Will We Listen?
Appendix Four – Walking through the
Step 1: Prepare to walk through the
This walk takes you through the music of young singing sensation Avril Lavigne. This Canadian offers a peek into the world of a female singer who is not cut from the typical female pop star mold. A proud individualist, Lavigne offers an interesting case study to those desiring to better understand the emerging generations. In this walk, I pay careful attention to each of Lavigne’s songs.
Step 2: Close your mouth. Open your ears and eyes. Walk around Avril Lavigne
Over the course of the last couple of years, our children and teens have found in one of their young 19-year-old peers a voice that has effectively grabbed and engaged them on both levels of her music and its message. In the process, her music has become theirs, as it reflects the feelings and experience of what it’s like to be a young person growing up at the dawn of a new millennium. The overwhelming success of both her debut album and her recently released sophomore follow-up demands our attention. Since millions of young ears are tuning in to the music of Avril Lavigne, we should be listening too. Why? Her words offer those of us who have long-since moved beyond the adolescent experience insight into the issues and struggles of the teenage years. Like a microscope that can open our eyes to a world normally difficult to see, the music of Avril Lavigne takes us to a place that allows us to catch a glimpse of the heart of contemporary youth culture. What is it about Avril Lavigne that’s allowed her to connect so successfully with the emerging generation? Is there an explanation for her fast-paced rise to the top and continued success, especially in recent months? What’s the worldview and message communicated in her music? Can she help us understand anything about the questions and life issues young people wrestle with in today’s world? Can she offer us insight into the hearts, minds, motives, and behaviors of children and teens? And, is there anything Lavigne can teach us about effectively ministering to kids?
The Avril Lavigne Story
It’s a tiny young Canadian girl who is the subject of this story. The petite 5’2” Avril Lavigne is a native of
Those who knew Avril when she was little quickly picked up on two of her strongest and enduring traits. First, she was a tomboy. While growing up she could be found outside playing hockey and baseball with her brother Matt and his older friends. In addition, she loved hunting, fishing, and camping. Second, she always wanted to become a famous singer. “I always knew this was what I had to do,” she says. “I remember when I was really young, standing on my bed like it was a stage, singing at the top of my lungs and visualizing thousands of people surrounding me.” (Arista records biography, avrilfans.com). Not only did young Avril sing in front of an imaginary audience, but she would step in front of the mirror to interview herself about her successful singing career.
By age seven she was singing Gospel music in the family’s church. Looking to sing anywhere she could, she also began to sing country music at local fairs, festivals, and talent competitions. Her mom closely monitored lyrical content and steered Avril to music that was thematically clean and upbeat.
When she was 12, Avril began to develop her instrumental skills by picking up her dad’s guitar and learning how to play on her own. Her lessons came from listening to and mimicking rock guitarist Lenny Kravitz.
Her love for music and work developing her talent began to pay off when she was 13 years old and recruited by a local music producer to sing in music theater. In 1999, at the age of 14, she won a singing contest and took home a prize that really threw her into the limelight. The prize? She stepped onstage to sing with fellow-Canadian Shania Twain before a crow of 20,000 in
After cutting a demo for a
Musical success and fame came quickly for Lavigne. That debut album sold over 15 million copies. She was named “Best New Artist” at the MTV Music Video Awards in 2002. Although she didn’t score any wins, she was nominated for five Grammys in 2003. Not bad for a 17-year-old with just one album under her belt.
Just last May, Lavigne released her second album, Under My Skin. In its first week, the disc sold 3 million copies and went to #1 on the charts in 11 countries.
