meta-scriptNow That I Showed You What I Been Through: 50 Years Of 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' | GRAMMY.com
John Lennon in 1970

John Lennon in 1970

 

Photo: Chris Walter/WireImage

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Now That I Showed You What I Been Through: 50 Years Of 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band'

After The Beatles' split and before 'Imagine,' Lennon recorded a jarring audio confessional that remains indelible in 2020

GRAMMYs/Dec 30, 2020 - 05:25 am

John Lennon asked The Beatles for a "divorce," and he got his wish. After the group's breakup in 1970, quarreling and competition were the norm between himself, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. In Lennon's case, this tension added to a slightly tainted reputation derived from the public's disappointment upon The Beatles' end, his unpopular marriage to Yoko Ono and an artistic dispersion. The latter resulted from an ongoing quest to find his spot in a world he'd grown frustrated with yet to which he desperately wanted to belong. As evidenced by his songs and remarks, Lennon's efforts to find himself often left him feeling empty, and he regularly lacked unconditional trust or engagement.

Standing in the way of this self-discovery process was an inability to resolve past traumas, which was one of the main reasons why Lennon decided to undergo Arthur Janov's primal scream program. He had the apparent goal of finally dealing with childhood wounds related to his mother's death and feelings of rejection linked to his father's absence. But the treatment also addressed the recent pain of losing his other family—the one Lennon had shared a life with for the past decade. In short, how could he go forward when he didn't know which way he was facing?

Lennon channeled all this into his debut solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, which turns 50 this month. (December 2020 also marks the 40th anniversary of his murder.) Released as a companion to Ono's concurrent solo debut, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon's album was therapy in its purest form: raw and self-referential. This intimacy was also apparent in the recording process: Apart from Lennon and Ono, the latter of whom is credited on the album sleeve for contributing "wind," the only other musicians were Starr and bassist Klaus Voormann, along with former Beatles roadie Mal Evans (for "tea and sympathy"), pianist Billy Preston and Phil Spector, who played piano on "Love" and "God," respectively.

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When a cycle doesn't end fast enough, there's often a tendency to accelerate it, and Lennon was a man on a mission. The previous year, Lennon had been creatively disengaged from the Let It Be sessions and generally disapproving of the approach McCartney and producer George Martin wanted for Abbey Road, as he attempted to destroy the entity he helped create. This self-sabotaging process, which coincided with his dangerous affair with heroin, often translated into a deafening silence that Beatles scholar Stephanie Piotrowski describes in her Ph.D. dissertation as "part of Lennon's agenda to break The Beatles' myth."

But silence wasn't his sole strategy. It progressively became apparent throughout his solo career—culminating with his GRAMMY-winning final album with Ono, Double Fantasy (1980)—that Ono was his new partner-in-crime in McCartney's stead. For anyone unable to take a hint, in September 1969, he privately told the other three Beatles he was leaving the group. Their financial manager, Allen Klein, asked them to keep this development a secret for as long as possible, fearing the news would undermine sales of the forthcoming album, Let It Be (1970), which was taking forever to mix and master. 

Read: History Of: Walk To London's Famed Abbey Road Studios With The Beatles

Lennon's apparent hurry to break free makes it odd that Plastic Ono Band only came out in December 1970, rendering him the last Beatle to release a proper debut album. (This, of course, if we don't count three previous experimental albums with Ono: Two Virgins, in 1968, and Life With The Lions and Wedding Album, both in 1969. And don't forget the hastily put-together Live Peace In Toronto 1969, which partly consisted of early rock covers and featured Ono, guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Voormann and drummer Alan White.)

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Spector was supposed to be producing, but he was missing in action when the sessions began, leading Lennon to publish a full-page ad in Billboard saying, "Phil! John is ready this weekend." His relative absence ended up being a blessing in disguise: Spector's trademark "Wall of Sound" style probably wouldn't have suited the album's ethos. Lennon and Ono's minimalist approach matched the content better, allowing the emotional outpouring to sound adequately barer. 

