by Drew Boehmker/@IfUSeekDrew
He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?”
If you know this lyric (or even the line or 20 that follows it), don’t be embarrassed—it just means that you were likely an adolescent in the early 2000s.
That’s right, for this week’s #ThrowbackAlbum I’ll be tackling Let Go, the debut album by pop punk princess Avril Lavigne. First released in the summer of 2002, Let Go went on to become the #1 pop debut of the year, selling over 100,000 copies every single week through the end of the 2002 (no small feat when you consider that even recent mega-hits like BEYONCÉ have taken months to sell that amount). Altogether, this album has sold nearly 7 million copies … that’s pretty insane if you ask me.
Based on that fact, there’s a pretty good chance you owned a copy of this album at some point in your life (or had a majority of it downloaded from KaZaA), so I figured this album would be a perfect candidate to review to see if it’s worth getting out of that closet at your parents’ house—or whether it should stay there forever.
One of the things that immediately hit me as soon as I put the album on is just how connected to that awkward phase of adolescence it is. The first track, “Losing Grip,” is trademark angsty Avril in full force (“WHYYYY SHOULD I CARE?”) with a hint of the heavier sound of her later albums.
After that comes the string of hit singles that pushed the album into the stratosphere and made Avril a superstar, “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi.” There’s no doubt you heard those songs a thousand times on the radio circa 2002 (whether you wanted to or not), and there’s little chance that I will be able to change your opinion on them—you either love them or can’t stand them. I will, however, state for the record that I’ve still never completely gotten over how Avril pronounces the word “pose” in “Complicated” (“when you strike yourpyose”).
Following that comes “I’m with You,” which for me is the absolute highlight of the album—and likely of Avril’s career as a whole. Yes, listening to it now thirteen years later it becomes immediately apparent that the lyrics don’t hold quite the kind of deep, insightful meaning our pre-teen selves thought they did, but the waltzy instrumentals of the song are still stellar and haunting. Plus, how can you listen to this song and not instantly be transported back into that world of awkward middle school slow dances?
Surprisingly, the rest of the album is a lot more fun and poppy than the singles might otherwise suggest. There are for sure some questionably cheesy lyrics in a lot of the deeper album cuts (“Things I’ll Never Say” and Avril’s pseudo-rapping in “Nobody’s Fool” come to mind), but there are definitely some hidden gems here.
“Tomorrow,” which you may already be familiar with due to its inclusion in several television shows and movies circa 2003, is a slow jam with lyrics that hit this twenty-something right in the feels. “My World” is an upbeat, Michelle Branch-sounding anthem that is a little corny but undeniably catchy. And though I didn’t remember it hardly at all at first, the final track on the album “Naked” shows a more vulnerable Lavigne that I can definitely appreciate more now that I am older.
When all is said and done, Let Go is far from perfect. It’s got some serious musical mood swings that give it an inconsistent sound. Sometimes it’s annoyingly angsty. At others, it’s laughably poppy. In other words—it’s just like you probably were in middle school.
So go ahead and give it a listen … I guarantee you’ll be fighting the urge to sing along by the first chorus of “Sk8er Boi.”
Final Verdict (Classic or Clunker?): Classic
Essential Tracks to Check Out: “I’m with You,” “Tomorrow,” “Naked,” “Sk8er Boi”