The plain little girl who came from a remarkably average home – as these stories go – is described on her website as “Anything but ordinary. . . . A skater-punk, a dynamic Spirit, a true wild-child.” Her individualistic nature is something she trumpets and wears on her sleeve. She’s adamant about the fact that she wants to wear only her clothes and sing only her songs. “It’s very important for me to be myself. I don’t want to be a fake,” she says (
Refreshingly, Lavigne is very adamant about her revulsion to the “sex sells” formula that has worked so well for other females her age who have established themselves in the world of popular music: “I don’t want to be, like, some sex symbol. I want to sell my music” (Daily News, 6/26/02). She says, “I think its low when artists stick their (chest) in front of the camera and think, ‘Maybe I’ll sell more records’” (
She has carried much of her background and upbringing with her into her late teenage years, her music, and her career. All the time spent performing alone in front of imaginary “thousands” has kept her from experiencing stage fright or up-front anxiety. In addition, while she’s stretched the rope and strayed a bit from her parents strict Christian standards, she says that their rules and parameters were actually a good thing: “That’s a good way to bring up your kid, because if you let your kid do everything – go to parties, get trashed really young and get out of control – she’s gonna get taken advantage of, and she won’t be taught that having sex with a ton of boys is a bad thing. I do a lot of things that are very rebellious, but it’s not like I’m sniffing coke or doing dirty stuff” (Rolling Stone, 3/20/03). In another more recent interview she says, “My mom taught me to stand up for myself and have respect for myself. She also told me not to have sex before I got married.” (
Lavigne is also involved in numerous social causes including War Child
It wasn’t until just recently that Avril Lavigne moved out of her parent’s house in Napanee and into an apartment of her own in
Of course, Lavigne is no different from other high profile stars in the sense that controversy has followed her in the form of questions about the integrity of many of her claims. Some have questioned whether or not she grew up as the tough skater chick she portrays on stage. There’s little evidence to the contrary although she may have exaggerated her claims a little. In addition, her early claims that she maintained creative control over her writing and albums have come under scrutiny. To Lavigne’s credit, she doesn’t hide the fact that while the music is hers, most was written collaboratively.
The music of Avril Lavigne
When listening to Lavigne’s albums, it quickly becomes clear that this is not music that all sounds alike. It’s all similar, yes. But it spans a spectrum of instrumental and vocal sounds and styles that gives it a bit of diversity while always featuring Lavigne’s strong voice. The unity of its sound comes through in its genre. That genre has been described as “skate punk”, “pop punk”, and “power punk.” Reviewer Dimitri Ehrlich refers to the sound as “rebel-lite.” It’s typically fast-moving, although not all the time. Lavigne has the ability to slow it down, a move that lets her vocals shine.
Thematically, Lavigne writes about the ups and downs of life as a teenager, something she knows all too well because of her age and experience. She writes her music as a form of self-therapy, putting her feeling out on the page and doing what she says is her best work when she’s upset about something. Judging from her music, that “something” is often the roller-coaster of adolescent love found and love lost. Still, Lavigne treats the subjects with a feel that just seems older and more mature than a lot of the music written by her young peers on the same themes. She says that her music is an extension of herself. “I want people to know that my music is real and honest,” she says. “It comes from my heart. I was just being true to myself.” (avrilfans.com).
In concert, her audience – a mix of young and old alike – is treated to a high energy show featuring Lavigne performing many of her songs while pumping her fist in the air. She loves to get up on stage and perform. Younger members of the crowd often sport “wifebeater” T-Shirts and neckties, Lavigne’s typical dress during her breakout year of 2002.
Step 3: Look for cultural characteristics and distinctives, including values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, changing pressures, problems, choices, etc.
Listen carefully to the messages in Lavigne’s lyrics. They offer valuable insight into the heart and soul of today’s emerging generations. To date, Lavigne has released two very popular albums that have thrust her into international prominence as a voice for the emerging generations.
Let Go (2002)
Written when she was just 16 and released after she turned 17, Avril Lavigne’s debut album jumped right onto the charts at #8, peaked at #2, and went on to become the second best selling album of the year. Featuring a myriad of sounds, all the songs were co-written by Lavigne, although there is some question as to how much input she actually had in the writing process. Still, she is adamant about the fact that every song is true. Judging from the fact that the album connected well with the listening public and that it yielded four Top 20 singles (including three that went to #1), her music is also true for her growing legion of listeners.
