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Avril Lavigne is Short and Powerful

The seventh most powerful Canadian in Hollywood is not even twenty-five years old. She’s barely over five feet tall.

She’s Avril Lavigne: singer, songwriter, and spokeswoman for angry young women all over the world. She’s sold a whopping 26 million albums worldwide, has been nominated for Grammy Awards, and swept Canada’s Juno Awards clean in 2003. She’s inspired several debates in the music industry, but before we get into these, let’s look a little at the history of this pop phenomenon:

In addition to her musical achievements, Avril Lavigne is solely responsible for putting the pretty but insignificant town of Napanee, Ontario, on the world map (even though she was actually born on September 27, 1984 in an even lesser-known Canadian town called Belleville). Avril Lavigne’s name sounds French for a reason: her father, John, is French-born, while her mother, Judy, is a member of southeastern Canada’s Franco-Ontarian community. Curiously, in spite of her name, her roots and her home country’s status as a bilingual nation, Avril Lavigne herself does not speak French.

Avril Lavigne exploded onto the music scene at the age of seventeen, with her smash 2002 release Let Go. This may seem like a young age to make a musical debut, but Avril Lavigne’s musical savvy was actually spotted when she was much younger: Avril Lavigne was merely two years old when she first wowed her mother by singing along to a cassette of church songs.

Avril Lavigne’s big break came in 1998, thanks to another Canadian music icon: Shania Twain. Avril Lavigne won a contest to sing with this beautiful and talented country music singer on her first major tour. Appropriately, these two future music sensations performed side-by-side in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa in a duet of What Made You Say That?

This performance led to several others, including a significant one at a bookstore in Canada’s Loyalist haven, Kingston, Ontario. Soon, Avril Lavigne was singing on the albums of local folk legend Steve Medd. Avril Lavigne then received a very sweet sixteenth birthday present courtesty of Ken Krongrard of Arista Records: a contract to finish her first album.

Let Go was an instant success. It was released in June 2002 in the United States, where it eventually climbed to number two. Let Go fared even better in Canada, Australia and the U.K., hitting number one in all three countries. Avril Lavigne’s Let Go set all kinds of records: best-selling debut album of 2002; best-selling album by a female in 2002; 4 times platinum within six months of its release. That year alone, Let Go sold a whopping 13 million copies. And, with such profound lyrics, it was no wonder. Her first single, Complicated, offered a harsh critique of the hypocrisy prominent in modern-day teenage interaction; her second single, Sk8er Boi, told the bittersweet tale of a teenage suburban princess shunning the advances of the neighborhood bad boy, which eventually works in Avril Lavigne’s favor. “Haven’t you heard,” Avril Lavigne coyly asks her rival, “how we rock each other’s worlds?”

Her second CD, Under My Skin, was released in 2004 and debuted at number one not only all over the English-speaking world, but in several Asian and Latin American countries as well. Under My Skin spawned five hit singles, including the tongue-in-cheek My Happy Ending, which describes a relationship gone wrong. Under My Skin earned Avril Lavigne a wide range of coveted awards, ranging from Best Pop/Rock Artist at the 2004 World Music Awards to Favorite Female Singer at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. In 2006, she received another international honor: representing Canada at the winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

2007 saw the release of Avril Lavigne’s third album, The Best Damn Thing. The video for the album’s second single, Girlfriend, gave Avril Lavigne a forum in which to display her acting ability: Avril Lavigne plays TWO characters, herself and the villainous, nerdy girlfriend to which the song is dedicated. The video climaxes in a fight between the two, which the rocker Avril wins.

But Avril Lavigne is more than just a talented artist and an icon of Canadian culture. She also is—or, was—a fashion trendsetter. She was first as famous for her music as she was for her habit of wearing neckties in music videos, concerts and public appearances. Neckties became her trademark: she wore them in music videos, concerts and public appearances. Fans mailed neckties to her, and even showed up to her concerts wearing them. Avril Lavigne kicked the necktie habit in 2003, when a prominent industry watcher suggested that she was MORE famous for her fashion trends than her music. Avril Lavigne is famous for her firm principles, including distaste for anything trendy or commercial, and the departure from neckties proved her point in a public and dramatic way.

