Avril Lavigne can do her own eyeliner — a smudgy, inky black that’s been her signature for nearly two decades — in five minutes flat. It’s a feat she announces with a sense of pride, exaggerating a fluttering of the eyes to show off her latest doing. It’s also a skill that comes in handy when a global pop star finds herself quarantined with a full day of video interviews and no glam squad.
Normally, Lavigne only wears mascara and some eyebrow gel while at home in Los Angeles. Today, however, she’s in work mode promoting her latest single, so full eyeliner it is. The song, “We Are Warriors,” is a remix of “Warriors,” off her 2019 album Head Above Water, the net proceeds from sales and streams will go to global health organization Project HOPE’s COVID-19 relief efforts, in partnership with the Avril Lavigne Foundation. “My whole tour got canceled, and I thought, ‘I want to be able to do something and give back somehow,’” she explains. “I’ve been moved by the frontline workers and what they are doing, and they are being referred to as warriors. I took my song ‘Warriors,’ and re-recorded it in the home studio to make it ‘We Are Warriors,’ about everyone who is risking their lives to help. It’s a small token of my appreciation.”
Now, Lavigne, 35, is winding down for the night in her home studio. “I still have high-waisted jeans on, and I can’t wait to take them off,” she says over Zoom, sipping on a colorful red liquid she later identifies as water with added electrolytes. She’s cross-legged on a keyboard bench, above which hang several black and white framed photos of herself. “I was thinking today that maybe I should film myself doing makeup,” she says, laughing at herself. “I’ll be like, ‘Hi, today I’m going to be an influencer. Let me get my camera angle right.’ We’ll do everything except contour.” The key to the Avril Lavigne eye, she explains to her audience of one, is the blending. “With a smoky eye, you cannot just do black,” she says. “You start with white, then you put grey, then a little bit of brown, and then black on the ends. You have to blend all these colors. Does she have a favorite eyeliner? “Yes, b*tch!” It’s MAC Eye Kohl in Smolder.
After 17 years in a strict religious household outside Toronto, Avril Lavigne had enough pent-up angst to effectively launch a new pop-punk paradigm. “I wasn’t really allowed to really go anywhere or do anything,” says Lavigne. “I was definitely a good girl with strong morals, [but] my parents watched me like a fucking hawk.”
Despite her hyper-orthodox upbringing, Lavigne’s early smashes, from “Complicated” to “Sk8er Boi,” centered on high-school averageness—endorsing reckless use of eyeliner rather than actual lawlessness. Rivaling the scale of bubblegum opposites like Britney and Christina, Lavigne’s 2002 debut record Let Go would sell 20 million copies worldwide, thrusting her into adulthood and global fame simultaneously. “The first 10 years after leaving home, it was like, ‘woo!’ I went wild,” says Lavigne. She adds, “No sleep, Jack Daniels and beer. I would say that continued until the third album, when I was married,” referring to her first marriage at 21 to Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley.
But after a decade of manic quasi-maturity, Lavigne’s energy drink-chugging pace would slow to deathlike stillness. In 2014, during her second marriage to Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, she came down with Lyme Disease. “I was like, oh my God, am I done? I couldn’t think about anything other than breathing and eating,” she says of her now-public battle with the disorder, the inspiration for her sixth album and its titular first single, “Head Above Water.”
While her stamina isn’t quite what it was, today Lavigne has regained her freedoms and is planning a fall tour. Nor has she lost all that early-aughts angst. (Asked if recent single “Dumb Blonde” represented a reversal of her anti-Britney persona, Lavigne says “No.”) But she is a true believer in the power of positive thinking. “I do the whole gratitude list thing,” she says. “I can’t do [it all] the way I used to, but I look at how far I’ve come and I just thank God.”
Seventeen years after her angsty pop punk made her a global star, Avril Lavigne’s back with a sixth album. And having survived illness and divorce, she’s in no mood to compromise
Pop stars – especially women – are frozen at the age they become famous. Breaking the ice usually involves a bad-girl reinvention, if not a genuine breakdown. Somehow, this tension never affected Avril Lavigne, the Canadian pop-punk star who arrived in 2002 aged 17 with the brilliant Complicated, a heaving teenage sigh directed at some poseur boy. It’s not that she didn’t have an indelible look: her low-slung skate pants, tie and ramrod-straight hair are an enduring fancy-dress costume. It’s that she never seemed to want to grow up.
