Long before Canada “graced” us with the pop sensation that is Justin Bieber, we got Avril Lavigne and her debut album Let Go, which was a big hit when it was released back in 2002.
Now, whether you like the artist or not, that particular album’s success was unavoidable back in the day. Several singles were released from it and many songs lured their way into many movies which came out around the same time from Wimbledon to The Medallion, Just Married (all timeless classics, I’m sure you’ve noticed) and more than one episode of Smallville, of course.
Having not listened to anything Lavigne has released since this particular album, except for that kinda annoying Alice In Wonderland song of hers, I thought I’d go back and set the record straight about Let Go: was it deserving of its success or just as irritating as many of us remember it to be?
“Losing Grip” is the opening song and, surprisingly, it’s somewhat entertaining and sufficiently rebellious (in a decidedly emo kind of way) to warrant a listen if you’re into that type of thing, though it stagnates a tad. It is followed by popular hit “Complicated” and, indeed, it sounds just as manufactured, whiny and annoyingly catchy as it always did. It’s basic teen pop fare but it does have an adorably naive charm to it. Besides, it prompted one of my favourite Weird Al Yankovic outings! Listening to the song now, what mostly stands out is its rather weird rhyming. Somehow Lavigne manages to rhyme “unannounced” with “somethin’ else” and “back” with “relax”…
I guess that’s an achievement in itself!
Another memorable single from the album is “Sk8er Boi”, which is just as obnoxious as its stupidly spelt title suggests. The song tells a story, a thoroughly petty story about some girl jealously and bitterly boasting about getting together with some guy. It’s completely juvenile and about a thousand times tamer than it thinks it is but hell, it’s catchy so it did ridiculously well at the time. As did ballad “I’m With You”, which may be corny as hell, whiny as hell and repetitive but which still works as a guilty pleasure. It’s got an admittedly nice melody and, although its lyrics come off as needy and weak, it’s cute enough to pull it off.
You’ve got a few acoustic efforts on the album, there to show Lavigne’s versatility and show off her singing chops, of course. One of them is “Mobile”, which opens kinda like “Sweet Home Alabama” and has a similar rhythm to it. Its verses aren’t too bad but that chorus really has no real lead up to it and it feels tacked-on, like it doesn’t belong to that specific song somehow. Another acoustic track is ballad “Tomorrow” which, apart from having pretty enough verses, mostly sounds like a soporific effort from The Corrs but much less vibrant.
“Unwanted” is the sixth song on the album and arguably has the best chorus of the bunch in that it could almost pass for rock. Of course the song needed to be less over-produced, much heavier and needed more anger than angst but, as a whole, it’s not too bad. It’s really in the second half of the album that we get some instantly forgettable tracks and some just plain not-very-good ones. “Things I’ll Never Say” is relatively inoffensive and has a nice enough melody but it’s a light, purely poppy effort. As for its follow-up “My World”, it tells another uninteresting story, this time about growing up in a small town. It’s whiny, juvenile and altogether lacks bite.
But that’s nothing compared to the eleventh track, “Nobody’s Fool”, where Lavigne attempts a rap. The delivery is expectedly clunky, the song’s subject is too tame and the lyrics are frankly awful. An inventive beat just about saves this one from being completely unlistenable. Speaking of tame subjects, the next song, “Too Much To Ask”, is yet another “I’m lonely” song where Lavigne complains that someone didn’t call her when they said they would. Well boo-friggin’-hoo! It’s altogether forgettable.
Finally, we have “Anything But Ordinary” and “Naked”, which closes the album. The former is a solid, if simplistic, pop track with a catchy chorus. It’s, again, emo-friendly, but it works and is, at least, memorable. “Naked” is also a more melancholic, moodier pop tune. It starts off being rather effective but suffers, like many songs on the album, from an anti-climactic chorus.
Let Go is an uneven album to say the least, parts of it are cheesy, blatantly commercial and completely forgettable while other parts of it are devilishly catchy and decent enough, for that genre, of course. It definitely doesn’t deserve all the praise it received, going straight to number 1 in some countries, receiving nominations at the Grammys and even winning several awards.
That said, I don’t… hate it.
Sure it’s irritating and weak here and there but, as a whole, you can kinda tell why it did so well. Lavigne making harmless, easily hummable, mostly fun songs with lyrics teens can relate to. I think the album could have done minus at least three of its songs and would have appealed to more people had its songs told more involving stories and had its lyrics and choruses been less naive but, as it stands, it’s very much of its time and designed for a particular audience.
For what it is, it works and, as far as teen pop is concerned, I’ve heard far, FAR worse.
That’s 3 Sk8er Bois out of 5 for Avril Lavigne’s opus.