‘Sk8er Boi’ Turns 20 This Year—and It’s Shockingly More Relevant Than Ever
The year was 2002 and Avril Lavigne was on top of the world (or—more literally on top of a green 1970s Plymouth). In her backwards cap, Converse high tops and signature oversized tie, Lavigne ran around, rocked out and smashed a windshield with her guitar in the music video for her new single, “Sk8er Boi,” …and the pop music scene was never quite the same. Fresh off the success of her debut single, “Complicated,” Lavigne returned with another certified banger, solidifying her place as a punk icon and a tongue-in-cheek lyricist. And now, in 2022, as “Sk8er Boi” celebrates its 20th anniversary, some might think of it as a relic of the early aughts past. However, the anthem feels more relevant now than ever.
For many, there’s a sense of nostalgia when it comes to “Sk8er Boi.” The song came out in an era of Hot Topic and halter tops, belly button rings and jeans under dresses. As the sport of skateboarding became more mainstream and influenced sectors of fashion, this track encapsulated that shift. PureWow’s beauty editor, Jenny Jin, notes, “That song coincided with my move from California to Maryland, so I leaned into Avril’s whole sk8er girl aesthetic hard…I wore a lot of neck ties and a seat belt from Hot Topic with Dickies and Vans that entire year.”
Meanwhile, others—like commerce editor Olivia Dubyak—reveal the song takes them back to their childhood, where the straightforward lyrics resonated with young listeners. “My cousin and I used to pretend we were making a music video and she would be the skater boy and I would be the girl,” Dubyak says. “It was just epic for our childhood.” The song had such an influence on her that it even continued into her adult life. “To this day we still know the choreography, and yes, we did bust out a few of the moves at my wedding,” Dubyak added.
But, while the song still slaps for Millennials who lived through its radio-dominating days, we see echoes of Lavigne’s aesthetic in the work of newer musicians too, some of whom weren’t even born when “Sk8er Boi’ was released.
Last year, Olivia Rodrigo dropped her number-one song “good 4 u,” which brought pop punk sounds into the mainstream once again. In her music video for “brutal,” Rodrigo herself stands on the hood of a car and dons the plaid patterns that were quintessential to Lavigne’s early years. Meanwhile, Billie Eilish has disrupted pop star styles with her own goth aesthetic, and she’s filmed herself running around in malls and goofing off just like Lavigne was twenty years ago. Both Rodrigo and Eilish have even cited Lavigne as a major influence on their work.
Yet, as we see punk weave its way back into pop music and skateboarding return to the mainstream in the form of Gossip Girl stars and Olympic Games, these aren’t the only reasons we continue blasting “Sk8er Boi.”
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our society has been leaning hard on nostalgia, with reboots of our old favorite shows churning out at rapid speed and many returning to comforts of days past. But with these pandemic-induced changes, there has also been an increase of no f*cks given attitudes, because put quite simply: life is short. This "punk" attitude is expounded upon in a number of recent think pieces dissecting why people are suddenly quitting their jobs because they are unhappy and why looking out for one's own happiness has now become a higher and more immediate priority. Perhaps the harsh reality of the pandemic demonstrated to people that crafting a certain image of themselves wasn’t actually worth all the trouble. In this way, “Sk8er Boi” acts not only as a form of nostalgia, but also as a still-relevant anthem for going after what you love and not caring what others think.
When listening to “Sk8er Boi,” it can be easy to get swept up by the rattling guitars and reverberating drums and forget that the track is actually a love song, where Lavigne ends up with the skater boy because another girl was too turned off by his image. “He wanted her / She'd never tell / Secretly she wanted him as well / But all of her friends / Stuck up their nose / They had a problem with his baggy clothes,” Lavigne recounts. In recent years, we’ve seen certain pop stars be criticized for the ways in which their early songs crafted sexist depictions of other women. However, in “Sk8er Boi,” Lavigne’s only criticism of the other woman is the way in which she looks down on the guy she likes because she can’t move past others’ judgments. Perhaps another reason it has stood the test of time.
Just a few months back, Lavigne released her newest album Love Sux, which (despite its cheeky title) she described as a “light and happy” record, and one which “has a positive message for people to stand up for [themselves], to have self-worth.” And only a few months after this release, Lavigne announced her engagement to singer-songwriter, Derek Ryan Smith (aka Mod Sun). As has been evident throughout her career, Lavigne continues to poke fun at the frustrations of love, all the while demonstrating that what matters most is, in fact, love and self-love.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of “Sk8er Boi,” we likely won’t be throwing on our old high tops and riding away on our skateboards. However, we will be remembering Lavigne’s 20-year-old message and trying to live by it in 2022. Cause prioritizing self-love and not caring about what others think is the most punk thing you can do.