New Nostalgia: "Let Go" (2002) Avril Lavigne

Caroline Fairey reveals her love for the pop-punk princess' debut album.


Whether you listened to “I’m With You” and “Complicated” in the family car on the radio or downloaded the entire album to your iPod Shuffle, Let Go was a quintessential part of our generation’s adolescence. Or at least my adolescence. In actuality, I have no idea if this album has staying power with other 20-somethings.

I got a jump start on this album because my dad bought it on iTunes and put it on my first iPod before I knew how to work the family computer. One of my first embarrassing memories is getting called out by my soccer coach in third grade for singing “Sk8r Boi” during practice. In other words, me and this album go way back. But I think there are genuine reasons – more than nostalgia for a simpler time – to revisit Let Go

1. The girl has range. This album is a marvel by modern standards. What current pop artist – or any artist, for that matter – would even try to include such a variety of conflicting genres? On Let Go, Lavigne transitions from punk rock to power ballad, cheerful pop to misguided, even faux-serious rap. Another, more earnest reviewer described the offering as “an identity crisis” and “a weird…pop thing?” Before Let Go, Avril Lavigne was an unknown Canadian girl with overdone smoky eyes. With this album, her first album, she gave us the equivalent of five previous albums’ worth of “finding her sound,” and for that we are perplexed, but grateful.

2. She tells a good story. She never shies away from narrative. Most famously in “Sk8r Boi,” in which she weirdly mocks the sad story of a stuck-up teenager turned lonely single mother, but also in “My World,” which includes an entire verse that details her post-shower hair routine. “I never spend less than an hour / Washin' my hair in the shower / It always takes five hours to make it straight / So I’ll braid it in a zillion braids / Though it may take all friggen day / There’s nothin' else better to do anyway.” A self-care icon. And who can forget “I’m standing on a bridge / I’m waitin' in the dark / I thought that you’d be here by now” from "I'm With You?" The scenes that she sings about are stark but vivid, cutting straight to the emotional core without fussing around with artistry.

3. Her songs get to the heart of adolescence. The real reason that this album is a clear contender for a classic is Avril’s unapologetic rendering of a world of which she is the epicenter. I thought about counting the number of the personal pronoun “I” that appear in this album, but it would have taken way too long. Suffice to say that every single chorus, no matter the type of song, is all about how Avril feels. Her rendering of relationships, love and personal crises are exactly what a middle-schooler would imagine a 20-something’s life was like. 

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