The first time I saw Avril Lavigne, it in Spring 2002 as I was as I was flipping through the channels, pausing at MTV. Broadcasting TRL (Total Request Live) from the beach, a young girl was chatting with Carson Daily. I caught the end of a conversation having to do with “anti-Britney Spears” sentiments, before a musical performance by this guest.
The guest turned out to be Avril Lavigne. Dressed in black, she seemed to sport a bit of a goth-punk-skater image. I would have thought she was just a member of the crowd, except for the noticeable black eye makeup she was wearing. In fact, chatting with Carson Daily, Avril seemed very down to earth.
The song performed was ”Complicated”, which turns out to be the second song on the album and probably the band’s claim to fame (so to speak). Dressed in black and sporting a tattoo on her arm, Avril at first appeared to be older than she is- seventeen. I enjoyed both the music and the performance, although it seemed as if she was not completely comfortable on stage. Of course she’s no pop princess, but Avril kept her movements to a minimum. No dancing and not too much physical expression. She wailed into the mic, and at one point joined in with her male band members for some jumping, typical of the more alternative music crowd. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I felt as though there was a little something lacking to the performance, possibly a little passion? Lavigne looked a little stiff, leaving her hair hanging in her face, periodically pulling some of it over her shoulder as it got in the way.
At this point, I decided to try out Avril Lavigne’s CD, Let Go. My first impression (which I also took from the MTV performance) was that this singer’s image doesn’t seem to match the music. Although a small, young girl, I guess I was expecting Lavigne’s music to reflect some more rebellious teen angst. The cover of the album shows Avril Lavigne again dressed in black. But Let Go isn’t quite that. However, I had no problem with it, and ended up appreciating the uniqueness.
”Laugh out, when you strike your pose, take off all your preppy clothes” (from “Complicated”). The way that Lavigne pronounces the words of the songs gives it a unique sound. I can’t quite say it is an accent, but whatever it is, I like it. However, a native of Napanee, Ontario, I suppose is can be attributed to her Canadian background. “Laugh owt, when ya strike your poes, take off, awll your preppy cloes”. This is nothing close to a drawl or southern accent; I think it enhances the sound of the vocals.
Complicated is the second track (also released as a single), and is probably what most people will recognize this band by, most likely being the song by which the band gained their popularity. It begins with instrumentals and Lavigne speaking, “Uh huh, life’s like this, uh huh, uh huh, that’s the way it is, life’s like this, uh huh, uh huh, that’s the way it is…”. Sort of that harsh reality statement. Then Lavigne’s vocals begin with an instrumental change of pace. “Chill out, what ya yellin for? Lay back, it’s all been done before…”. Her voice flows well with the instrumentals, which are simple but full. Many of the words rhyme in this song, making it even catchier. The chorus is a stronger statement of what the song is trying to get through- just be yourself without making things complicated. The sounds and instrumentals used in this song are similar to the others.
The song most unlike all the others, and probably my least favorite, is Nobody’s Fool, which is a combination of rap and song. The introduction on this track is a melodic rap, which returns in different sections of the lyrics. It isn’t a harsh sound; in fact I think it sort of amplifies the young sound of Lavigne’s voice. The rest of the song is rather a soft sound (almost “Dido-ish”), although the two types of vocals are definitely compatible. I just did not like the sound of the rap, because it made Avril sound incredibly young.
Losing Grip and Unwanted are the more “angry” songs on the CD. As angry as it may be, Losing Grip still does not compete with the passion of Alanis’ “Jagged Little Pill”. This is the first song on the album, which makes for a nice moving start to the CD. It begins with a harsher sound, going from a slower intro to a heavier wailing vocal. ”You need to listen… I’m losing my grip… I’m not just some chick…”. Unwanted rants, ”You don’t know me, don’t ignore me, if you had your way, you’d just shut me out”, and is much more successful at a more passionate sound. I would say it evokes more emotion than most of the other songs on this CD.
If I were writing a teen movie, Sk8ter Boi would be run while the credits were rolling. ”He was a boy, he was a girl, can I make it any more obvious? He was a punk, she did ballet… He was a skater boy, she said ‘see you later boy’…” Both the lyrics and sound make this song “fun”, and points a finger at a shallow girl who loses her chance with a skater type who ends up being a superstar, while she’s stuck home with baby. You get the idea. This is a quick-moving qualifier for a teen flick soundtrack.
Most of the other songs are fairly mellow. If I heard them without knowing who the performer was, I would probably guess someone more like Dido or Pink. The songs vary a bit in their style, so at different times, Avril sounds like different singers. Sometimes she uses her voice in a very soft and slow way, which might seem totally uncharacteristic and out of place, but it ends up being very fitting. At first, when she was hitting some high notes in songs like Things I’ll Never Say, I thought it was almost going a little too Celine, but the sounds worked out.
I’m not going to go song by song, because if you like one, I think you’ll like them all. There are a variety of sounds, ranging from faster, more angry paces to calm, sort of meandering and pondering songs. And then of course there’s the.. rap song.
It is difficult for me to characterize Let Go. Avril Lavigne has a very precise, clear, and tuned voice. Everything is in tune, and the words are well-articulated, which I always appreciate. This talent was evident in the live MTV performance as well- this is not the magic of studio editing. Lavigne can sing, that’s for sure. Being so young, she also has a lot of room for improvement. The only things that I felt detract from her singing is the occasional lackadaisical sound, which was sometimes a little too laidback, giving it a more “sleepy” sound. Although catchy, some of the sounds started to meld into one another. If I leave this CD running from beginning to end, it slowly becomes more of a background sound. There are a good mix of sounds and flavors to the songs, and I definitely think the songs grew on me.
If you hear Complicated on the radio and like it, I think you’ll like the rest of Let Go. This CD helped get me through a long road trip, where there were a people with varying music tastes in the car.
I'm With You
Anything But Ordinary
Things I'll Never Say
Too Much To Ask