Revolving around themes of healing, surrender and replacement, Plastic Ono Band is a prime example of Lennon's songwriting particularities. These include his remarkable ability to craft instant hooks, focus on the lyrical element and rely on subjectivity in storytelling, which contrasted with McCartney's general preference for third-person points of view. 

Always with a way with words, Lennon refrained from complicating his message, choosing direct statements ("Hold On," "Look At Me") over the elusive metaphors and cryptic references he often returned to during The Beatles' later years. This aspect made the album vaguely echo his mid-'60s confessional period that produced "Help!" and "In My Life," transpiring as a matured reflection of what it felt like to feel lost in the eye of the hurricane.

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For all its sincerity and the psychological commitment that it symbolized to Lennon,

the album encountered a mixed reception at best; it was also quickly eclipsed by the release of Imagine nine months later, in 1971. Similar to what had happened with McCartney's self-titled debut, some critics accused John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band of being a product of self-preoccupation and void egotism. This harsh perception mostly came from the absurdly high expectations following The Beatles' breakup. 

"This is the album of a man of black bile," Geoffrey Cannon declared in a 1970 review for The Guardian. "Lennon's album makes a deep impression, if more on him than us … This is declamation, not music. It's not about freedom and love, but madness and pain."

Read: The Beatles Take Aim With 1966's 'Revolver': For The Record 

Even though Imagine eventually became Lennon's indisputable legacy—the title track was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1999, seven years after Lennon's posthumous Lifetime Achievement AwardPlastic Ono Band was still properly cherished. Fans embraced its relatability. It's easier to identify with one's idol opening up about their problems of love and loss than hearing them discuss overly abstract concepts, the renunciatory "God" and tender "Love" being exceptions.

But it also helped that the album didn't become as heavy an institution as Imagine did. Less over(ab)used by pop culture and more grounded in both content and form, Plastic Ono Band felt more human and accessible, despite coming from the myth-ridden colossus called John Lennon.

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In September 1980, three months before his death, Lennon gave an extensive interview to David Sheff for Playboy magazine. Sheff asked what Ono had done for him. "She showed me the possibility of the alternative," Lennon replied. "'You don't have to do this.' 'I don't? Really? But-but-but-but-but...'" Although he was referring to his temporary retirement from music to dedicate himself to being a house husband fully, one could see Plastic Ono Band as the dénouement of a similar epiphany 10 years prior. It kick-started a new life Lennon knew would be radically different from everything he had previously experienced.

In addition to representing a threshold moment for Lennon, the album underwent a mutation with regard to its critical reception. Over the decades, Plastic Ono Band received praise that was anything but a given at its release. In 2020, the album ranked at No. 85 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list. "Lennon's [...] pure, raw core of confession [...] is years ahead of punk," the list's album entry reads. 

However, perhaps Lennon acerbically summed it up best in his Rolling Stone interview with four words that remain jarring to read: "The Beatles was nothing."

It's Not Always Going To Be This Grey: George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' At 50

Tom Petty
Tom Petty performing with the Heartbreakers in 2008

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

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How 'Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration' Makes Tom Petty A Posthumous Crossover Sensation

On 'Petty Country,' Nashville luminaries from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton and Luke Combs make Tom Petty’s simple, profound, and earthy songs their own — to tremendous results.

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2024 - 06:49 pm

If Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers landed in 2024, how would we define them? For fans of the beloved heartland rockers and their very missed leader, it's a compelling question.

"It's not active rock. It's not mainstream rock. It's not country. It would really fall in that Americana vein," says Scott Borchetta, the founder of Big Machine Label Group. "When you think about what his lyrics were and are about, it's really about the American condition."

To Borchetta, these extended to everything in Petty's universe — his principled public statements, his man-of-the-people crusades against the music industry. "He was an American rebel with a cause," Borchetta says. And when you fuse that attitude with big melodies, bigger choruses, and a grounded, earthy perspective — well, there's a lot for country fans to love.

That's what Coran Capshaw of Red Light Management bet on when he posited the idea of Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty, a tribute album released June 21. Featuring leading lights like Dolly Parton ("Southern Accents"), Willie and Lukas Nelson ("Angel Dream (No. 2)," Luke Combs ("Runnin' Down a Dream"), Dierks Bentley ("American Girl,") Wynonna and Lainey Wilson ("Refugee"), and other country luminaries covering Tom Petty classics, Petty Country is a seamless union of musical worlds.

