original. Unabashedly in your face. Avril Lavigne's 2002 debut
Let Go gave young women a defiant voice and set it to music they
could rock out to. Fourteen million albums and eight Grammy nominations
later, the Canadian chanteuse returns with Under My Skin but if
you're expecting a whole lot of the same, you've got another thing
coming. This is not a girl who rests on her laurels.
Under My Skin opens with the dramatic tracks "Take Me Away"
and "Together," which set the scene for the kick-ass
guitars and radio-ready chorus of "Don't Tell Me," a
song of willful female empowerment that picks up where "Complicated"
left off. From there it's a one-two punch of three-chord guitar
licks ("He Wasn't") and head-bopping optimism ("Who
Knows") alongside swirling, brooding melodies ("Freak
Out") and moody tracks ("Forgotten," "Nobody's
Home") that reveal a darker side of Avril Lavigne.
up so much in the past two years," admits the Napanee, Ontario,
native. "I've been through a lot, I've learned a lot, and
experienced a lot both good and bad. These songs are about all
of that, and each is very personal to me." Working with producers,
Butch Walker (of the Marvelous 3), Raine Maida (of Our Lady Peace),
Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Pearl Jam), Avril co-wrote the dozen
introspective songs on Under My Skin in near secrecy. "I'd
just come off my world tour and got back to Toronto and was writing
right away," the 19-year-old says. "I had no idea what
I was going to do. No one did. People wondered if I'd run out
of things to write about, but it was the opposite."
After a lunch
date with fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk
turned into a major chick-bonding session, Avril and Chantal sat
down to write. The chemistry was ineffable. "We got together
one night and all of a sudden we had a song," she says. "No
one knew what I was up to, not my management, not my label."
The duo got together the next night and wrote another song. "We
did that for two weeks and wrote 12 songs." Momentum took
over and by summer Avril was moving into Chantal and her husband
Raine Maida's Malibu house to record. "I was only off my
tour for a couple of weeks, and I was ready to record," Avril
air provided a needed escape from Avril's frantic life. "It
was a great time for me, living out there, being out of the public
eye, and having my independence. And my friendship with Chantal
evolved into one of the best I've ever had." Chantal and
Avril would spend all night in the studio perfecting the songs.
During the day, Avril learned the city by driving to and from
the studio and wherever she needed to be. No photos, no interviews,
no pressure. Eventually they recorded most of the songs in Raine's
studio, and those songs appear unaltered on Under My Skin. The
rest of the tracks, co-written with her guitarist Evan Taubenfeld
(and one track with former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody), were
cut just up the road. "I was involved in every aspect of
making this record. I'm very hands-on," she says. "I
knew how I wanted the drums, the guitar tones, and the structures
to be. I understand the whole process so much better this time
because I've been through it. I'm really picky with my sound."
out of her 12 hand-made babies is another matter. "They all
mean so much to me, but I love ‘Together,’ which is
all about being in a relationship and knowing it's not right.
It's a song that basically says, it's not working out honey."
A couple of other tracks mine dysfunctional relationships and
have hooks as catchy as those on "Complicated" and real-life
narratives (like "Sk8er Boi"), but what truly underscores
Avril's growth are the more positive tracks, such as "Who
Knows" and "Take Me Away." "I guess that's
just the way that I am now," admits the former supposed attitude
junkie. Deep, piano-driven tracks like "Together" and
"Forgotten" reflect Avril's growth, maturity, and change
since the release of Let Go. "I'm happy with what I'm doing
and have faith that everything is going to work out for the best."
She's also found a feminine side to offset her well-publicized
tomboyishness. "I'm such a chick. I'm a hopeless romantic,
and surprisingly old-fashioned," Avril laughs. "That's
why I wrote a song about not giving it up to just any guy ["Don't
Tell Me"]." Girly quirks aside, Avril's anxious to get
the show on the road. "It feels so good to be singing new
songs," she says. "I feel refreshed and I'm looking
forward to the next thing."
or melancholic, Avril's two-year wild-ride on the rock-star express
has shaped her world view and taught her a whole lot about balance.
"The songs on Under My Skin are definitely deeper than those
on Let Go," she says, "But I still love a good pop song.
I'm basically just a girl who likes to write, who likes to rock
out, and who wants music to be a part of my life forever."
just a girl with a bell-clear voice and the ability to bottle
youthful anguish and enthusiasm into tidy, infectious songs. Avril
Lavigne's Under My Skin is sure to get under yours.