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 Avril almost runs over Big Boi and makes a bold prediction ...

Page 2

 Chasing off stylists, rejecting label demands and the truth about the 'skater thing' ...

Page 3

 Avril goes from the skate park to the spotlight and hooks up with a hot-guy band ...

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Despite the sense of good fortune and gratitude most would derive from having L.A. Reid as a fan, Lavigne seems rather unimpressed. Sheer adolescent confidence permeates her logic. "If it wasn't this label, it would be another," she said matter-of-factly, as if those statistics about one in every few thousand artists being commercially successful didn't apply to her.

 "Anything But Ordinary"
Let Go
The Let Go track "Anything But Ordinary" is Avril's signature song: "Somebody save my life/ I'd rather be any thing but ordinary, please." While it seems as though her sincerity would preclude her from needing to be rescued, simply writing a song about being "anything but ordinary" could come off as contrived. Just because a kid sports a T-shirt reading "Freak," it doesn't make him one. It seems the harder you reach for it, the farther away you get.

It would be easy to dismiss Lavigne as a poser if it weren't for the other aspects of her personality that aren't so much "cool" as they are genuine. She's quick to admit that school made her insecure (she's since dropped out to concentrate solely on her music). And as much as she professes to having this fashion-plate phobia, she's prone to be contradictory, but aren't we all? In keeping with her muss-and-no-fuss exterior, she waved off a stylist who tried to primp her hair for our interview, but when I informed her that she had a strand out of place, she blushed, thanked me profusely and looked a little self-conscious. This isn't being fake, it's being real.

Another aspect that debunks the notion that Lavigne is the product of a major-label laboratory is her band: drummer Matthew Brann, bassist Mark Spicoluk and guitarists Jesse Colburn and Evan Taubenfeld. Although she got together with them after signing her deal, these boys are her band, and she treats them as such. Besides the guys being all over her "Complicated" video, she and Taubenfeld wrote a song together soon after they met. Lavigne expects some of their collaborative efforts to appear on her next LP.

  "I want people, when they hear my name or think 'Avril Lavigne,' to think of me and the guys ..."
"I'm a solo artist and it's my name, but I have the band vibe and I want people, when they hear my name or think 'Avril Lavigne,' to think of me and the guys. That's how much I want them to be involved in this," she explained. "We have something really special and we connect really well. It's strange, but it really feels like we're all supposed to be together. It's a really cool, unique situation."

And like most 17-year-olds, she finds a rocker guy strapped with a Les Paul sunburst simply irresistible. "I had a crush on each of them," she confessed. "Aren't they hot?"

She's not alone in this real-girl approach. Along with Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch, Lavigne is making a refreshing return to themes deeper and more emotionally grounded than the vague musical question posed by the last 'NSYNC single: "Would you be my girlfriend?" Girls like Avril, Vanessa, and Michelle require a little more info and reply with questions like "Why?" and "What's in it for me?" Like just being in a boy band isn't enough? For these ladies and their fans, it's not.

As Let Go continues to move around 100,000 copies each week, Lavigne may find that the sudden success can make holding on to her no-frills image all the more difficult. It was easy to decline an offer to slink into some fancy couture when you've never worn it, but when you can afford to have a closetful, the temptation to ditch your tried and true blue jeans may be too much. Avril, wise beyond her years, has even forecasted the possibility of losing her grip on "Mobile": "Everything's changing when I turn around/ All out of my control, I'm a mobile."

When I asked how she's going to keep it all in check, Lavigne, not surprisingly, already had it all figured out.

 "All my life this is what I've wanted, what I've dreamed about ..."
"I don't get overwhelmed,"
she said, "just because I feel like I've kind of prepared myself for it. All my life this is what I've wanted, what I've dreamed about, and I knew this would happen. I've been singing ever since I was really young and I've wanted this so bad, and I told myself I would do it. I would have to. I'm really chill about it."

She elaborated on the impending changes recently in ELLEgirl: "I have to fight to keep my image really me. Today, I rejected some gorgeous publicity shots because they just didn't look like me. I won't wear skanky clothes that show my booty, my belly or my boobs. I have a great body. I could be Britney. I could be better than Britney."

Although she could be, she's clearly not in any rush. The last time I saw Avril that week in February, I was heading into one of the gala post-Grammy parties. As I made my way down the red carpet, I could see a virtual who's who of the music industry inside: artists mingling with executives; actors mixing with models; exquisite hors d'oeuvres passed on endless trays. But then I heard that distinct sound of a skateboard slamming against the asphalt.

Turning around, I spotted Avril with the same group of friends, tricking off most anything in their vicinity. It was warm, they were sweaty, their shirts were stained and some of the guys visibly needed new shoes. And she was laughing, just like she had laughed at the hotel.

Since this fete was thrown by the parent company of her label, she could have been the proverbial belle of the ball. But then I stopped myself. It was as apparent then as it is now that Avril Lavigne's bell chimes to her own time.

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Photo: Gregg Delman

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 "Complicated" (live)
Let Go

 "Sk8er Boi"
Let Go

 "Anything But Ordinary"
Let Go

 "Things I'll Never Say"
Let Go