Generation Y likes to play dress up. First there was mini-Madonna (Britney Spears) and mini-Mariah (Jessica Simpson), and then, of course, living fashion-plate Christina Aguilera, who looks as if she’s dipped into the walk-in closets of just about every diva in music history. Sure, teen pop may have gone bust but the new revolution is still pint-sized: the latest in the new breed of young singer-songwriters is 17-year-old Avril Lavigne, Gen Y’s mini-Alanis. If Britney is 90210, Lavigne is My So-Called Life, drawing on her real-life skater-punk angst to perfectly capture the intense drama of teenage love on “Too Much to Ask” and the sweet “I’m With You.” Lavigne’s vocals are dynamic and larger than life on tracks like “Losing Grip,” often slipping into quirky patterns reminiscent of her fellow-Canadian superstar. Lyrically, though, she falls short of Morissette’s razor-sharp guile; Lavigne proclaims “If I could say what I want to say/I’d say I want to blow you…away,” but it’s still a long way from going down on your boyfriend in a theater. She reduces teen troubles down to the trials and tribulations of the kids who wear baggy clothes (“Sk8er Boi”) and you can bet she’s not referencing Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” when she spews double-negatives on the white-girls-can’t-rap tune “Nobody’s Fool.” The album’s lead single, the infectious “Complicated,” is more poser than punk, and Clif Magness’s drum loops and impeccable production often dull the few edges the album actually has. “Lay back, it’s all been done before,” she quips at one point, but as we’ve learned from other formulaic creations like Mandy Moore and Pink, young artists can turn on a dime and find their own voices. Now if only we could find a mini-Courtney Love.
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