Lavigne gives nods to her inspirations and musical sources in the album’s liner notes. First, she thanks God. Then, she thanks her mom and dad. Finally, she thanks her “ex-bois who inspired me to write most of these songs”
She jumps right into singing to that last group on the album’s opening cut, “Losing Grip.” The edgy rock-sounding single and video release was written about one of her ex-boyfriends who wasn’t giving her what she thought she needed emotionally. She tells him, “Why should I care/Cause you weren’t there/When I was scared/I was so alone/You need to listen/I’m starting to trip/I’m losing my grip/And I’m in this thing alone.” She likes performing this song about loneliness and hurt in concert, especially when she’s mad at boys.
The Grammy-nominated single and video release “Complicated” is the song that dropped Lavigne into the popular music world. Released two months before her album, the song went to #1 on the charts and trumpets one of Lavigne’s basic beliefs about life – you should be true to yourself. The song begins with her saying “life’s like this.” She then goes on to describe a relationship with a guy who’s himself when they’re together, but who fakes it and reinvents himself when he’s with other people. She calls her young listeners to honesty when she sings to the two-faced boy, “Take off all your preppy clothes/You know you’re not fooling anyone when you become somebody else round everyone else/You’re watchin your back like you can’t relax/You’re trying to be cool/You look like a fool.” The song’s video depicts Lavigne and her band singing in a skate park and then having fun just being adolescents as they cavort through the local shopping mall.
“Sk8er Boi,” the second Grammy-nominated #1 single on the album, is a story in song. The story follows a girl and a boy who like each other. The girl hesitates to get involved because of his skater image and fear that hanging out with him will spoil her reputation. Because he’s not good enough, she drops him. When he goes on to achieve fame and fortune as a musician, she decides to try to reconnect. By then, it’s too late for her. The moral of the story is to “just be yourself.” She calls listeners to get beyond appearances and see people for who they are: “Too bad that you couldn’t see/The man that boi could be/There is more than meets the eye/I see the soul that is inside.”
Loneliness, isolation, and the desire to connect with another human being are the subject of “I’m With You.” This single release offers a great peek into the reality of adolescent confusion, angst, and pain. While Lavigne seeks redemption in human friendships, the song is really about meaninglessness in life and the desire to know life’s purpose: “Isn’t anyone trying to find me?/Won’t somebody come take me home?” The video depicts Lavigne as alone walking down a dark street, and as equally alone as she wanders through a party while surrounded by people that just don’t notice her. At one point in the video when a guy does notice her, his attention takes the form of a sexual come-on and she angrily pushes him away.
A confused and hurt Lavigne speaks to her boyfriend’s parents in “Unwanted.” Written after being rejected by his parents, she shares her feelings with them about her desire to connect with them, and her frustration with their unwillingness to give her the time of day: “You don’t know me/Don’t ignore me/You don’t want me there/You just shut me out/You don’t know me/Don’t ignore me/If you had your way/You’d just shut me up/Make me go away/No I just don’t understand why you won’t talk to me/It hurts that I’m so unwanted for nothing/Don’t talk words against me.” When asked about the song, Lavigne says, “It’s important when you have a boyfriend to go over to the house and bond with the parents. I was really polite to them. I had dinner with them at the table, and I had my manners, like, ‘Can I help you with anything? Can I wash the dishes?’ But they didn’t want me with their boy. I guess they thought I was a bit wild for him. And I was so hurt by that.” (Rolling Stone, 3/20/03).
An impending breakup is the theme of “Tomorrow.” While he tries to reassure her that everything will be okay, she struggles to believe it based on past experience. In the past, he’s made all the relational decisions. Now, she wants to take matters into her own hands but she isn’t ready to make a decision today as it is all so hard when it comes to relationships: “And I want to believe you/When you tell me that it will be OK/I try to believe you/Not today. . . .”
