Canada’s pop princess of the new millennium, Avril Lavigne was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1984, but grew up in a musical family in nearby Napanee. She was singing singing church songs with her mother before she was in school, and often used music and writing as escapes from the problems she was having in the classroom.
She grew up in practically every open mic karaoke and festival the area had to offer. And after winning a radio contest in 1999, she shared the stage with Shania Twain in Ottawa at the Corel Centre, singing her hit “What Made You Say That?” Later that year, singer/producer Stephen Medd spotted her while she was performing with the Lennox Community Theatre, leading to her singing backup on three songs over his next two albums.
One night in 1999 manager Cliff Fabri was out Christmas shopping, when he spotted her singing and playing guitar at a Chapter’s outlet in Kingston. He became her first manager, and his first order of business was to send out VHS tapes of her home performances and karakoke recordings to other industry insiders. This led to her meeting Nettwerk Records co-founder Mark Jowett. Taking an interest, he flew her to New York to work with producer Peter Zitto, which in turn led to an audition in front of Arista’s president Antonio Reid, signing her to a two-album deal worth over $2 million while she was still 15.
She ended up dropping out of school to pursue her music dreams, and was flown back and forth to New York to work with production teams for the better part of a year. But it was only when Lavigne then went to Los Angeles in the spring of ’01 and wrote and re-recorded new material with different production teams, including “Complicated,” that Arista execs felt she’d made any sort of major breakthrough.
Recording finished in January of ’02, and her debut album, LET GO, was unleashed on the world that spring. It instantly catapulted her into superstardom, eventually selling 16 million copies worldwide, and made her the youngest female solo artist ever to reach #1 in the UK. Like the album, “Complicated” peaked at #1 on the singles chart at home, and either topped the charts or hovered around the summit in most markets around the world. Adding to the hysteria was the song was also featured in an episode of “Dawson’s Creek,” one of Canada’s hottest TV shows and few exports south of the border at time.
The follow-up singles “Sk8er Boi” and “I’m With You” both topped the chart in Canada and reached the top ten in the US, Australia, and the UK. This made her the second artist in history to have three #1 songs from a debut album on Billboard’s list. Avril was a natural video asset, and the music videos for all three singles got heavy rotation everywhere. While also making a cameo appearance in the music video for Treble Charger’s “Hundred Million,” she also showed up on the MTV Music Awards’ tribute to Metallica, performing “Fuel” and in the video game “The Sims: Superstar” as a non-playable character celebrity by-stander.
In April 2003, less than a month after posing for the front cover of an upcoming issue of “Rolling Stone,” she won four Juno Awards out of six nominations, picked up some more paperweights from the MTV Video Music Awards, British Music Awards, World Music Awards, and was nominated for eight Grammys.
While working on a follow-up album, she began writing with Chantal Kreviazuk, but got sidetracked when approached by the producers of the movie “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” and wrote the song “Breakaway with Matthew Gerard for Kelly Clarkson. That song also later aeppeared on Clarkson’s second album, taking her to the top 20. Later that year, she wrote and recorded the theme song to “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.”
Her follow-up album came in 2004 in the form of UNDER MY SKIN, co-produced by Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida (also Kreviazuk’s husband). It debuted at #1 in Canada, the US, Japan, the UK, Mexico, and Australia, on its way to selling 10 million copies later. To promote the album, Lavigne went on a limited engagement tour throughout North America that featured a 30-minute stripped down acoustic set, preceding a regular full-blown concert. By the end of ’05, she’d been on the road for the better part of a year and a half over a 140-show tour with Simple Plan and Butch Walker. The show at Tokyo’s Budokan Stadium was used for the DVD, Live at Budokan: Bonez Tour, a Japan-only product.
While touring the planet’s four corners, “Don’t Tell Me” found its way into the top five in Canada, the US, and the UK, the top ten in Australia and Brazil, and #1 in Argentina and Mexico. “My Happy Ending,” “Nobody’s Home,” and “He Wasn’t” followed it into the charts across the globe, making her the top selling female artist for the second straight time.
For her efforts, she spent the spring of 2005 collecting more trophies – winning at the ceremonies for the Junos (three of them, including single of the year for “Don’t Tell Me”), the World Music Awards, and was nominated in every music video award program and even the 18th annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award.
