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Photograph by James R. Minchin III

Change Clothes: Avril shed suit pants and loose ties for goth corsets.

So Your Kid Likes Avril

All is not lost! Avril Lavigne is the gateway drug of the new generation!

By Sara Bir

I'M GUESSING that you grown-up folks ready to see Avril Lavigne at the HP Pavilion on Nov. 19 are not doing so by choice—and neither has your presence been requested, for the miniteen girls who make up the core of Avril's fan base probably would rather their parents not be there. Take heart, however, because a growing girl's Age of Avril may not be long for this world.

Ms. Lavigne herself has done a massive amount of growing up since the 2002 release of Let Go and its massively popular singles about boys who sk8 and boys being dumb. Back then she was all of 17, and though Avril's claims about her songwriting contributions to the album were exaggerated, it's still impressive that the phenomenon of her stardom didn't throw her into short-lived Vegas marriages or homemade sex videos or onstage attacks of acid refux ... er, flux.

She sailed through the whole thing like an average pissy teenager, with her listless, ironed-out hair and her eternal sulk-pout and her flipping of the bird to paparazzi. The whole punk thing may have been a bit of a cultivated image, but then, whose image is not studied and cultivated at that age? The only difference between Avril and the girl smoking out by the dumpster behind the gym is that Avril is famous.

Now nearly 20, Avril is still famous, albeit not as much. She's still quite young, too, but if she's all the rocker she claims to be, she has a lot of ass-kicking to catch up on—think what Iggy Pop or Joan Jett (or even the Donnas!) were doing by her age. She shed those suit pants and loose ties for goth corsets, and early in this tour, she even bounded onstage in full tongue-in-cheek Hooter Gal regalia.

Parents with wee Avril aficionados can rest easy that Avril's overall message is positive: Think for yourself. Don't let guys ravage you if they are losers because you deserve to give it up to a guy who's cool. Hillary Duff is a weenie. But there's something else for apprehensive parents to take comfort in, something that's part of a much, much larger puzzle: your blossoming Avril fan could grow up to be a cool kid!

That's right, there's a possibility that liking Avril Lavigne may indicate future preferences for good music. This is all conjecture, a hopeful, gut-level hypothesis surely not supported by findings on Amazon.com (customers who purchased Avril's latest album Under My Skin also purchased titles by Ashlee Simpson, Evanescence, Usher and Norah Jones).

The fact is that in the larger context of rock & roll and American youth, Lavigne's rebelliousness is common and ordinary, and therefore nonthreatening. She can sing, but overall her songs are pretty indistinguishable from run-of-the-mill mass-market pop. Her mall-punk image—so easily duplicated at the local Hot Topic—won't have a leg to stand on as your modern girl grows increasingly more cynical.

Fans in the first blush of young womanhood will taste the nectar of Avril and eventually find themselves unsatisfied; they will have to seek out burlier, foxier, bawdier rocker ladies, like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Agent M of Tsunami Bomb. Imagine your daughter someday branching out into feminist dance-punk like Le Tigre, Peaches, Erase Errata, Sleater-Kinney or maybe even Nancy Sinatra! If one in 10,000 gals who outgrew Avril graduated to the X-Ray Spex or the Slits, something good has happened.

Of course, there's a huge block of the public that never outgrows tame music, which is why you hear Sheryl Crow played so much at Starbucks; your daughter could likewise make a lateral move from liking Avril to liking Alanis, but that's life (Avril's astute thoughts on the iTunes website on Morissette's biggest hit: "I love how this song was written with all the different examples Alanis uses of things being ironic"). There's also the chance that your kid will grow with Avril, who might surprise us all and next record experimental free-association noise rock. We can only hope.

Avril Lavigne headlines the HP Pavilion on Friday (Nov. 19). Tickets are $35 and available through Ticketmaster (408.998.TIXS).

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From the November 17-23, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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