An out-of-the-box kind of girl, Lavigne celebrates her individuality on “Anything But Ordinary.” She sings, “Sometimes I get so weird, I even freak myself out. . . . To walk within the lines would make my life so boring.” She encourages listeners to follow her lead and make the most out of life: “I wanna taste it/Don’t wanna waste it away.” But Lavigne admits she doesn’t have it all figured out. In fact, she asks some fairly significant spiritual questions: “Is it enough to love? Is it enough to breathe? . . . . Is it enough to die?” She then cries out for redemption: “Save my life/I’d rather be anything but ordinary please.”
On “Things I’ll Never Say” she admits her timidity as she confesses her secret desire to connect with a guy she likes. However, she can’t get the words out: “Marry me today/Marry me today/Guess I’m wishing/My life away/With these things I’ll never say.” In a disturbing twist that seems out of character for Lavigne based on the content of her other songs, this song contains some verbal sexual innuendo that isn’t lost on older and more aware listeners. In two places she references oral sex through strategically placed pauses in her lyrics: “I’d say I want to blow you. . . . . AWAY” and “I want to see you go down. . . . on one knee.”
“My World” is Lavigne’s ode to growing up in Napanee. The song describes her story, her life, her home, etc. At a deeper level, the song is about escaping into the world of daydreams and thoughts in her head. In the songs final words, she encourages a spirit of rebellion against home: “Take some time/Mellow out/Party it up but don’t fall down/Don’t get caught/Sneak out of the house.”
Lavigne says her song “Nobody’s Fool” “really explains me and how I feel about stuff, and how I don’t let anyone push me around and how I’m a fighter, and I’ll stand up for what I believe in.” (Teen Tribute, Summer 2002). She sticks up for herself in the song, telling record producers, music companies, and everyone else that she is who she is and even though she may have allowed herself to be shaped by someone else before, she won’t let it happen again: “I’ve seen it enough and I’m over that/I’m not nobody’s fool/If you wanna bring me down. . . . go ahead and try!”
“Too Much To Ask” is written about a summer crush who liked smoking pot more than he liked Lavigne. She feels relational letdown and a stinging loneliness as he never follows up on his promise to call her: “It’s funny how you think it’s gonna work out/Till you chose weed over me/You’re so lame!. . . . Finally figured out you’re all the same/Always coming up with some kind of story.”
The album ends with “Naked,” a positive song about a guy who enters her life and allows her to just be herself. She likes the feeling that his approach to her gives. The song’s words give listeners great insight into how to get young people to open up and trust: “See how I’ve opened up/You’ve made me trust/I’ve never felt like this before/I’m naked around you/Does it show?/You see right through me and I can’t hide/I’m naked around you/And it feels so right.”
Under My Skin (2004)
Lavigne’s commitment to maintain control over her image, music, and career can be seen and heard on her second album. Released on May 25, 2004, Under My Skin sold three million copies in its first week and went to #1 on the charts in 11 countries. She wrote all the lyrics and collaborated on the tunes in a mix that takes her music to a greater level of maturity which she says, reflects where she’s at in her life. The music and mood of the album is a bit darker, with Lavigne sporting more of a Goth look and feel on the disc’s liner photos. “I don’t want to be as pop with this record,” she says (
While the album’s sound is a bit harder than Let Go, it kicks off with typical Lavigne lyrical fare on “Take Me Away,” a song about relational confusion. Listeners can hear the distinct influence of former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody – someone who’s become one of Lavigne’s close friends – in the tune. Misunderstood and confused over a relationship, Lavigne confesses she can’t deal with the emotion: “I feel like I’m all alone/All by myself I need to get around this/My words are cold/I don’t want them to hurt you/If I show you I don’t think you’d understand/’Cause no one understands.” She ends the song by asking the object of her affection to come and “take me away.”
Themes of relational angst continue on “Together,” a song about being in a relationship and knowing it’s not right. She confesses that she’s living a lie: “When I’m alone I feel so much better/And when I’m around you I don’t feel/Together, it doesn’t feel right at all/Together, together we’ve built a wall. . . . Holding hands we’ll fall.” Young listeners will readily identify with her relational confusion and pain.
