Since the release of her debut album Let Go in 2002, Avril Lavigne has seen an unfathomable amount of success. Her album sales exceed 40 million worldwide, with her singles racking up 10 million more than that. She is the third-best-selling Canadian female artist of all time, behind only Celine Dion and Shania Twain, and is widely seen as one of defining artists of the 2000s alongside the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and P!nk. Her impact can still be felt today, as artists like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo credit the singer-songwriter as a major influence of theirs.
To celebrate the release of her seventh studio album, Love Sux, GAY TIMES ranked Avril’s discography from worst to best. Did fan favourite Let Go make it all the way? Maybe The Best Damn Thing reached number one just like Girlfriend did all over the world? Or perhaps Head Above Water managed to swim to the top?
Keep scrolling to find out…
7. Avril Lavigne (2013)
Standout tracks: Give You What You Like, 17, Hush Hush
Avril’s fifth album was packed with radio-friendly pop-rock songs, representing a departure from the more mellow sound of Goodbye Lullaby. It saw her experiment with new sounds, most notably on the electronic Hello Kitty – something which eventually became one of the most defining moments of the era thanks to its viral video. The self-titled effort was also the first of her albums to include featured artists, one of which was her husband at the time, Chad Kroeger. The record marked a bold step forward for Avril in terms of its mix of genres, conceptual music videos (especially Here’s to Never Growing Up and Rock ‘N’ Roll) and the carefree attitude that defined most of its songs. Despite its ranking, this is by no means a bad album. As Yara Sofia told Mimi Imfurst on the first season of Drag Race All Stars, “they need someone to go home first” – just like this list needs a last place.
6. Head Above Water (2019)
Standout tracks: Head Above Water, Birdie, It Was in Me
It’s about damn time Head Above Water got the respect it deserves. Released over five years after her fifth album, the record predominantly saw Avril detail her ongoing battle with Lyme disease and the impact it had on her life. Songs like Head Above Water and It Was in Me are some of the best of her career, with the title track delivering a cinematic music video unlike anything Avril has ever released. These, as well as Tell Me It’s Over, I Fell in Love with the Devil and Birdie, among others, show that Avril can do in depth storytelling just as easily as she can a catchy pop anthem like Girlfriend or What the Hell. “Come rescue me, I’ll be waiting / I’m too young to fall asleep,” she sings on the lead single and title track, referencing a time when she thought her life may be coming to an end. Although it’s Avril’s least commercially successful effort to date, peaking at #13 on the Billboard 200 and thus being her only release to miss the top 10 in America, it offered up a type of maturity that was yet to be seen from the singer-songwriter. Had the record been given a stronger promotional campaign (and, let’s face it, a better album cover), it’s likely that Head Above Water would have marked a much stronger comeback for Avril after five years out of the spotlight and been more appreciated in the mainstream.
5. Love Sux (2022)
Standout tracks: Love Sux, F.U., All I Wanted (feat. Mark Hoppus)
A return to form, Love Sux is a reminder that Avril is and always will be the Queen of Pop Punk. The album is packed with anthemic bops, most of which could stand alone as singles. The title track is one of the best songs she has released in the last decade, showcasing the way Love Sux retains Avril’s signature sound and attitude by bringing it into modern times. All I Wanted (feat. Mark Hoppus) is phenomenal and about as 2002 as it gets, which is fitting given that the year of the album’s release coincides with the 20-year anniversary of Let Go. Avril switches things up slightly with Dare to Love Me and Avalanche, both of which are excellent, though another ballad or two would have done a lot for the album more generally.
One of the best things about Love Sux is also one of the worst – its length. At only 33 minutes and 38 seconds, it’s Avril’s shortest release to date and leaves you wanting more. Is that really a bad thing, though? The album does exactly what it needs to do and feels like it reaches a natural end. The songs are catchy and snappy, which may not be the case had they been drawn out for the sake of it. There’s no denying that Love Sux is The Best Damn Thing’s younger sister and, in many ways, it’s as good as it. As for the Machine Gun Kelly collaboration? I pretend I do not see it.
4. The Best Damn Thing (2007)
Standout tracks: Girlfriend, I Can Do Better, Innocence
The fact that an album this good ranks at number four only speaks to the quality of Avril’s music, as it could just as easily snatch the top spot. After the global success of her first two releases, the pressure was on for Avril when it came to her third record. The Best Damn Thing was a risky departure from the sounds of Let Go and Under My Skin as the Canadian kween fully embraced pop-rock, resulting in what is widely seen as her most commercial effort and a hugely successful era. Its lead single Girlfriend (her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100) perfectly represented what could be expected from the album, with its follow-up, When You’re Gone, showcasing the epic power ballads peppered throughout the record. Catchy hooks and fierce lyrics dominated The Best Damn Thing and left no question as to how Avril became one of the biggest artists of the 2000s, as she was clearly capable of effortlessly shifting genres and maintaining the quality of her sound in doing so. With a resurgence of pop-punk taking place right now, The Best Damn Thing has proven itself to be a timeless masterpiece that could just as easily be released today as it was 15 years ago.
