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The impact of Avril Lavigne’s debut album “Let Go” on modern music

A graphic representing Avril Lavigne and pop-punk elements of her debut album “Let Go.” Lavigne’s timeless messages of authenticity will continue to shape generations of artists to come. ILLUSTRATED BY JERRY WEINTRAUB/THE STATESMAN

From baggy clothes to skate shoes, Avril Lavigne’s debut album “Let Go” (2002) remains as timeless as ever with the recent resurgence of 2000s culture and pop-punk music. As the aesthetic regains popularity, Lavigne’s signature look also resurfaces, highlighting her enduring impact on our societal culture.

With electrifying energy coursing through every track and a magnetic pull that keeps listeners coming back for more, “Let Go” continues to profoundly influence modern music, inspiring a new wave of artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish. Whether it be through headphones or scrolling through social media, “Let Go” proves to audiences that authenticity never fades.

Lavigne’s seventh studio album “Love Sux” (2022) further cemented her status as a pop-punk princess. “Let Go” is more than just another debut album — it continues to shape the musical landscape two decades after its release, with several of its tracks going viral on TikTok. Beyond catapulting Lavigne to stardom, the album was a breath of fresh air in an era dominated by bubblegum pop artists and teen boy bands including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and NSYNC. It introduced the world to Lavigne’s blend of pop-punk, alternative rock and teen pop, establishing her as an icon for her unapologetic attitude and teenage empowerment.

From the moment the resounding electric guitar chord emerged in “Complicated,” it became clear that Lavigne was poised to shake up the music scene. The song’s infectious melodies and relatable lyrics about being honest with oneself rather than “putting on a face” struck a chord with audiences, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and selling 1.1 million copies in the United States.

Lavigne’s debut album became her best-selling album to date, earning recognition as the 21st best-selling album of the decade by Billboard. The album dominated the airwaves and solidified Lavigne’s place in the industry for years to come, reshaping the sound of popular music of the time and paving the way for its continued popularity in the 2020s.

“Let Go” encourages individuality and celebrates it, making it an anthem for Generation Z. The album’s themes of self-expression, resilience and empowerment resonate with audiences regardless of age, providing some comfort in a chaotic and uncertain world.

Lavigne’s image during the height of “Let Go” resonated with a generation of young people navigating adolescence. Embodying a sense of teenage angst and rebellion at the time, Lavigne was known for her tomboyish style, which often featured her necktie-and-tank-top combinations with baggy clothes, skater shoes and wristbands. In 2008, she launched the clothing line called Abbey Dawn after releasing her third studio album, “The Best Damn Thing” (2007), designing back-to-school clothes and jewelry. Her candid lyrics and punk-inspired fashion spoke to listeners’ individuality and defiance in the world.

Today, with the revival of the pop-punk aesthetic, elements of Lavigne’s iconic look — ranging from gothic grunge to skater-girl vibes — have returned to the mainstream, cementing her ongoing influence on modern fashion.

But how did the pop-punk genre rise to prominence? While punk rock band Bad Religion helped lay the groundwork for the pop-punk style that emerged in the 1990s, bands such as Green Day, Nirvana and Blink-182 paved the way for the genre’s mainstream success, influencing subsequent pop-punk bands and artists of the mid-1990s and 2000s.

With “Let Go,” Lavigne helped propel pop-punk into the mainstream, eventually releasing “Love Sux.” Lavigne mentioned being inspired by the sounds that shaped her early music career, which included Green Day and Blink-182.

Listeners are drawn to unapologetic, contemporary pop-punk artists and bands like Machine Gun Kelly, YUNGBLUD and All Time Low. A Kerrang! article credited Machine Gun Kelly and YUNGBLUD as bringing the genre back to mainstream attention.

The lasting legacy of “Let Go” extends beyond the early 2000s era of music, with Lavigne leaving an impression on a new wave of artists breaking into the pop-punk scene. “Let Go” contributed to the rise of female-fronted pop-punk bands and punk-influenced pop music led by women, including Rodrigo and Maggie Lindemann. Rodrigo’s 2021 pop-punk song “good 4 u” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard U.K. singles chart, with the pop-punk sound further heightened by her sophomore album “GUTS” (2023). Matthew Kim from The Line of Best Fit noticed the influence of pop-punk and garage-pop revival in Rodrigo’s album.

What does the future of music look like for the 2020s and even after? Especially with this resurgence of pop-punk music, which is described now as “TikTokcore,” the influence of Lavigne’s 2002 album “Let Go” shows she continues to inspire countless artists. Whether it’s through raw emotional ballads like “I’m with You” or the infectious punk vibes of “Sk8er Boi,” Lavigne’s timeless messages of authenticity and empowerment will continue shaping generations of artists to come.

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About the Contributor
Clare Gehlich
Clare Gehlich, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor
Clare is the Assistant Arts and Culture Editor for The Statesman and a senior journalism major with a minor in political science. Since transferring to Stony Brook University in 2022, she has written for both Herald Community Newspapers and WSHU Public Radio.
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