The disc’s first single release, “Don’t Tell Me” is a powerful song about sexuality that jumped right into heavy rotation on MTV. Written by Lavigne when she was 17, she says she doesn’t necessarily believe the song’s message now. In the song, Lavigne tells her boyfriend she’s not going all the way: “Did you think that I was going to give it up to you this time?/Did you think that it was something I was going to do and cry?/Don’t try to tell me what to do/Don’t try to tell me what to say/You’re better off that way.” She encourages girls to be strong and not let guys pressure them into sexual activity: “It’s about being strong, having respect for yourself and being able to say no. . . . and girl power.” (muchmusic.com). In our sexually promiscuous culture, it’s easy to see why so many music critics have labeled the song a “pro-abstinence” tune. But is it really? The video opens with Lavigne sitting on a bed next to her fully-dressed boyfriend who is getting up and leaving her apartment. Lavigne is dressed, but is only wearing her underpants and socks on her lower body. She gets dressed and follows him down the street, angrily singing her message of girl power. Teen People’s Zena Burns says of the song, “She’s not saying she wants to jump into bed immediately, but it’s clear she has a relationship with this guy. Teenage girls aren’t all either super-sexual or abstinence queens. Most fall somewhere in the middle.” (
“He Wasn’t” is a kiss-off tune in which Lavigne sits around on a Sunday afternoon reflecting on a date gone bad. It oozes relational yearning and brokenness that’s resulted from dissatisfaction with a selfish guy: “He wasn’t what I wanted/What I thought, no/He wouldn’t even open up the door/He never made me feel like I was special/He isn’t really what I’m looking for/This is when I start to bite my nails/And clean my room when all else fails/I think it’s time for me to bail.”
In “How Does It Feel” Lavigne steps back and looks at her life, reflecting on how small she is in comparison to the largeness of the world. She asks for help and comfort: “Would you comfort me?/Would you cry with me?” In the end she wonders if she’s the only one in the world who feels this way as she asks listeners if they are any different from her.
Lavigne laments over a broken relationship in “My Happy Ending.” After believing it was a relationship that would work and that he was perfect for her, she suddenly realizes that he was putting her on and pretending all the time. She says, “Let’s talk this over/It’s not like we’re dead/Was it something I did?/Was it something you said?. . . . You were all the things I thought I knew and I thought we could be. . . . . It’s nice to know that you were there/Thanks for acting like you care/And making me feel like I was the only one/It’s nice to know we had it all/Thanks for watching me as I fall/And letting me know we were done.” She concludes, “so much for my happy ending.” Listeners who have had their hopes vanish after being dumped will connect with this song.
“Nobody’s Home” is written about a girl Lavigne knew in high school. The girl has numerous problems and wants her life to be normal. Her spiritual and relational emptiness is so deep that she doesn’t let anyone help her: “What’s wrong what’s wrong now?/Too many too many problems/Don’t know where she belongs/Where she belongs/
She wants to go home/But nobody is home/That’s where she lies/Broken inside/With no place to go/To dry her eyes/Broken inside.” This is a powerful song which many young kids will find describes themselves.
When she wrote “Forgotten,” Lavigne was spending lots of time listening to the dark music of Marilyn Manson. The post-breakup song reflects Manson’s influence. The guy forgets her and she responds to him in anger: “I’m giving up on everything/Because you messed me up. . . . Because I’m moving on/I won’t forget/You were the one that was wrong.” She vows to never let this happen to herself again.
“Who Knows” ponders if anyone knows what will happen in the future. Lavigne implores listeners to make the most of their destiny in carpe deim fashion by taking their lives into their own hands: “I think there’s something more/Life’s worth living for/Who knows what could happen/Do what you do/Just keep on laughing/One thing’s true/There’s always a brand new day/I’m gonna live today like it’s my last day. . . . find yourself. . . . be yourself.” One wonders if she’s forgotten the spiritual nurture of her parents, resulting in worldview with little or no room for God.