Which makes perfect sense: on a core level, Petty, and his band of brothers, were absolutely steeped in country — after all, they grew up in the South — Gainesville, Florida.

"Tom loved all country music. He went pretty deep into the Carter Family, and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" and the folk, Americana heart of it," says Petty's daughter, Adria, who helps run his estate. "Hank Williams, and even Ernest Tubb and Patsy Cline… as a songwriter, I think a lot of that real original music influenced him enormously." (The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Byrds' Gram Parsons-hijacked country phase, were also foundational.)

A key architect of Petty Country was the man's longtime producer, George Drakoulias. "He's worked with Dad for a hundred years since [1994's] Wildflowers, and he has super exquisite taste," Adria says.

In reaching out to prospective contributors, he and fellow music supervisor Randall Poster started at the top: none other than Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. "Having Willie and Dolly made people stand up and pay attention," Dreakoulias told Rolling Stone, and the Nashville floodgates were opened: Thomas Rhett ("Wildflowers"), Brothers Osborne ("I Won't Back Down"), Lady A ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"), and so many others.

Each artist gave Petty's work a distinctive, personal spin. Luke Combs jets down the highway of "Runnin' Down the Dream" like he was born to ride. Along with Yo-Yo Ma and founding Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Rhiannon Giddens scoops out the electronics and plumbs the droning, haunting essence of "Don't Come Around Here No More."


And where a lesser tribute album would have lacquered over the songs with homogenous Nashville production,
Petty Country is the opposite.

"I'm not a fan of having a singular producer on records like this. I want each one of them to be their own little crown jewel," Borchetta says. "That's going to give us a better opportunity for them to make the record in their own image."

This could mean a take that hews to the original, or casts an entirely new light on it. "Dierks called up and said, 'Hey, do you think we would be all right doing a little bit more of a bluegrass feel to it?' I was like, 'Absolutely. If you hear it, go get it.'"

"It had the diversity that the Petty women like on the records," Adria says, elaborating that they wanted women and people of color on the roster. "We like to see those tributes to Tom reflect his values; he was always very pro-woman, which is why he has such outspoken women [laughs] in his wake."

Two of Petty Country's unquestionable highlights are by women. Margo Price chose "Ways to Be Wicked," a cut so deep that even the hardcore Petty faithful might not know it; the Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) outtake was buried on disc six of the 1995 boxed set Playback.

"Man, it's just one of those songs that gets in your veins," Price says. "He really knew how to twist the knife — that chorus, 'There's so many ways to be wicked, but you don't know one little thing about love.'" Founding Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell features on the dark, driving banger.

And all interviewed for this article are agog over Dolly Parton's commanding take on "Southern Accents" — the title track of the band's lumpy, complicated, vulnerable 1985 album of the same name. "It's just revelatory… it brings me to my knees," Adria says. "It's just a phenomenal version I know my dad would've absolutely loved."

"It's one of Dolly's best vocals ever, and it's hair-raising," Borchetta says. "You could tell she really felt that track, and what the song was about."

At press time, the Petty camp is forging ahead with plans for a boxed set expansion of 1982's undersung Long After Dark. 

Adria is filled with profuse gratitude for the artists preserving and carrying her dad's legacy. 

"I'm really touched that these musicians showed up for my dad," she says. "A lot of people don't want to show up for anything that's not making money for them, or in service to their career, and we really appreciate it… I owe great debt to all of these artists and their managers for making the time to think about our old man like that."

Indeed, in Nashville and beyond, we've all been thinking about her old man, especially since his untimely passing in 2017. We'll never forget him — and will strum and sing these simple, heartfelt, and profound songs for years to come.

Let Your Heart Be Your Guide: Adria Petty, Mike Campbell & More On The Enduring Significance Of Tom Petty's Wildflowers

Avril Lavigne Press Photo 2024
Avril Lavigne

Photo: Tyler Kenny

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15 Avril Lavigne Songs That Prove She's The "Motherf—in' Princess" Of Pop-Punk

As Avril Lavigne celebrates a major career milestone with the release of her new 'Greatest Hits' compilation, rock out to 15 of the pop-punk icon's signature songs, from "Complicated" to "Bite Me."