As we mentioned earlier, Avril Lavigne is also the subject of much controversy. One long-standing and particularly heated debate surrounding Avril Lavigne was the question: Is Avril Lavigne punk? Even the most diehard fans have to admit that Avril Lavigne herself is responsible for the confusion. When she first appeared in 2002, she certainly dressed like a punk, and then she described herself in an interview as “as punky as they come.” Then she contradicted herself in later interviews, asserting, “I’m not punk.” The debate has calmed down. A few music critics still try to champion the obvious similarity between Avril Lavigne’s music and the early works of Sid Vicious, but the general consensus seem to be that Avril Lavigne’s music fits more comfortably into the genre of pop rock.

Another question posed by critics was: is Avril Lavigne really angry? Skeptics simply couldn’t believe that a small-town girl who was basically handed a music career at the age of sixteen could possess so much rage. True Avril Lavigne fans rejoiced, however, when Avril Lavigne’s public temper tantrums proved naysayers wrong time and time again. One famous incident saw Avril Lavigne exiting a club and getting hounded by paparazzi and fans. She obligingly gave the fans autographs (and a few choice profanities), then got in a car, rolled down the window and spit on a paparazzi camera. Later, she gave a flimsy public apology—not that her fans expected one!

Question number three: is Avril Lavigne a slut? This question first emerged when Avril Lavigne’s pants hung lower than necessary at a 2003 awards show in Toronto. The debate heated up at the 2004 version of the same show, when one of Canada’s leading music critics, Ed the Sock, asked Avril Lavigne if her pants were firmly fastened that year. Avril Lavigne said that they were—or were they? She proceeded to treat the camera to a viewing of her entire bare rear. She repeated this stunt onstage after being presented an award at that same show.

This rumor may just be a testament to the narrow-mindedness of the North American public, who repeatedly confuse a healthy attitude towards sexuality and nudity with promiscuity. Supporters of Avril Lavigne have gone so far as to hail her public pant-dropping as a wonderful feminist statement and an inspiration to young women everywhere of the importance of appreciating one’s own body. Indeed, in spite of the efforts of celebrity gossip websites everywhere, no one has produced any evidence of Avril Lavigne’s promiscuity. In fact, there has been ample evidence to the contrary. Avril Lavigne is currently one-half of a very loving and faithful marriage, the other half being Deryck Whibley, guitarist and lead vocalist for another Canadian music legend, pop punk band Sum 41. The two reportedly live together happily in a giant house in Bel-Air, California—the same mansion used in the hit MTV series Meet the Barkers. Anyone needing further proof as to how Avril Lavigne’s Roman Catholic upbringing has influenced her attitude towards fidelity need look no further than the lyrics of the first single off her sophomore release, Under My Skin, entitled Don’t Tell Me: “Did I not tell you that I'm not like that girl? The one who gives it all away, yeah.” In this smash single, Avril Lavigne is showing her displeasure with a boy who tries to coerce her into sexual relations, and letting him know that she won’t be pressured: “Don't try to tell me what to do, Dont try to tell me what to say.” The video featured Avril Lavigne kicking the predator in question out of her apartment, earning Avril Lavigne appreciative nods from feminist organizations worldwide.

The truth behind her public nudity may be quite simple: Avril Lavigne likes to cause a stir. In this respect, Deryck Whibley appears to be her perfect match: the two staged a fake public marriage proposal in front of paparazzi in 2004 before marrying for real in 2006.

The Avril Lavigne question currently puzzling fans is: does Avril Lavigne hate Britney Spears? Avril Lavigne’s fans certainly seem to; part of Avril Lavigne’s success stems from her filling of a desperate need for a voice among young women who felt that Britney Spears did not adequately represent their issues. Shortly after Avril Lavigne’s 2002 debut, she publicly chastised Britney Spears for “dancing like a ho” and “wearing a bra on the street.”  Avril Lavigne, who was then at the height of her tie-wearing phase, claimed that she herself wore the “clothes she wears to school.” After a few years of silence, Avril Lavigne’s dislike for Britney Spears resurfaced when she publicly criticized Britney Spears’ tendency to crack under media pressure, her inability to hold her alcohol, and her failure to keep her private life private. Around this time, fans also gained insight into one of the seemingly infallible Avril Lavigne’s unresolved family traumas: Avril Lavigne’s mother once forcefully took her to a Britney Spears concert years ago. Lavigne’s relationship with her mother has yet to fully mend.  It’s comforting to know that even pop icons have scars.