3. Let Go (2002)
Standout tracks: I’m with You, Anything but Ordinary, Losing Grip
I know it’s not socially acceptable to rank Let Go anywhere but first place on an Avril Lavigne album ranking, but I just did. Now what? JK, don’t see its third place finish as hate to Avril’s debut because this is easily one of the best albums ever made and there are literally no skips found. Released at a time when female artists like Avril simply did not exist in the mainstream, Avril controlled her own narrative and refused to let the industry mould her into something she did not want to be, which she likely didn’t realise was paving the way for the next generation of musicians that would eventually follow. For anyone to make an album of this quality is impressive, let alone a 17-year-old who did so on her first attempt. Working with the legendary Matrix trio, Avril’s sound and lyrics managed to capture all elements of teenage angst, but did so in a way that was still relatable to listeners of any age. “To walk within the lines / Would make my life so boring / I want to know that I / Have been to the extreme,” she sings on Anything but Ordinary, a track recorded two decades ago that could just as easily be referencing the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve all been living through since 2019 if it came out now.
Avril’s single choices on Let Go are the best of her career, as releasing the likes of Sk8er Boi, a catchy pop song, as well as I’m with You, an emotional power ballad, showed her range and quickly built up a loyal fanbase. The record became the 21st best selling album of 2000 to 2009 in America, made her the youngest female singer to top the UK albums chart and proved that winning a Grammy Award is not what defines a good album, given that she failed to win any of the ones she was nominated for. There’s no denying that Let Go has aged like fine wine and is still just as listenable now as when I bought it on CD a whopping 20 (!!) years ago.
2. Under My Skin (2004)
Standout tracks: Nobody’s Home, Fall to Pieces, My Happy Ending
If there’s any record that showcases how you do a sophomore album, it’s Under My Skin. Holy f**k is it good. It saw Avril experiment with a darker sound that critics noted was reminiscent of post-grunge rock music. Don’t Tell Me was a smart single choice ahead of the album as it bridged the gap between Let Go and Under My Skin by maintaining Avril’s strong attitude combined with a fresher sound and new level of maturity. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 381,000 copies in its first week, which remains the highest first-week sales of her career as well as her first number one album in America.
It includes the likes of Nobody’s Home, Fall to Pieces and My Happy Ending – all of which went on to become fan favourites and some of Avril’s signature songs. It’s a crime that Fall to Pieces didn’t get single treatment and that it never gets performed live anymore, as it is arguably one of the best songs of Avril’s career. This flaw doesn’t take away from what is an excellent album though and where Under My Skin really shines is its bridges. Every single track has one worth mentioning, so for the sake of time let’s focus on Nobody’s Home. “Her feelings she hides / Her dreams she can’t find / She’s losing her mind / She’s falling behind,” Avril sings as she serves nothing but vocals and emotion during part of the rock ballad. Despite being released just two years after Let Go, it showed how far Avril had come and that there was still a lot left for her to give as an emerging artist. Alongside her debut and The Best Damn Thing, Under My Skin has rightfully been hailed as one of the defining albums of the 2000s and gave Avril longevity by keeping her audience hooked.
1. Goodbye Lullaby (2011)
Standout tracks: Black Star, What the Hell, Push, Wish You Were Here, Smile, Stop Standing There, I Love You, Everybody Hurts, Not Enough, 4 Real, Darlin’, Remember When, Goodbye
Some of you may think I’m choosing chaos with Goodbye Lullaby being number one, but really it’s a little thing called taste. This record intertwines everything Avril does best as it has epic pop anthems that stand shoulder to shoulder with an array of deeply personal tracks. Songs like Remember When, Wish You Were Here and Goodbye show a vulnerability rarely seen in Avril’s other music, which is no surprise given that its release came after her divorce to Deryck Whibley. What the Hell and Smile are as infectious as some of her biggest hits and are a welcome change of pace from the album’s mostly mellow tone.
The biggest flaw of this album? Its singles. Avril stated that her record label wanted to recreate the success of The Best Damn Thing with radio-friendly hits, which resulted in releases that failed to reflect the overall tone of the record and plagued Goodbye Lullaby with delay after delay – eventually being released four years after her third effort. Although this weakened the public’s perception of the era, the music itself still shone through – especially on Avril’s self-written tracks which showcase her abilities as a solo songwriter. Despite being arguably her most personal record to date, Avril was able to maintain her signature attitude in more subtle ways than fans had seen from her at the time. “It’s really great to be with you / This is how I could spend my life / But I’m capable of taking care of myself / So if you fuck this up then go take a hike,” she defiantly sings on Push, swapping the boy-bashing nature of The Best Damn Thing for confidence that she can thrive on her own.
There’s no denying that Goodbye Lullaby is slept on by both Avril’s fans and the general public, but when you really give this record the time it deserves, there’s a lot to unpack and it makes for a great listening experience. Her lyrics delved deeper than ever before, her sound stayed true to her roots but with a new breath of life and the overall aesthetic of the record was stunning.