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Pop Trend of the Year: Anti-Britneys

Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, and Vanessa Carlton want to teach their generation that there’s more to rock ‘n’ roll than singing Joan Jett songs on karaoke night

With Justin debuting new songs and Christina unveiling new thongs, teen pop ain’t going anywhere. But the genre lost a lot of its bounce in 2002 as listeners gravitated toward artists like Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and Avril Lavigne. They’re the anti-Britneys: too self-possessed to rock leather lingerie onstage, too cool to let Diane Warren write their ballads, too sensitive to get sweaty with Redman. They may not be as badass as PJ Harvey (or even Pink), but the fact that Branch, Carlton, and Lavigne all became bona fide American idols to the TRL set in 2002 was encouraging. While Britney mourned a rough year by smoking too much, getting drunk, and watching Jenna Jameson movies, Lavigne threw down Blink-182 riffs on her double-platinum debut album, Let Go. When Spin met the 18-year-old Canadian in New York, she’d been on 35 planes in 28 days. But she still found the energy to talk a little trash.

Spin: You’ve had an unbelievable year. What was the most memorable thing that happened?Avril Lavigne: Probably finishing my album. I got signed when I’d just turned 16, and then I worked on the album for over ayear. When they finally sent me the final copy of the CD, I just sat there like, “Aaaahhh! This is my CD, man. This is mine!” TheMTV Awards were also really cool.

Anyone there who you were particularly amazed by?I was backstage, and somehow I ended up standing this close to Eminem. He was like, “I respect your record,” then he shook my handand walked away. That meant a lot. I look up to him–he just seems honest and straightforward.

What will your next record sound like?The music I listen to is hard, and the next record will definitely be a heavier rock record. Let Go is a lot more polished than Iwanted it to be. It’s okay, though, because looking at it from a business point of view, it helped me break. Whatever. I mean, I’mgrowing up, and I’m more hands-on about everything. I wrote this album when I was 16, and I did my best to get it done my way, and I’mproud of that.

Did you have to fight for creative control?I had to tell people, “I’m not going to sing other people’s songs.” Writing with other people is really weird, because they make itmore their song than yours. That’s the way it was in the beginning, and I had to be like, “No, no, no, this is the way the song has to be.”

Is that what your fans like about you?That’s all I ever hear from fans. When I meet them, it’s like, “Oh my God, Avril, you write your own songs; you’re so real!” It’sreally cool that people see that, but there are always people who are like, “Oh, the record label just made her up.”

That must be weirdIt’s so stupid! Whatever. I wear these clothes because I want to, not because the label picked them out. I come out dressing the way Ialways dress, and people are like, “Oh, that’s fake.” Kiss my ass it’s fake! You don’t know me! [Laughs]

Is it strange to see kids come to your shows dressed like you–with the tie?Oh, yeah. At my shows, every girl has a white tank top and tie and a striped wristband. That one chick from American Idol orwhatever? I’ve seen her wearing a fuckin’ white shirt and a tie! I’m like, “Gee, where’d you get that idea from?