“Fall To Pieces” is a love song written to the object of her affection on a difficult day. She states her desire to keep on with them rather than allowing their relationship to fall to pieces: “If I had my way/I’d never get over you/Today’s the day/I pray that we make it through. . . . You’re the only one/I’d be with ‘til the end. . . . I’m in love with you.”
In “Freak Out,” Lavigne states her philosophy on how to handle difficulty and problems. She tells her listeners, “You don’t always have to do everything right/Stand up for yourself and put up a fight/Walk around with your hands up in the air like you don’t care. . . . just freak out and let it go.”
The album ends with “Slipped Away,” a very touching and emotional song written to her grandfather after he died. She was on tour at the time and laments the fact that she didn’t get to say “goodbye.” She sings, “I miss you/I miss you so bad/I don’t forget you/Oh it’s so sad. . . . I didn’t get around to kiss you goodbye on the hand/I wish that I could see you again/I know that I can’t.”
Step 4: Look for evidence of a spiritual quest.
While Lavigne makes no overt mention of God, her inward yearning for redemption rises to the surface of her music. Lavigne sings over and over again about emptiness and lonliness. This is the channel through which her groans for restoration can be heard. The sad fact is that the human relationships she so desperately anticipates will be fulfilling, are ultimately never able to answer her longings. Many of her songs could be quoted and used as examples of fallen humanity’s cry for help.
Step 5: Identify “touchpoints” to use as doorways of opportunity for connection, conversation, evangelism, and discipleship.
This is a performer who takes a stand for authenticity and individuality. In a day and age where young people long for authenticity, Lavigne mirrors their desire by wearing her individualism on her sleeve through her music and her image. She refuses to be pigeon-holed by someone else’s expectations or formulas, whether that be her fans or her record company. She says, “I’m going to clearly be myself. I write what I feel. I never worry about what others think. I’m gonna dress what’s me. I’m gonna act what’s me and I’m gonna sing what’s me” (avrilfans.com). We can talk with Lavigne fans about issues of authenticity and individuality, particularly as they relate to the authority we choose to submit ourselves to.
We should employ the fact that her age and experience allow her to identify with her audience. Some of the most popular artists in today’s music industry are singing and selling to an audience young enough to be their children, and in some cases, grandchildren. Not so with Lavigne. She’ll be a teenager herself until late September. Her young age not only makes her a peer to the younger members of her audience, but it allows her to write music about their commonly shared experiences of life in the adolescent world. Her music is their music for the simple reason that she is them. Discussing how Lavigne’s music mirrors their experience can serve as an effective point of contact and discussion starter.
Lavigne is a role model for the strong, young female. The emerging generation wants to discuss gender issues. One of the recent trends in popular music is the empowered woman as performer. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera have reinvented themselves in recent months to portray a more controlling and dominating female image. Lavigne, a tomboy, has always been that way. She’s very strong and outspoken for a girl just ready to leave her teens. In a media-driven youth culture where the message about girls is too often one of objectification, Lavigne encourages female listeners by word and example to stand strong and do things their way. Rather than being controlled, they should be the controller. As time goes on, more and more young girls will grow up to adopt this persona. Why? Young girls who are developing through the confusing and change-filled years of adolescence are longing for someone to show them the way. Lavigne is taking them by the hand and leading them through. Her ability to do so is that much stronger when parents and the church make themselves absent and scarce in young lives – a situation far too common. Avril Lavigne is simply filling a need. We should seize her music as a touchpoint for discussing gender roles and how they function in God’s economy.
We should listen for the hurt as Lavigne’s music is her therapy and she invites others to listen in. Avril Lavigne has always admitted that she does her best writing when she’s hurt or dealing with a relational crisis. Like many other artists, her music flows out of her pain and the writing process functions as a form of self-therapy. As kids feel what she feels, they will find her music to serve as an expression of their reality, and a cathartic experience that makes them feel better. Where she suggests solutions, her words will serve as powerful guidance for young listeners feeling her pain. Our question to Lavigne’s listeners should be, “Where do you hurt?”
Step 6: Discern those elements that can be celebrated and embraced, and those that must be challenged and opposed.
