When was the last time you listened to "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne? Hmm? The third single from the Canadian pop rock star's debut album Let Go was released fifteen years ago. And to this day, I believe it to be the best pop song I've ever heard. "Since U Been Gone"? No. "Teenage Dream"? Not a chance. "Uptown Funk"? Yeah alright sort of. Fifteen years since it's release, I realised I've been calling it the world's best pop song for half of my life.
Avril was sixteen and performing country covers in a bookstore in Ontario when Cliff Fabri, a music manager, discovered her. One and half years later, Let Go was the best performing debut album of 2002—a year of the Olsen twins and Lord of the Rings and wearing fuck bracelets despite being 14 and not knowing what in God's name that really meant—and went six times platinum. "Complicated" dropped on the world like a cartoon anvil, sending reviewers into a tailspin; comparisons to punk icons of eras past (but watered down of course), and words like "poser" filled out reviews. While the album's lead single became the #2 song in the world—second, naturally, to "Hot in Herre").Blender said she was the meeting place of "the angst of Alanis Morissette and the snarl of Courtney Love," and E! said looked she "like a (prettier) member of Sum 41, [sounded] like a slightly less-pissed Alanis and [had] the streetwise 'tude of Pink."Not until "I'm With You," which was released November that year, did critics talk about her sensitive side. As a teenage songwriter, she was outrageously talented. "I'm With You" had perfect cadence. It captured the theatrics of 17-year-old feeling. And the cherry on top was the ever-relatable music video—directed by David LaChapelle—that forever changed the way a generation of kids walked down streets alone at night. Oh right. Yeah, me neither.One of the coolest things about Avril Lavigne, looking back, is likely the cause of her undoing. Avril wore her teenage angst on her sleeve and was really fucking ridiculed for it. Reviewers and audiences called her a poser and a tween. They waved away her style choices as "faux punk" and chalked up the pop quality of her songs to a boardroom of writers. But Avril was behind the music of Let Go, and her style inspired a slew of kids to dress diffrerently: tank tops and dickies, Converse and studded belts. She, however softly, encouraged a repackaged kind of individuality. These things became commonplace soon enough, and bands like Good Charlotte and movements like emo moved more and more into the mainstream. Was she in part responsible? I'd say so.Fifteen years later and while the internet insists Avril doesn't, the brilliance of Let Go lives on. And I'm still playing "I'm With You" to a living room full of absolutely off it people at two in the morning, repeating "it's so good" over and over.