Avril Lavigne's Most Controversial Moments

Borrowing from symbolism defining the punk and grunge eras that ruled long before she became of age, Avril Lavigne popped into the mainstream as a curiosity via her first hit album "Let Go" in 2002. She wasn't a cardboard cutout cutie like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. Musically, she was closer to Pink than, say, Patti Smith, but her "Don't mess with me!" attitude empowered female fans and startled their male counterparts. That rebellious package and her songwriting savvy convinced Arista Records to sign her, and the rest is history.

Lavigne credits her grounded personality to her semi-rural setting in Napanee, Canada. "I got here on my own," she said to the Kingston Herald. "I came from a small town and grew up in a regular home. I know what I've worked hard for ... I've seen a lot of people who have gone a little crazy and who are really into the Hollywood scene. I don't really like to hang out with people like that." And it came in handy when she faced the overwhelming hordes of industry personnel, media, paparazzi and fans hit the big time. That Lavigne is in the top 10 of Canada's best-selling recording artists overall list might be gobsmacking enough, but she's equally taken that her hometown locals named a pizza after her. Those sentiments aside, Lavigne has also put herself at odds with showbiz rivals and handlers hoping to mold her into something else.

Avril Lavigne took a shot at Britney Spears

During Avril Lavigne's initial ascent up the charts courtesy of her successful "Let Go" debut album, fans and music pundits dubbed her the "anti-Britney," a reference to singer Britney Spears. "I don't like that term — 'the anti-Britney.' It's stupid," she said to Entertainment Weekly in 2002. "I don't believe in that. She's a human being. God, leave her alone!" Still, that didn't stop her from criticizing the belly-baring, lip-sync, dance entourage formula stars like Spears had to follow. "I'm not made up, and I'm not being told what to say and how to act, so they have to call me the 'anti-Britney,' which I'm not," she said that same year on "Dateline."

Spears took Lavigne's dig at her industry upbringing seriously. "Avril doesn't really dance, but whatever," she said in retaliation to W Magazine (via Complex). "It's weird. My third album sold as much as her first one, which is very funny to me because everyone thought it didn't do that great." But that didn't stop Lavigne from attacking the "Baby One More Time" singer on the "Today Show" in 2004. "I mean, the way Britney dresses, would you walk round the street in a f***ing bra?" retorted Lavigne. "You won't see me on stage in a sexy outfit or my hair in ribbons. If that's what someone wants to do, then so be it, but I wouldn't be seen dead looking like that."

She briefly feuded with Hilary Duff

Avril Lavigne's rise to stardom also had female fans adopting her signature tie and tank top combo, triggering an inexplicable comment from teen popster and songstress Hilary Duff. Apparently, Duff came across a Lavigne remark that took a shot at her own fans, prompting the Disney chanteuse to weigh in. "I think some of the things Avril said about her fans were kind of mean-spirited," said Duff to World Entertainment News Network (per Paper). "I was like, 'You should be happy that these people like you and look up to you!'" The line allegedly discovered by Duff roughly read: "I sometimes see girls who are dressed like me and made-up like me. Get a life, you know?" although there doesn't seem to be any solid evidence of its original source online. It also didn't make sense, given that Lavigne's own website sells a great deal of fashion merch.

Lavigne wasn't amused. "I'm like, 'Excuse me?'" she said to Newsweek. "First off, it's not even true. I never said that. And second, who the hell cares what she has to say about my fans? Whatever. Hilary Duff's such a goody-goody, such a mommy's girl." During an interview on Boston's "MIX 98.5," Lavigne dug in further. "Don't talk trash with me," she said (per PopDirt), "You can go screw yourself." The sparks in the feud have since fizzled out, enough for the combatants to pose for a shot with their significant others in 2006.

Avril Lavigne has been accused of stealing material

Throughout her career, Avril Lavigne has collaborated with the likes of Marilyn Manson and Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker, but no creative tandem has given her more grief than the time she teamed up with Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk. Apparently, in 2005, Kreviazuk sent Lavigne a song called "Contagious," and then saw the work tracked on the "Sk8r Boi" singer's third album "The Best Damn Thing" without the songwriter's credits. "Avril doesn't really sit down and write songs by herself or anything," lamented Kreviazuk in "Performing Songwriter" in 2007 (via Lainey Gossip). "Avril will also cross the ethical line, and no one says anything. That's why I'll never work with her again." 

Livid once those comments hit the press, Lavigne struck back. "Chantal's comments are damaging to my reputation and a clear defamation of my character and I am considering taking legal action," Lavigne said to NME, claiming the song was actually one she wrote with her lead guitarist Evan Taubenfeld. "Chantal has accused me of taking a song idea from her because I happen to have a song on my new record with the same title."

After hearing about Lavigne's threats to sue, Kreviazuk's management stepped in and played her the contentious track. Right then and there, Kreviazuk realized this wasn't the same "Contagious" piece she had submitted. That's when she retracted her statements and offered a public apology to Lavigne. To this day, the two songwriters have not collaborated since.

The Malaysian government canceled her live show

Avril Lavigne has been called a lot of things from critics and detractors alike, but a security threat hasn't been one of them, at least not in North America. Instead, it was Malaysia that pulled the plug on Lavigne's Kuala Lumpur show — where she was slated to kick off her 2008 Asian tour — on grounds that the concert would corrupt Muslim values. The government move was a result of a protest staged by a younger contingent of the conservative opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic party. "It is considered too sexy for us," said one party official to Associated Press (via Fox News) "It's not good for viewers in Malaysia. We don't want our people, our teenagers, influenced by their performance. We want clean artists, artists that are good role models."

