What was it like being a rock/alternative fan in the early 2000s? You may have been a dirt rocker obsessed with Staind and Puddle of Mudd. Maybe you connected with the lyrics of Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional—or sustained hearing damage listening to System of a Down or Disturbed. Perhaps instead you were into Linkin Park or Incubus… But no matter who dominated your playlists, if you uttered the phrase, “I like Avril Lavigne,” then you risked revulsion, disgrace, and rejection as a true rock fan. If you worked for a rock radio station of any kind, playing an Avril song may have been grounds for immediate firing.
Incredibly, now twenty years later, many of the biggest names in alternative music have either performed with Avril Lavigne or cite her as a major influence on their work. There are a variety of examples but let us use the “Four Faces of Alternative Music” as our primary sources…
This is a ten-minute video of Billie Eilish praising Lavigne:
Here are Avril Lavigne and Halsey performing “Girlfriend” together:
This is Lavigne performing with Machine Gun Kelly on her latest album:
Here’s Josh Dun and Lavigne sparring playfully backstage:
— UnitedForAvril #LoveSux (@untdforavril) February 27, 2021
This is where we stand today. Avril Lavigne’s newest single “Bite Me,” is hailed as a comeback song and widely played on alternative radio. Artists across the alternative spectrum lavish praise on her and how she inspired their work. She’s eligible for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in just five short years. Meanwhile, few people are running to Spotify to see if Puddle of Mudd has new material in the year 2022.
This begs the question: What did industry gatekeepers miss?
The answer is straightforward. They failed to listen to the broader audience and especially its younger members. Alternative Radio can make up for this by not just playing her newest material, but by adding her most beloved tracks to their playlist. “Don’t Tell Me,” “Losing Grip,” “My Happy Ending,” “I’m With You,” “Complicated,” and yes, even “Sk8er Boi” all deserve play. They deserved it when it was new. The early demonization of Avril Lavigne is a reminder that stewards of the industry always need to listen to their fans and that gatekeeping in any form is musical arrogance.