Her alternately fun, angsty debut album, Let Go, seemed authentic enough – she played guitar! The lyrics were handwritten! – to convince a generation of teenage girls that she, and by association, they, were more credible than Britney. Then 13, I was one of them; I wore Dad’s tie to the shops and wasted hours learning how to copy her handwriting. It was music many quickly graduated from, to acts whose credits didn’t list multiple co-writers: the drug of authenticity hooks teenagers fast. But there is no shame in being a gateway artist, a role Lavigne seemed surprisingly happy to keep playing.
After an emotionally intense second album, she seemed to dial back the years with 2007’s The Best Damn Thing, led by single Girlfriend, a Hey Mickey-style rager about homewrecking. Goodbye Lullaby (2011) had What the Hell (“All I want is to mess around”) and her 2013 self-titled album boasted Bitchin’ Summer (ie School’s Out with swearing) and Here’s to Never Growing Up (“We’ll be running down the street, yelling, ‘Kiss my ass’”). She was 29. A year later, she started feeling inexplicably exhausted. Doctors tried to diagnose her with anxiety and chronic fatigue, even though she was sure she had Lyme disease. Finally, she got a vindicating diagnosis and spent two years in bed on antibiotics, certain, at one point, that she would die.
At Home With Avril Lavigne, Who’s Finally Back (And Totally Ready to Party)
The motherfucking princess is in her motherfucking castle.
The princess is Avril Lavigne, who anointed herself on her 2007 No. 1 single “Girlfriend.” The castle — a Tudor home in an illustriously ZIP-coded L.A. neighborhood — is the only thing Lavigne has presided over since a tour that ended in 2014.
A few weeks before the release of “Head Above Water,” her first single in four-and-a-half years, Lavigne sits under the cathedral-high ceiling of her home studio. It is the room where, over the course of her public absence, she recorded much of the album she plans to release in early 2019.
Lavigne’s many songs about partying — and the Jack Daniel’s lawn jockey who greeted me at the door — suggested that we’d wind up drinking whiskey, or at least the rosé her publicist suggested I bring. (Avril Lavigne drinks rosé?) But Lavigne is sipping Emergen-C-spiked electrolyte water, combating seasonal allergies. From her seat on a massive gray sectional (Avril Lavigne owns a sectional?), she reveals that she painted much of the art displayed in the expansive foyer and shows me the pink devotional journal gifted to her by her mother. Under the daily prayers topping each page are guitar tabs and ambitious to-do lists written in Lavigne’s bubbly handwriting: Complete album. Choose single. Shoot video. Dentist.
Avril took to her official website with a massive update: a letter to her fans outlining what she’s been through, and where she’s going. We can expect the first single, “Head Above Water” to be released on September 19!
Read her letter below (and be prepared to tear up!)
I’m so excited to finally be able to announce the first single off my new album along with its release date. Five years have gone by since I released my last album. I spent the last few years at home sick fighting Lyme Disease. Those were the worst years of my life as I went through both physical and emotional battles. I was able to turn that fight into music I’m really proud of. I wrote songs in my bed and on the couch and recorded there mostly as well. Words and lyrics that were so true to my experience came pouring out of me effortlessly. Truly… by keeping my spirits up, having goals to reach and a purpose to live for, my music helped to heal me and keep me alive.
Thank you for waiting so patiently as I fought through and still continue to fight, the battle of my lifetime. The first song I am choosing to release is called “Head Above Water.” It is also the first song I wrote from my bed during one of the scariest moments of my life. I had accepted death and could feel my body shutting down. I felt like I was drowning. Like I was going under water and I just needed to come up for air. Like I was in a river being pulled in a current. Unable to breathe. Praying to God for Him to help me just keep my head above the water. To help me see through the stormy weather. I grew closer to Him. My mother held me. In her arms, I wrote the first song that I am releasing to tell my story. I later met a beautiful soul, Travis Clark, and we sat down at the piano and sculpted the rest of the song. Then I took it to the genius, Stephan Moccio and love what he did to the music.