The timing wasn't great either, given that the Lavigne show was scheduled prior to the country's national independence day celebrations, when Malaysians go all out to display their patriotic and religious fervor. But after a cabinet meeting where officials considered assurances from organizers that Lavigne's show was anything but subversive, the show was back on. Lavigne took the news in stride. "They tend to, you know, sometimes not want Western artists in their country," she said to MTV News. "I respect that, but at the same time, you know, there's people that listen to music there and want to see their idols and stuff, so it's all good."

Avril Lavigne was skewered for marrying Chad Kroeger

Avril Lavigne has had her share of romances from TV personality and Kardashian relative Brody Jenner to billionaire Phillip Sarofim. She's also had two failed marriages, the first with Sum 41 guitarist Deryck Whibley and the second with Chad Kroeger, leader of the much despised rock outfit Nickelback. The backlash over the announcement that the two Canadian musicians were engaged was fierce, including a snarky dig by The Guardian, which complained that Lavigne was marrying a member of a "band that has less fans on Facebook than a pickle." Speaking of the social media platform, Facebook's owner Mark Zuckerberg took a shot at the group when, during a video demonstration, his AI home assistant Jarvis declared Nickelback didn't have any good music, prompting an angry tweet from Lavigne.

Despite selling more than 50 million albums globally, Nickelback has often been dismissed as a bland, unimaginative, and even misogynist post-grunge band, with many of them crying foul over the "Chavril" pairing. "I try not to take too much interest in the world's opinion of our relationship," said Kroeger in response to OK! Magazine. The couple married in 2013, but two years later, had split up. "Through not only the marriage, but the music as well, we've created many unforgettable moments," wrote Lavigne about the split on Instagram (via HuffPost). "We are still, and forever will be, the best of friends, and will always care deeply for each other."

She was called a racist over her Hello Kitty video

The cratered landscapes that have facilitated the culture wars of late can be pretty rough terrain to navigate, as Avril Lavigne found out when she released the video for her "Hello Kitty" single in 2014. The video features Lavigne singing and dancing with four identically-dressed Japanese backup performers, strutting through such venues as a candy store and a sushi restaurant. It was enough for detractors to have a field day with the artist. Webzine MIC – citing a similar effort previously done by Gwen Stefani –claimed the outing "bastardizes Japanese Kawaii culture," while Billboard dismissed it as an "embarrassment in any language." Social media respondents were far more vicious in pelting Lavigne with allegations of racism. One participant tweeted, "Avril, the video is racist and trivializes an entire group of people into props, among other things." Another one scolded, "This is basically the equivalent of being like, 'I'm not racist! A lot of my friends are black.' Please grow up."

It was enough for Lavigne to tweet her astonishment over the reaction. ?"RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!!" she wrote. "I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan." Still, "Hello Kitty" managed to debut at #75 on Billboard's Hot 100 and didn't do much better after that. Ironically, the song hit the #2 berth and her eponymous album that contained the contentious single went platinum in, of all places, Japan.

An Avril Lavigne single upset Christian fans

Some of the things that Avril Lavigne likes to have around her include her favorite pair of Doc Martens boots, Smolder eye liner, Tostitos chips with salsa Con Queso and a six-pack of Labatt Blue beer. But more pious folks would be quick to contend that the "Complicated" singer also likes to have Satan by her side. In 2019, Christian fans were outraged that Lavigne's "Head Above Water" album yielded the single "I Fell In Love With the Devil," a song they declared as blasphemous. "A covenant with Jesus is far superior and can abolish any deal you made with the devil," tweeted one disgruntled individual.  Another disgusted fan tweeted, in part, "You people are sick."

Lavigne explained that the song wasn't meant to be taken literally, but a metaphorical summation of her feelings when dealing with a deteriorating relationship while recovering from Lyme disease. "It was fierce and I was really scared," recalled Lavigne when talking to German publication Aargauer Zeitung (via The Christian Post). "I was still weakened and already so vulnerable and fearful and insecure at the time." Despite Lavigne's explanation, it turned out that not very many other people liked the ballad, as the song never even hit the Billboard charts. The album peaked at #13 when it debuted on the music tracker's 200 chart, the first time a Lavigne record failed to chart in the top 10.

She tongue-lashed a topless activist onstage

Despite precautions, U.S. broadcasters of live awards shows are understandably nervous about the unexpected happening onstage, such as the infamous slap Will Smith delivered to Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Less than a year later, it was Canada's turn to bear witness to a similar controversy, this time involving Avril Lavigne and an unwelcome guest. Speaking at the Junos (the country's version of the Grammys), airing live from Edmonton, Alberta via the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Lavigne was oblivious to a topless woman clad in pasties and pants venturing onstage behind her until she got too close to the star for comfort. "Get the f*** off!" Lavigne immediately snapped at her.  Police later charged the woman, who exposed herself at the Junos to promote environmental issues, with mischief.

When the incident went viral on social media, most viewers sided with Lavigne for chastising the protester's rude and predatory method of garnering attention. "She handled it like a pro," noted one admirer. Later that night, however, Lavigne tweeted gratitude to her supporters who helped the singer win the fan choice award, after which more "woke" respondents posted their displeasure. "If you were really punk rock you would have handed the protester the mic," noted one dissenter. "[You] should be supporting brave activists who take risks to be heard, not belittling them," added another. Lavigne quickly learned that divisiveness isn't restricted to American politics, it can even sprout up after an otherwise innocuous Canadian awards show.