Celebrate the fact that her music is real. Young people are drawn to vulnerability. They desire to connect with people who bare their souls, open themselves up, and admit the fact that their life experiences are no different than anyone else’s. Lavigne says she thinks “the fans like my lyrics because they’re real” (Flare, 10/02). When Lavigne sings about the ups and downs of adolescent life and relationships, her insight as one going through it herself gives her great drawing power and credibility with a generation looking for a chance to open up and be genuine themselves. Avril Lavigne is the real deal.
Celebrate Lavigne’s desire and resolve to help her audience. There’s a certain level of compassion that marks Lavigne’s music and personality. Members of her audience see her as a friend, not as some distant performer who could care less about them. In an interview with Cosmo Girl she says, “I hope that I can help a listener who’s in a similar situation” (10/02). Listeners who are going through the pain of relational break-ups find that her music not only expresses what it is they’re feeling, but offers some advice that helps them weather the storm. Many see Avril Lavigne as the friend and listening ear they’ve never had before. In some ways, she’s a trusted counselor and guide.
Celebrate her desire to put forth a relatively positive image. The music industry is filled with performers who dress with no regard for modesty and sing/live with the same reckless abandon. That’s not who Lavigne is. With the exception of a few instances, her music is relatively wholesome. Hopefully, it will stay that way. She refuses to dress in the costume of the “boy toy.” Instead, she opts for more modest dress, something that endears her to parents concerned about their children’s choice of musical role models. Discussing Lavigne’s dress can spark a teachable moment to discuss issues of modesty, and thereby open the door for a discussion of God’s will and way.
We must celebrate the fact that Avril Lavigne has kept her head. The girl who grew up in a modest and happy home has worked hard to stay true to her roots. She’s avoided the appearance of arrogance and wants to remain faithful to who she’s always been. She says of her fame, “I haven’t let it go to my head. I mean, yeah, it changes you. You go through a lot and it makes you a bit of a different person. But it’s a little dangerous. You have to remember who you are and where you come from and that you’re just a person. You have to be careful not to place yourself above anyone else and think of yourself as better. And I don’t. I think some artists do” (
We celebrate Lavigne’s creative drive and determination. Far too many adults label the younger generations as “lazy” and “unmotivated.” Avril Lavigne not only shatters that stereotype, but offers an example of drive and determination for those young people who could easily fall into laziness and lethargy. She has worked hard to get to where she is. In doing so, she has continued to develop her God-given gifts. She is determined to grow as a singer and songwriter, and that resolve should challenge the creative element of the church to do the same by settling for nothing less than the pursuit of excellence.
We should affirm her unwillingness to be manipulated, and teach our students to do the same. Today’s youth culture is obsessed with image and appearance to the point where it is literally killing kids. Sadly, many pop stars serve as guilty role models, using their carefully crafted and cultivated image and appearance to point kids in this dangerous direction. In our efforts to lead young people away from an unhealthy focus on outward appearance to a more healthy approach that looks – as God does – on the heart, we can point to Avril Lavigne as an example of someone who refuses to buy and live the damaging appearance lies propagated so pervasively by our culture.
We should celebrate Lavigne’s commitment to individuality, so far as that commitment affirms one’s God-given uniqueness without denouncing His authority. In a postmodern world, young people are encouraged to be the captains of their own ship. Sadly, this anti-authoritarian form of individuality can lead one to denounce the need to respect and respond to God’s authority over life and to those ordained by God to exercise authority in our lives (parents, government, teachers, etc.). Where Avril Lavigne avoids these traps, we can affirm her commitment to living out who she is without the need to conform or apologize to anyone or any other image. That said, we can use songs like “Complicated” to spark discussion on individuality and conformity from a biblical perspective. Still, we should continue to watch and listen to Lavigne to see how she responds to authority in her own life.
