“Oh, f**k, not another Elf!” Hugo Dyson on Lord of the Rings.
By Sam Graham
I was fifteen when this album came out, and I remember it vividly.
Canadian-born Avril Lavigne released this, her debut album, Let Go, on June 4th, 2002, a month after its first single, Complicated oversaturated the world. My maths skills aren’t exactly legendary, but I’m assuming that at the time of release, Miss Lavigne was only seventeen. A crowning achievement for one so young, especially seeing as at the time she’d already supported such established acts as Shania Twain.
Let Go is about to hit its tenth birthday, so without further stalling, let’s go.
And yes, I feel a bit ashamed of that pun.
First of all, as a pre-warning, this album is lacquered with teenage angst, so expect a lot of songs about feeling mistreated and getting dumped. The opening song (and last single release), Losing Grip is just that. Its slow and melancholic intro leads into a chorus which is surprisingly catchy. Maybe it’s just better than the verse. It’s Avril’s voice that carries it as the rest of the band (the credits for this album are very extensive, so frankly when there’s three drummers and four guitarists, I have no idea who did what) basically play some chords. It’s not as cringe-worthy as I thought it’d be, and while the lyrics may be a bit cheesy and laughable, it’s an OK song. If it came on the radio I wouldn’t dive out of the shower just to turn it off. It’s a short song that pretty much just repeats itself, then before you know it, Losing Grip is over.
Here we go then, Complicated. The first and arguably most popular single of Avril Lavigne’s career. Everyone in the western world knows this song, from young to old, and there are people in all groups that like it. Of course there are people in all those groups that hate it too. At the time it was hideously overplayed, so much so it alienated the potential fanbase, because they were so damn sick of hearing it.
Hearing it now, the song’s kind of nostalgic, nice and mellow, and makes me realise that Avril Lavigne is actually a good singer. The song is about- you guessed it- a boy, and how he’s such a different guy around his friends than when he’s with her. Of course she never pondered on the thought that maybe he’s just a douche that was acting all charming and such with her, just to get into her. She needs to ask herself which one’s really the character. Life-lessons aside, this song is OK to hear a decade on. It’s a bit cheesy, and I still can’t stand the video of them being public nuisances, but I can see how it was so popular back in the nu-metal days.
“He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?” Words that are seared onto my soul. This song, the second single, is the poorly spelled Sk8er Boi. A pop-punk song about a skater who got turned down by the preppy chick, then proceeded to make her jealous years later when she’d had kids and her ass got fat and she saw him “Rocking up MTV” even though it’s been years since MTV actually played any music. This song is painfully happy. I’m not a big fan of pop-punk, so maybe that’s why I cringe at this song. The message of this song is a joke, and the music is cliché. Any time Avril isn’t singing there’s just octave chords. Nothing really that stands out about it. I assume you all remember the video, Miss Lavigne and her posse performing on the top of cars or something, being all hardcore, etcetera.
By far the worst part of Sk8er Boi is the backing vocals in the last chorus. While Avril sings about her teenage ‘boarder fantasy dream-hunk, there’s a high-pitched chorus of “Yeah yeah yeah” behind it. You’ll have to listen close, but once you do hear it, you’ll wish you hadn’t.
Next comes the ballad-y one. As I’ve always said, every album has one. This song is about a girl who is too thick to just walk home. She’s waiting under the bridge for some young dude to give her a lift home, or something, and she’s having an existential crisis all the while talking to strangers and believing she’s “with them”? Maybe I’m being too literal, but that’s what I gathered from I’m With You. The music is nice, warm, mellowing, but not the moving Jim Steinman-esque epic I think they were hoping it would be. Towards the end of the song Avril belts out some high-notes, further cementing her vocal talents before dropping back to the same kind of tone the introduction had. The cello in the intro is quite nice and straight off the back of Sk8er Boi, it’s a welcomed change. More of the album should have been like this, because her kind of voice lends to this music well.
The more upbeat Mobile comes next and has a similar kind of feel to the Travis album The Invisible Band (2001). I don’t mind this song. I didn’t mind it then, I don’t mind it now. The drums are definitely pop-punk, but the guitar and vocals have that element of Britpop that I go for. As far as I can tell the song is about how life changes as you grow up. It’s an important lesson to learn, and one that is often learned the hard way, but best not learned too early on in life. The lyrical pattern is interesting, a little bit staccato in the verses but her usual singing style in the chorus. It seems that towards the end she must have run out of ideas as there’s a spot of la la la’s that draws the song to a close. This is the first song on the album that wasn’t a single and I do wonder why, because so far it’s the best on the album.
Unwanted comes next and after some weird keyboard sounds comes some elongated vocals in the verses. The chorus is what sells this song. It’s got some pretty angry sounding chords in there with some equally angry sounding lyrics. Everything about this song sounds pissed-off. Like with Mobile, this is a good direction for her music to have taken. The softness in her voice juxtaposes the harshness of the music and makes something quite interesting.
