Is Olivia Rodrigo Gen Z’s Answer to Avril Lavigne’s Legacy of Angst?
Smudge stick charcoal eyeliner, cargo pants, tank top, and… a neck tie: getting ready for another angsty day of high school in 2002 meant blasting “Complicated” and wondering why no one understood you (or your excellent taste in music.)
Well, that is if you were someone who “Let Go” and let Avril.
In 2002, Lavigne’s “Complicated” rose to the Billboard top twenty. Just shy of that year’s top ten hits, it was No. 11, behind No. 1 hit “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback and No. 7 “In the End” by Linkin Park. Pop Punk/Rock was topping the music charts in the early aughts. But if you look back over the past couple of decades, you might wonder: where did all the angst go?
A different “Tik Tok” held the music industry in its clutches in 2010 with Ke$ha’s single coming in at Billboard’s No. 1 slot after staying in the top 100 for nine weeks straight. When it came to the pop genre, softer pop tunes from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and Maroon 5 were all the rage in 2015. But it wasn’t until 2021 that the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End songs gave the next generation of smudgy eyeliner teens a “brutal” icon that might make them “happier”.
From “Let Go” to “SOUR”
In January 2021, Olivia Rodrigo, former Disney child-star and future global music mogul, dropped “driver’s license.” Through the power of millions of Gen-Z tik-tokers and nostalgic millennials (and a bit of teen TV drama), “driver’s license” emerged as a hit and left listeners waiting on the arrival of Rodrigo’s first studio album SOUR with bated breath.
Rodrigo’s album is honest in its naivete and joyful in its heartbreak. It speaks the anthem of “girls rule, boys drool” in both a newly refreshing and classic punk way that hasn’t been heard in the music scene in literal decades; not since Avril.
“Here’s To Never Growing Up”
The crucial difference between the two is that Avril helped the world realize that the “Sk8r Boi” type was an undeniable catch, whereas Olivia’s POV is one of heartbreak; her very own “Sk8r Boi” ended up being a “traitor”. Beyond their intentions, their musical stylings and lyrics could easily tell one twenty year long story.
Lavigne began the tale of a “Sk8r Boi” love…
“He’s just a boy
And I’m just a girl
Can I make it any more obvious?
We are in love
Haven’t you heard
How we rock each other’s world,”
But in “good 4 u” Rodrigo’s lyrics cry out the unfortunate fate of a classic tale gone sour…
“Remember when you swore to God I was the only person who ever got you?
Well, screw that and screw you
You will never have to hurt the way you know that I do.”
Yes, they both use numbers instead of letters in their song titles (iconic), but it’s their message, their sharing of tortured teenage hearts that makes them voices of their generation(s). To fall in a frustrating love or fall victim to a heartbreak is just how angst begins. It takes a brave artist to share that intimate pain. Whether their music is reaching the shoppers at Hot Topic or the Zoomers of Tik-Tok, “Black Stars” and “Livies” alike can all relate to that kindred spirit who dances around in their bedroom just needing a battle cry from someone, anyone who understands.
In combat boots and matching plaid skirts, Olivia and Avril continued their shared legacy. The two singers performed “Complicated” together in Toronto’s Massey Hall on April 29, 2022. Rodrigo shared an Instagram post to commemorate this moment in the music industry. Check out Rodrigo’s post to see pop-punk princesses united to share the good word of Angsty Spirit with the world.
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