HEAVY MUSIC HISTORY: Avril Lavigne – Under My Skin

2000s rock has had many figureheads throughout the decade, especially as the sound and leading style changed throughout the years. From pop-punk to emo, post-grunge to indie, many prominent figures rose and fell during that time. One notable name, and arguably the most popular artist in pop-rock, AVRIL LAVIGNE, managed to find success throughout the 2000s with three prominent albums in rock and pop-punk: Let Go (2002), Under My Skin (2004), and The Best Damn Thing (2007), each with their own identity and style that are unique and different to each other. Her second album, Under My Skin, is often described as LAVIGNE’s darkest album. A lot of the songs on the record delve into more mature topics with harsher and heavier sounds to accompany them all. As the 20th anniversary of the album is in May this year, it’s worth diving into the record once and exploring this period of time for LAVIGNE and what these dark themes are drawn from. 

After the success of debut, Let GoLAVIGNE began to expand on her music repertoire, not only in instrumentation, but also wanting to be a lot more hands on with directing her sound and style for her second album. Whilst initially planning to not work with professional writers and producers, she worked with singer-songwriter Chantel Kreviazuk to write the majority of the songs with, as well as other musicians including Ben Moody, ex-EVANESCENCE guitarist. Kreviazuk’s husband, Raine Madia of OUR LADY PEACE, also produced five of the songs. Like with Let Go, a lot of the songs are about dating and relationships, but she also drew inspirations from a personal experience that happened to her, including the passing of her grandfather during her first headlining tour, and her relationship with SUM 41’s Deryck Whibley. As such, the sound of the album flows between post-grunge and pop-punk, as well as dipping into alternative rock and nu-metal. 

The album produced four singles, each unique from one another with their own themes and instrumentation that differentiates from one another. The first, Don’t Tell Me, is a grunge song which is compared to the work of ALANIS MORRISSETTE, because of its folk-rock verses. The lyrics discussed how pressured girls can be, especially in high school, to have sex with men, often after a date. It’s a strong message for many fans who feel they don’t need to give in to the pressure men can put on them when dating. The second single, My Happy Ending, was the biggest song from the album, with the song reaching the top 5 in Canada and the UK, as well as peaking at No.9 in the US. Critics called the song a highlight of the album and a counter to Lavigne’s first single, Sk8er Boi, as the song depicted the reflection of a relationship that ended badly after a happy beginning. With a memorable music video that got a lot of syndication on music channels, it’s no wonder why it’s one of the most beloved songs from the record, as well as within LAVIGNE’s discography. 

Another beloved single from the record is the third single, Nobody’s Home. A darker topic with an even darker music video. The song describes a young girl who ran away from home, living rough, and couldn’t return to her broken family. Not only did the song do well in the charts at the time, reaching No.24 in the UK, the song also went viral on TikTok alongside a heartfelt trend of people sharing how tragic moments in their childhood affect their lives in adulthood. The final commercial single was He Wasn’t a pop-punk song that whilst continued the theme of relationships and disappointing exes. It’s certainly the most pop friendly song on the record, and gave an early indication of the direction of sound LAVIGNE would take in her next record, The Best Damn Thing. This song had a more mixed reception as critics stated that the lyrics were more shallow than the other songs on the album, and compared it to the pop punk songs from Let Go. Other notable songs from the record include the opening song, Take Me Away, the soft and heartfelt How Does It Feel, the gothic Forgotten, and the final track LAVIGNE wrote in honour of her grandfather, Slipped Away

At the time, Under My Skin had a mixed reception upon its release, some praising the album’s darker and harsher tone, comparing it to the sound of EVANESCENCE’s Fallen (2003). Other critics called it an ALANIS MORRISSETTE carbon copy and critiqued the lyrics. Even so, the record is still fondly remembered amongst music fans, not just LAVIGNE fans. As recent as this year, LAVIGNE still performs My Happy Ending on tour, and as mentioned earlier, Nobody’s Home recently went viral across TikTok as a trend many users took part in. As LAVIGNE released her 7th studio album (Love Sux) back in 2022, it’s interesting to look back on those early days in her career and compare with her recent sound. Even so, it shows that LAVIGNE is a more than capable songwriter, in particular with grunge sounds and darker topics. She could easily return to that sound and style, perhaps improved, should she ever choose to for a future album, even 20 years later.

Under My Skin was originally released on May 21, 2004 via Arista Records.

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