In February 2006, Lavigne performed onstage during the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Torino, Italy, singing “Who Knows.” A couple months after she’d finished the touring season, she began working on her next album, when Fox Entertainment approached her to write a song for the soundtrack to the fantasy/adventure film, “Eragon,” culminating in the song, “Keep Holding On.”
But lawsuits started to file in from more than one artist, claiming this song or that song was plaguerized from something someone else did, and she settled out of court once and two other disputes were settled out of court. By now Avril Lavigne’s personal life was also all over the supermarket aisle rags, practically from the day her first album was released. And in July ’06 her much-publicized two-year romance to Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley was written in wedding vows.
She returned to the studio and switched to RCA, releasing THE BAST DAMN THING in the spring of ’07, which eventually sold 6 million copies and debuted at #1 on Billboard, the same week the lead single “Girlfriend” topped the chart. It also peaked at #1 in Canada, Japan, Australia, and Italy, and reached #2 in the UK and France, while making the top 10 in the US. Part of the appeal of the single was the fact it was recorded om Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Mandarin, and Japanese, and became the most downloaded song that year, selling over seven million copies total. With the single, she became the first Canadian female artist to ever top the albums chart both sides of the Canada/US border four times in a row. the album had a more widespread appeal than before, proving to the critics she could grow with her audience.
More gold and platinum singles followed, with “When You’re Gone, which hit the top 10 in Canada, the UK, Australia, and Italy, and hovered around the top 20 in the US. But the next run at the charts was disappointing to say the least. Although “Hot” made the top 10 at home, and squeeked into the top 20 in Australia, it didn’t break the top 40 in any of her other usual hot spot markets.
That didn’t stop her from launching a world tour in March of 2008 though, which was marked with headlines of a different sort. That August, her scheduled show in Kuala Lumpur was almost banned because the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the official opposition, deemed her immoral, considering the show was scheduled for two days prior to the country’s Independence Day ceremonies. The show went ahead without incident, as did the rest of the tour.
Barely a month after parking the tour bus, Lavigne began playing around in her new home studio with some ideas she’d written on the road. But with her on the road for over a year again, along with her outside interests like trying to launch new business ideas that included public endorsements for acne medication, and Whibley concentrating on his own career with Sum 41, their marriage lasted barely three years. The breakup was more amicable than most though, in entertainment or otherwise, and he went on to produce her next album.
She recorded the song “Alice” for the Tim Burton movie “Alice In Wonderland, and then performed at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and continued to write and re-write, eventually winding up with enough material for a double album – an idea she’d toyed with but was scrapped by the suits at RCA. Her next album, GOODBYE LULLABY had actually been delayed for nearly a year thanks to what Lavigne blamed on problems at the label, but was finally released in March 2011. And although several of the songs were actually based on things she’d scribbled down in her youth (she was 27 now), critics instantly heralded it as her most personal, and because of actually ‘growing up’ – her most palatable to the ‘over 20 and out of the acne phase’ club.
The punky pop kid was now considered the new bona-fide Alanis Morissette, and the album debuted inside the top five in over 15 countries, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Czech Republic. It churned out the hit singles “What The Hell?” (premiered earlier during “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”) which went to the top 5 in Canada and the US and the top 30 in several other markets, “Smile” (chosen by her fans), and “Wish You Were Here.” Shortly after the album’s release, she set out on another world tour that took her to virtually all four corners for the better part of a year.
Aside from her music career, Avril Lavigne has also branched out into feature films and other pursuits, as well. She’s played herself twice on the little screen – on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Going The Distance,” and has also done her share of reality TV, appearing in several MuchMusic, MTV and Euro video channels specials and features, as well as been a judge on “American Idol” and a mentor on “Majors & Minors.” She made her big screen debut in ’06 – as a high school activist in “Fast Food Nation” and the voice of Heather in the animated film “Over The Hedge.” A year later she also had a bit part in the direct-to-video “The Flock.”
Along with her own clothing line and a pair of perfumes, she also tried her hand at the book business in 2007, collaborating on a two-volume manga based graphic novel called “Avril Lavigne’s Make 5 Wishes.” In it, a shy girl named Hana meets her heroine (Avril, of course), and learns to overcome her fears. Everyone lives happily everafter in the story, and several literary circles praised the work and even put it up for several awards in both the manga and teen literary categories.