director] Tim and [screenwriter Karey] and directors were there with me every time I went in, and they made it go so smoothly; they made me feel comfortable…. That was the interesting part, going in by yourself, with no one else to kind of feed off of.” Lavigne found the recording process to be “easy” and “natural”, but she kept hitting the microphone as she gestured while acting. “I’d use my hands constantly and, like, hit the microphone stand and make noises, so Tim and Karey had to tell me to hold still…. It’s hard to be running or falling down the stairs and have to make those sounds come out of your mouth but keep your body still.” Lavigne believed she was hired to perform Heather due to her rock star status. “[The director] thought I’d give my character… a bit of attitude”. The film opened on 19 May 2006, making $38 million over its opening weekend. It went on to gross $336 million worldwide.
In December 2005, Lavigne signed on to appear in Fast Food Nation, based on the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. The fictionalized adaptation, directed by Richard Linklater, traces fast-food hamburgers contaminated with cow feces back to the slaughterhouses. Lavigne starred in her on-screen acting debut as a high school student intent on freeing the cows. The film opened on 17 November 2006 and remained in theaters for 11 weeks, grossing $2 million worldwide.
Both Over the Hedge and Fast Food Nation opened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, which Lavigne attended. Lavigne felt honoured to be able to attend and was proud of her work. When asked if she would pursue her film career, she stated that she wanted to take her time and wait for the “right parts and the right movies.” Lavigne was aware of the roles she had chosen. “I wanted to start off small and to learn [that] I wouldn’t just want to throw myself into a big part.” In August 2006, Canadian Business magazine ranked her as the seventh top Canadian actor in Hollywood in their second-annual ranking Celebrity Power List. The results were determined by comparing salary, Internet hits, TV mentions, and press hits.
In July 2008, Lavigne launched the clothing line Abbey Dawn, featuring a back-to-school collection. It is produced by Kohl’s, which is the brand’s exclusive U.S. retailer. Named after Lavigne’s childhood nickname, Abbey Dawn is designed by Lavigne herself. Kohl’s describes Abbey Dawn as a “juniors lifestyle brand”, which incorporates skull, zebra, and star patterns, purples and “hot pinks and blacks”. Lavigne, who wore some of the clothes and jewellery from her line at various concerts before its official launch, pointed out that she was not merely licensing her name to the collection. “I actually am the designer. What’s really important to me is that everything fits well and is well-made, so I try everything on and approve it all.”
|“||I just love clothes and colors and patterns. I’m very visual and very hands-on.||”|
|—Avril Lavigne, Billboard|
The designs were also featured on the Internet game Stardoll, where figures can be dressed up as Avril Lavigne. On 14 September 2009, Lavigne took her latest collection for her clothing line to be a part of the New York Fashion Week. “It’s fun to be a chick and design clothes and things I’d like for myself. I design things I [can’t] find.” In December 2010, the clothing line was made available to over 50 countries via the line’s official website. At the end of 2008, Lavigne signed a contract with Canon Canada to appear in ad campaigns and commercials to promote the latest line of cameras, along with a full range of other accessories.
Lavigne released her first fragrance, Black Star, created by Procter & Gamble Prestige Products. The fragrance was announced via Lavigne’s official website on 7 March 2009. Black Star, which features notes of pink hibiscus, black plum and dark chocolate, was released in summer 2009 in Europe, and later in the U.S. and Canada. When asked what the name meant, Lavigne replied, “I wanted [the bottle] to be a star, and my colors are pink and black, and Black Star resembles being different, and standing out in the crowd, and reaching for the stars; the whole message is just about following your dreams, and it’s okay to be unique and be who you are.” Black Star won the 2010 Best “Women’s Scent Mass” by Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW). Black Star was followed by a second fragrance in July 2010, Forbidden Rose, which took two years to develop. It features notes of red apple, winepeach, black pepper, lotusflower, heliotrope, shellflower, praline agreement, sandalwood, and vanilla. Its message is an extension of Black Star’s “follow your dreams”, though the tagline for the new perfume is “Dare to Discover”. The commercial takes place in a gothic garden setting, where Lavigne, upon entering the garden, finds a single, purple rose. Lavigne is to launch a third fragrance in August 2011 and filmed the commercial for it in late 2010.
In January 2010, Lavigne began working with Disney to incorporate Alice in Wonderland-inspired designs into her Abbey Dawn line of clothing. Her designs were exhibited at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in California beginning in May through September, alongside Colleen Atwood‘s costumes from the 2010 film.
Lavigne has been involved in a number of charitable activities, such as Make Some Noise, Amnesty International, Erase MS, AmericanCPR.org, Camp Will-a-Way, Music Clearing Minefields, U.S. Campaign for Burma, Make-a-Wish Foundation and War Child. She has also appeared in ALDO ads with YouthAIDS to raise money to educate people worldwide about HIV/AIDS. Lavigne took part in the Unite Against AIDS concert presented by ALDO in support of Unicef on 28 November 2007 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In November 2010, Lavigne attended the Clinton Global Initiative.
Lavigne worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, for her 2005 east coast tour. She covered “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for War Child’s Peace Songs compilation, and she recorded a cover of the John Lennon song “Imagine” as her contribution to the compilation album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. Released on 12 June 2007, the album was produced to benefit Amnesty International‘s campaign to alleviate the crisis in Darfur.
On 5 December 2009, Lavigne returned to the stage in Mexico City during the biggest charity event in Latin America, “Teleton“. She performed acoustic versions of her hits “Complicated” and “Girlfriend” with Evan Taubenfeld and band member, Jim McGorman. In 2010, Lavigne was one of several artists who contributed their voices to a cover of K’naan‘s “Wavin’ Flag” as a benefit single to help raise money for several charity organizations related to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
On 14 September 2010, Lavigne introduced her charity, “The Avril Lavigne Foundation”. The next day, the foundation’s official website was launched. The foundation aims to help young people with serious illnesses and disabilities and works with leading charitable organizations; The foundation partners with the Easter Seals, Make-A-Wish foundation and Erase MS, the latter two being charities Lavigne has previously worked with. Her work with the Make-A-Wish foundation was the inspiration behind her own charity, with Lavigne stating, “I just really wanted to do more”. Lavigne said on the foundation’s website, “I have always looked for ways to give back because I think it’s a responsibility we all share”. Philanthropist Trevor Neilson’s 12-person firm, “Global Philanthropy Group“, advises Lavigne with her foundation as well as several other celebrities, including musician John Legend.