It’s hard to believe, but it has now been 20 years since Avril Lavigne’s debut album Let Go was released. Yes, that’s right. Two full decades have passed between when the masses got to pick up a copy of the young singer-songwriter’s first project and today.
That’s both incredibly hard for some of us to hear (as we remember when it was new), but it’s also a reason to celebrate and look back at the excellent body of work and the impact it’s had on pop culture and the music industry.
In fact, this is the perfect time to reexamine the power and the popularity of Let Go, as it is not only continuing to inspire musicians today, it has almost become a sonic blueprint for a number of rising acts still finding their way to stardom.
By the time Let Go arrived on June 4, 2002, only one song had been released from the project, but that was enough to introduce the then-unknown Lavigne to the world. “Complicated” was promoted as a single a few months prior to the CD arriving, and it turned out to not only be the best option to help her gain traction, but a proper smash.
The bratty tune rose all the way to No. 2 on the Hot 100, and it would turn out to be one of several top 10 blockbusters from the full-length.
Lavigne continued to promote Let Go for well over a year, charting four hit singles from the album. After “Complicated,” she scored a second consecutive smash with “Sk8r Boi,” which also enjoyed a long, satisfying run on the Hot 100, skating to No. 10.
It was followed quickly by third single “I’m with You,” which made it to No. 4, and which helped prove that Lavigne wasn’t some one-hit wonder, but rather a new powerhouse hitmaker that needed to be reckoned with.
Throughout her time as a star, Lavigne has been nominated for eight Grammys, and they were all connected to Let Go. It’s not often that an album is powerful enough to accrue that many chances to win, but it’s important to remember that the CD wasn’t just a commercial success, it was a revolutionary sound in the top 40 space, and that made it worthy of recognition.
Among Lavine’s nominations were two for Song of the Year (“Complicated” and “I’m with You” in back-to-back years, which is also rare), Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best New Artist. She didn’t take home any gold, but eight Grammy nods in two years cemented her status as a serious musician.
Let Go certainly wasn’t the first pop punk album, and Lavigne didn’t invent the genre, but she did help bring it to previously-unknown levels of popularity, thus changing the sound of top 40 forever. Her work (in addition to bands like Blink-182 and Green Day, among others) helped usher in an era that many who were of a certain age at the time remember fondly.
Without songs like “Complicated” and “Sk8r Boi,” the world might not have gotten a chance to meet Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, Simple Plan, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, and so many more.
20 years later, Let Go‘s influence can be heard everywhere. Pop-punk is back in a major way, and young musicians are scoring hit singles and selling albums filled with tunes that would have fit perfectly with Lavigne’s sound back at the turn of the millennium.
Machine Gun Kelly is perhaps the most popular pop-punk act at the moment, and his two No. 1 albums have been produced by Blink-182’s Travis Barker, who just happens to have worked on Lavigne’s comeback set Love Sux, released earlier this year.
Other artists, such as Willow Smith, Olivia Rodrigo, Tate McRae, Halsey, and countless others clearly listened to Lavigne growing up, as the music they’re making now reflects her style. Lavigne’s success as a woman in a genre almost entirely dominated by men was also boundary-breaking, and now it seems like female stars are more prominent in the sound than ever before.
Let Go may have been released 20 years ago, but thanks to Levigne’s continuing legacy and the cyclical nature of the music industry and tastes in general, it still feels current and important now.
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