Avril Lavigne's spunky charm and free spirit have made her pop music's bratty boy-basher for over a decade. Her 2002 debut, Let Go, catapulted the Canadian native as the good-girl-gone-punk with teen girl anthems like "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi," a voice apart in a sea of homogenous pop tarts.
Now 29 and recently married to Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, Lavigne is looking to reclaim her position in the pop echelon with her new album. Avril Lavigne finds the singer revisiting her comfort zone but treading mature ground. "We're never gonna change . . . We'll stay forever young," she sings on the Peter Pan-esque "Here's to Never Growing Up."
"Bad Girl," her naughty collaboration with surprising friend Marilyn Manson, sees her teasing her sexuality. "I just wanna be your baby," she purrs. "Miss me. Miss me. Now you wanna kiss me." Kroeger, who's also featured on the album, serves as a key writer and producer. As Avril explained to Rolling Stone, this creative union evolved into their love affair. All grown up, allow Avril Lavigne to reintroduce herself.
It's been over a decade since your debut. Why was now the right time to put out an eponymous album?
The record is so diverse and it's all over the map stylistically and lyrically. I couldn't really find something to really sum it up. It just felt right with it being a decade and my fifth record. I think it was just time for a self-titled record.
How did your relationship with Chad affect the album?
Well, we really just started out as friends. Chad, David Hodges and myself – the three of us were writing together. We just hit it off, and then we started dating later on. It was really sweet, because a month into dating, he proposed in the studio where we met and spent all our time making the record.
This album is the snapshot of your courtship, in a way.
Yep! Kinda, but it's cool. For me it's always so easy to go back to that — to write about relationships and guys and bashing and stuff like that. This record is not like that. It's good because it's different subjects. Like, "Rock N Roll," "Hello Kitty." "17" is nostalgic. I got a couple of love songs. Lyrically, it's a bit different.
"Bad Girl" with Marilyn Manson was unexpected. How did that come about?
It was really cool. As I was listening to the song, I was like, "Manson would kill this!" So I called him. He came over at like four in the morning . . .
I love that you have Marilyn Manson on speed-dial.
It worked out! It was meant to be. [Laughs.] Things are never that easy when you're trying to get together with someone. He could have been anywhere in the world. He's been a friend of mine since I was 18. I went to his concert in Toronto and met him backstage. We've been friendly throughout the years. I respect him as an artist. He's a painter and really a creative human being. He knew what he wanted to do right away and nailed it.
Not to mention, he helped you shave your head.
Yeah. After. When I was living in France, he had a show, and I saw him. He shaved my head. That's true. I had been wanting to do it for a while, but I didn't want to shave my hair, so I'd always put braids in it and kind of go onstage like that. Then I was like "Fuck it. I'm going to do this." It was so much fun and hardly any work having like, half your hair gone.
Who knew Marilyn Manson was also a stylist?
I always have so much fun with him. He wears makeup. The first night that I met him he painted my nails. He has all this dark red lipstick and nail polish.
You're still viewed as the eternally young, boy-bashing, skater girl. How do you reconcile that with your married, adult life?
Nothing's that calculated. I kind of don't worry about what I'm making music for. I kind of just make it for myself. I like having strong messages in the songs for the fans. I love writing music that's anthemic and has a powerful message. I also love to create music with a deep meaning that can reach people emotionally on another level. I have both sides to me.
Does it bother you when people categorize you in the "teen" genre?
Musically, that's how I started, so it's still a part of me. There's a side of me that I'm a free spirit and I'm spontaneous and I like to have fun and push the envelope. That's where songs like "Here's to Never Growing Up" come into play. It doesn't matter how old you are. It's your spirit, your approach. I have a more serious side to me as well.
So how old do you feel right now?
How old do you feel? I don't know. I guess I feel like I'm 29.