There’s nothing like a new year to make us feel nostalgic for the past. With that in mind, we’re throwing it back 20 years to the era where pop, punk and neck-ties met in a beautiful symphony of teenage angst and eyeliner rebellion.
POV: It’s the beginning of 2002, Nelly, Shakira and Ashanti are all blowing up on MTV, Britney and Justin are breaking up, and Halle Berry’s set to take home the Oscar for Best Actress in Monster’s Ball. And over in Canada, a pint-sized punk princess is primed and ready to rule the world. Her name is Avril Lavigne, she’s a 17-year-old singer-songwriter, and she’s about to do for your dad’s ties and Converse shoes what Madonna did for conical bras. Oh, and she’s also casually changing the game for female artists in the process. Say hello to the era of the pop punk princess.
Let’s consider the musical landscape at the time. The turn of the Millennium and the very early noughties were ruled by Britney and her so-called clones, who flashed their midriffs and danced in synchronised steps to highly-produced beats. Then Avril came along. She was grungy, gutsy and brooding – and she straddled the line between punk and pop.
Her debut album Let Go, which she recorded 20 years ago this month, was released in June to universal acclaim – while standout songs such as Complicated and Sk8er Boi remain some of the biggest hits of the 21st century. Unlike melodic punk bands such as Sum 41 and Green Day, she seamlessly bridged the gap between mainstream pop and alternative rock, winning Britney obsessives around as easily as rock fans. Girls wanted to be her, guys wanted to date her, and heat stole a never-ending supply of ties from our dad for every house party we attended that year.
Her influence was ground-breaking – and two decades later, she’s still making waves, as she recently revealed she’s making a movie based on the heartbreaking story of Sk8er Boi (guys, she did ballet – what more can we say?) And in her wake, over the next few years, a roll call of female pop punk artists emerged, hoping to capitalise on the Avril impact and share a bit of the angst-ridden stage. Like these punk-lite princesses…
The first and foremost Avril scion, Ashlee took the heavy-set eyeliner and baggy trousers motif and ran with it. Whereas her sister Jessica was the butter-wouldn’t-melt Britney clone, Ashlee was her naughtier sibling, and her angsty song Pieces Of Me, plus her marriage to Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz (and their subsequent divorce), solidified her cool girl status. She even dyed her naturally blonde hair black to prove just how edgy she was. So punk rock.
When your dad’s infamous for biting the head off a bat, you’re going to have some rebellion in your DNA. And Kelly’s pink hair and snotty attitude cemented her moody rep. But, while her rebellion was mostly reserved for yelling at her folks in The Osbournes, she jumped on the crest of the Avril wave and released at her folks in The Osbournes, she jumped on the crest of the Avril wave and released a punky cover of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach in 2002. And those who didn’t like it could f_cking** f_ck off.
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Let’s be clear, Pink (or P!nk) was no Avril copycat. She was more Avril-adjacent, unleashing her punk-rock side around the same time as her Canadian comrade. Forever plugged as the “Anti-Britney”, her debut album Can’t Take Me Home had an R&B sound. But it was her 2001 album Missundaztood – which actually pre-dated the punk princess revolution – that set her apart as a headbanging, rocking badass global superstar. Pop trends have come and gone over the past 20 years, but Pink has always stood apart and ahead of the game, forever pushing the envelope. Basically, despite its anarchic nature, pop punk has a regal hierarchy: Avril is the princess and Pink is Queen Bee.
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We all know that former Disney stars have a tendency to jump off the deep end (special shoutout to Miley Cyrus and her foam finger), but Hills kept her punk-naissance pretty PG. Her album Metamorphosis – which she described as a pop album with a “little rockier edge to it” – was released in 2003, but judging by the actual pop-to-rock ratio, she basically applied five coats of black eyeliner and called it a day.
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OK, she was punked up for a movie (the career defining masterpiece that is Freaky Friday), but Lindsay Lohan circa 2003 was a serious vibe. And she took the wristbands and streaked hair with her after the film– in which her character Anna played in an all-girl punk band – was released, debuting her Disney-meets-rock album Speak the following year. Hear that, biatches? On Wednesdays, we wear punk.