Seventeen years ago, a new millennium was upon us, but fears over the Y2K bug somewhat spoiled the end-of-1999 party to which Prince had alluded. The British shoegaze movement, American grunge experiment, and standard alternative rock that defined the 90s had run out of steam, and audiophiles were eager for a new vibe to kick off the new millennium. The first two years were largely dominated by well established acts: U2, Madonna, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, and Janet Jackson. Even Santana returned from the Twilight Zone thanks to someone named Maria.
Britney Spears had carried the torch for the teens into the 21st century and was briefly joined by a turning-20 Christina Aguilera. Throughout history, the teen stars who topped the charts had done so with dance pop songs and love ballads, and perhaps the new kind of star the masses longed for would be a teen who would shatter the mould. The call was answered by a small-town Ontario girl who grew up playing hockey with the boys. She had joined country superstar Shania Twain on stage in Ottawa. A record deal signed in the States, the Napanee native teamed up with production team The Matrix and sat on the grass in Los Angeles writing songs and convincing the team that the sound she wanted was something unusual for the demographic she represented.
Exactly one week before the debut of American Idol Season 1 came the release of album Let Go from a female teen rock star who was anything but manufactured. She was the real deal, a talented songwriter with a beautiful, wholesome, and powerful voice. And her name was Avril Lavigne. Let Go, her first album, sold 20 million copies around the world and was voted by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll as the fourth best album of the 2000s. The album was certified diamond in Canada.
Released on June 4, 2002, Avril Lavigne’s Let Go turns 15 years old tomorrow.
The album opens with “Losing Grip” that flutters around playfully before exploding into an ear-splitting rock chorus. “Complicated”, a juggernaut hit owing perhaps to its likeable sing-song melody, convinces the listener that Lavigne can straddle both pop and rock realms with ease. The punky power piece “Sk8er Boi” helped define one of the genre streams of the decade, influencing a number of acts. Soaring anthem “I’m with You” is arguably the best cut. It is deep, emotional, and when Lavigne, after her Rihanna-sampled yeah-yeahs and softening of her vocal touch, belts out sky-scraping “I don’t know who you are, but I … I’M WITH YOU” it literally makes goosebumps appear all over your body.
“Mobile”, our pick for the album’s most underappreciated track, contains one of the best rock choruses in the history of music, not to mention a perfect bridge. “Unwanted” delves further into rock territory returning to “Losing Grip’s” packed punch. “Tomorrow” proves Avril can handle the singer-songwriter realm very well. The unique percussion sound is a nice touch, and the song flows in such a way that it pulls you along with it. By the time you hear the catchy choruses on “Anything but Ordinary” and “Things I’ll Never Say”, the album will have you hailing it as a masterpiece, and it is just that. Lavigne gets personal in “My World” talking about growing up in Napanee. She tries her hand at rapping in “Nobody’s Fool”. “Too Much to Ask” is the emotional core of the album; it is heart-wrenching both musically and lyrically. As for closer “Naked”, it caps off the album on a sad note which makes you want to listen to the disc again.
Avril Lavigne’s Let Go is one of the finest albums of the 21st century. Happy 15th!