Recognize Avril Lavigne’s commitment to her family is refreshing. To this point, Lavigne has not forgotten her roots. This is not a performer who uses her music to lament over a horrible home life. In fact, her home life was a good one. Almost twenty years old, she has had ample opportunity to forsake the lifestyle teachings of her devoutly Christian parents in order to pursue the stereotypical lifestyle associated with life as a rock star. While she confesses to some drinking and will oftentimes pepper her language with profanity, other things that she says and does indicate that her upbringing and the lessons she learned from mom and dad are in the front of her mind. We should pray that she will continue to stay true to her roots, and that she would return to her roots in those areas where she may have strayed.
Step 7: Choose how to use what you’ve learned in your particular ministry setting with your particular audience.
We should use her music as a tool to generate discussion with the teenagers we know and love. How can we get teenagers to open up and talk about their hopes, dreams, struggles, and pain? They are drawn to music that reflects what they’re feeling. Many times, the music puts into words the very emotions they can’t find words for themselves. If you know a youthful Avril Lavigne fan, ask them about her music, why they like it, how they’ve connected to it, and what she says that expresses their reality. By inviting them to let her music serve as a mouthpiece, we can open doorways for communication, counseling, evangelism, and discipleship.
Lavigne’s music offers convincing evidence of how much our children and teens need relationships. In the last line of “Too Much To Ask,” she sings, “Can’t find where I am/Lying here alone in fear/Afraid of the dark/No one to claim/Alone again.” The church must enter into the world of the adolescent with determined resolve to connect and relate for the long term. These are the connections young people long for. Establishing these relationships embodies the Gospel in unmistakable terms. Will we be there?
Lavigne’s story and music offer a helpful springboard for discussing the reality of dis-integrated faith. One of the marks of the professing Christian young person in today’s postmodern world is the compartmentalization of faith and the failure to integrate faith into all of life. While we don’t know her entire story and its details, Lavigne’s childhood in a devout Christian home and seeming apathy towards embracing that faith in its entirety is something we should consider closely. Sadly, if this is the case for Lavigne, she’s like most of her young peers who have been raised in Christian homes. We must look for ways to discuss, prevent, and undo this reality with our children and teens. I suggest one way for youth workers to approach this issue is to discuss Lavigne’s story with their students, follow-up by listening to her music, and then evaluate whether or not her worldview is consistent with a biblical world and life view. We avoid this issue at the peril of the health and vitality of the emerging church.
Avril Lavigne reminds us of our pressing need to model and teach consistent biblical faith that is truly integrated into all of life. True faith is a faith that is integrated into every area of life. It’s a faith that informs all we do and all we say as we seek to live the
We must discuss God’s order and design for sexuality with our kids. While we can celebrate Lavigne’s determination to “wait” in “Don’t Tell Me,” viewers of the popular video single must come to grips with the mixed message Lavigne sends through the visual story. If our desire, conviction, expectation, and wish is to not engage in a sexual relationship that includes intercourse, then we should also be diligent in avoiding all sexual contact and activity that – in God’s grand scheme for our sexuality – progressively leads up to intercourse. In other words, why would Lavigne be mad at a guy for expecting intercourse when she’s already stripped down to her underpants and is laying with him on her bed? In a day and age when many teens try to stretch the bounds by going “most of the way” without “going all of the way,” we should challenge and correct the notion of “technical virginity.” Our young men need to respect and honor girls. Likewise, girls should do nothing that will put young men in compromising positions where their brains yield to their hormones. Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves. But in a sexually-charged cultural climate, mutual conviction and cooperation is necessary. Perhaps the “Don’t Tell Me” video could be used to spark healthy and helpful discussion among students on these very issues.
We must help and teach students to evaluate all music and media from a distinctively Christian perspective. Avril Lavigne offers a wonderful opportunity for lively and profitable discussion about the power of music and the need to make wise music choices. I would encourage every parent and teen to filter Lavigne’s music through CPYU’s How to Use Your Head to Guard Your Heart: A 3-D Guide to Making Wise Music Choices (For more information, check out the resource center on www.cpyu.org). It’s a great way to practice thinking “Christianly” about music and media as her music is largely void of objectionable content and full of meaningful lyrics about teenage life.