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.”
Avril Lavigne Talks Managing Lyme Disease: ‘I’ve Gone Through So Much’ but ‘I’m in a Good Place’
After nearly four years out of the spotlight, Avril Lavigne is back — and ready to tell her story.
Happy and healthy after a devastating battle with Lyme disease, the pop star, 34, reveals how the medical crisis changed her life in the new issue of PEOPLE.
“I’ve gone through so much,” says Lavigne, whose struggles inform her new album Head Above Water (out Feb. 15).
“It gave me a purpose,” she adds of her journey, “and made me find myself all over again.”
As she exclusively revealed to PEOPLE in an April 2015 cover story, Lavigne had been quietly suffering from Lyme disease after disappearing from the public eye in the fall of 2014.
Earlier that year, while on tour, Lavigne began feeling weak, but doctors at first cited dehydration and exhaustion. Months later — as her symptoms worsened and she struggled to even move — she visited a Lyme specialist who diagnosed her with the disease, a bacterial infection contracted from a tick bite that causes symptoms ranging from moderate fatigue and muscle pain to debilitating dementia.
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.
Still no word on a release date for the new album or single (we know that the album is out in February) but Avril’s been posting photos on social media (from what I assume is album promo) as well as lyrics to what could be the second single.
“Tell me it’s over”
“If it’s really over”
“Cause it don’t feel like it’s over whenever you’re closing the door”