Tomorrow follows Unwanted and is more like I’m With You for its mellowness. Like Unwanted, it shows a more mature side, unlike Sk8er Boi which was frankly, a joke that somebody couldn’t tell right. This song is optimistic in the way that it reiterates that tomorrow could be a better day. It’s a good thing to tell yourself if you’ve had a naff day and it’s that hopefulness that shines through. The music itself is like anything you’d hear at an open mic night. It’s slow, acoustic guitar-led with those trailing off notes in the chorus’. While the music is quite blasé, and so is the message frankly, it’s always nice to hear some optimism.
Anything but Ordinary begins with some more Britpop-styled guitar before becoming an acoustic pop song. It’s upbeat, made that way by the drums and the chorus mostly. The vocals in the chorus are the most dynamic on the album, with high notes that go seamlessly to lows, then back to mid-range. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume this was before everything was autotuned, so the ability to actually do that is quite impressive. The backing vocals in the second pre-chorus give it that element of seriousness and the point of this song is something that I do agree with. Who wants to be ordinary? I’m not saying go out of your way to be ‘alternative’, because that’s just conforming to non-conformity, which is a silly ideology to me, but just do your own thing. Do what makes you happy, not what makes others happy. The Britpop elements are prevalent in bursts in this song, from the aforementioned introduction, there’s a couple of hints in the middle, and definitely at the end. For me, this song is almost as good as Mobile, because it doesn’t try too hard in one way or another, like I feel all the single releases did.
The next song, entitled These Things I’ll Never Say reminds me of my friend Jim, because he used to rip the piss out of the intro to this song. It’s a silly song. After a few chords, Miss Lavigne does some da da da’s that always makes me chuckle, but not in the way the label wanted me to. Compared to the previous few songs, this one is pretty childish in both the music and lyrics. It’s about a boy and how much she misses him and the majority of the lyrics are about the thing’s she’ll never say. Basically she’s promising not to become a control-freak. The feel of this song is quite happy, and matches Anything But Ordinary quite well.
My World sounds like something that B*witched would have done, in all respects. And I think that’s all I need to say about that.
Nobody’s Fool features Miss Lavigne trying to rap. Now, I’m not against rap as an art form; in fact, if it’s good I’ll embrace it with open arms. Avril Lavigne however, cannot rap. She can’t. She just can’t. The chorus’ to this song are its only saving grace as I like the way her voice drops in the opening words. After the motions have gone through, she wails a bit, then the song ends.
We’re up to the penultimate song now. Are you still with me? I hope so; please don’t let these words be in vain! Too Much to Ask is the second-last tune and sounds a bit like old Kelly Clarkson. It reeks of ‘major record label’ influence, but then again so did Miss Clarkson in the beginning. As it’s a debut it can be forgiven, after all they are fronting the bread for its release. There’s been a fair share of these open-mic-esque tunes on Let Go and in comparison, this one is quite bland. Nothing in it really stands out to me and I’m assuming that like much of the album, this song only had an audience of one: that one guy in high school who prompted her to write all these songs.
Naked closes the album on an upward note. The song is about putting on a pretty face just to appease your peers at first, then meeting that ‘one special guy’ who just smashes right through your wall of apathy. It’s got a lot of heart and is a much better song that Too Much to Ask by a long way. It’s a teenage love song, what more can be said?
And that closes Let Go.
I must admit, I was dreading this review. I heard this album years ago, but not since, and so I was expecting it to be much more cringy. Some songs on it though, were just as bad as I was expecting. While the music is pretty formulaic, remember that a lot of these are ballads, and they usually are. Some of the lyrics are a bit naïve and childish, but the album wears its heart on its sleeve. What happened to Avril Lavigne’s career further down the line is anybody’s guess.
Has it stood the test of time?
Well the answer to that blends in with what her music became after this album. In two words, she became ‘the industry’. In 2002 she said she didn’t want to ‘”sell sex”, but the video to her 2011, autotuned release, What the Hell, begins with her fiddling around a bunch of product placements in her undies. Judging from the YouTube comments, they seemed to like it, but the artistic integrity was compromised. Of course that was already shattered on February 27th, 2007 when the incredibly teeny-bopper, Girlfriend was released. It was pop-tastic and shied away from the honest acoustic songs that made her popular on this album. Instead she became a bit up herself. Girlfriend was way too ‘cheerleader’ for my liking.
One gripe I have about this album is that I don’t care at all for whatever young stud she allowed to emotionally destroy her, just because he was in his final year or something, and was old enough to borrow his dad’s beamer, but I hope it went down somewhat like the last half of Carrie (1976).
Now, pushing thirty, Miss Lavigne and her boring, lifeless hair, are still catering to the teeny-bopper market, but apparently doesn’t consider herself to be a corporate shill. While people cringe at the memory of this album (and many people actually wished me good luck when they heard I was going to give it its due), Let Go is still her most popular release and in the eyes of musical integrity, it has stood the test of time, but only because she became such a sell-out.
Devil-Horn Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \n
Tiny Violin Rating (Out of Five): \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/