GRAMMYs/Jun 20, 2024 - 02:17 pm

"Hey, hey, you, you!" There's simply no debate: when it comes to the world of pop-punk, Avril Lavigne has always been the people's princess. Bursting onto the scene with her 2002 debut Let Go, the then-teen singer/songwriter was dubbed an overnight sensation with hits like "Complicated," "Sk8er Boi" and "I'm With You."She soon became one of the primary artists driving the pop-punk explosion of the 2000s — and remains one of the genre's primary legends more than 20 years later.

Lavigne's appeal went far beyond the mass of skaters and suburban kids who devoured her early music. Within months of Let Go's release, she had earned five GRAMMY nominations (tying fellow newcomer Norah Jones for the most nods of 2003) and a year later, she racked up three more. 

As pop-punk's first wave began to crest, the singer broadened her sights beyond the genre she'd helped pioneer, exploring everything from power pop to confessional alt-rock to Christian rock, as well as collaborations with artists as varied as Marilyn Manson and Nicki Minaj. And when pop-punk's second wave hit at the start of the 2020s, Lavigne made a triumphant return to the genre with 2022's Love Sux and the 20th anniversary reissue of Let Go

Now, she's set to release her first-ever Greatest Hits compilation on June 21, spanning more than two decades, seven albums and nearly two dozen hits on the Billboard Hot 100. To commemorate the album (and its coinciding Greatest Hits Tour), dive into 15 tracks that assert Lavigne's undeniable title as the "motherf—in princess" of pop-punk — from hits like "Sk8er Boi" to deep cuts like "Freak Out."

"Complicated," 'Let Go' (2002)

What better way to begin than with the song that started it all? Released as her debut single in the spring of 2002, "Complicated" declared a then-17-year-old Avril Lavigne as a major talent to watch.

Eventually, the pop-rock ode to teenaged authenticity became one of the biggest songs of the year, and led to her debut full-length, Let Go, becoming the third highest-selling LP of 2002 in the U.S. (It's since been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA and sold more than 16 million copies around the world.)

It's hard to overstate just how influential Lavigne's breakout year was, starting with "Complicated." The track peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, helping the newcomer earn nominations for Best New Artist, Song Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album (for Let Go) at the 2003 GRAMMY Awards. Its runaway success also helped launch pop-punk's explosion into the mainstream, and the proliferation of artists and female-fronted bands that followed — from Paramore, Ashlee Simpson and Kelly Clarkson to Gen Z hitmakers like Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and Meet Me @ The Altar — are indebted to Lavigne's trailblazing success with the song.

Read More: Why 2002 Was The Year That Made Pop-Punk: Simple Plan, Good Charlotte & More On How "Messing Around And Being Ourselves" Became Mainstream

"Sk8er Boi," 'Let Go' (2002)

"He was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious?" From those 15 words, Lavigne spun a pop-punk fairy tale for the ages.

If "Complicated" was an introduction to her talent, "Sk8er Boi" was the new star's real coronation as the reigning princess of the genre. Everything about Let Go's second single is nothing short of iconic, from the star-crossed love story between a skater destined for punk rock greatness and the ballet dancer who wasn't brave enough to love him, to the lip ring and striped tie Lavigne sported in the music video (the latter of which you can still purchase to this day from her official store). 

"Sk8er Boi" dispelled any notion that the teenage upstart would be a flash in the pan relegated to one-hit wonder status. In fact, the song notched Lavigne a second consecutive Top 10 hit on the Hot 100, and landed her a fifth GRAMMY nomination at the 2003 ceremony, for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. But the cherry on top of it all? The eleventh hour twist in the track's bridge that the ballet dancer's loss was Avril's gain.

"My Happy Ending," 'Under My Skin' (2004)

After all the commercial success and critical acclaim showered on her in the wake of Let Go, Lavigne chose to forgo taking the easy road with another pop-infused mainstream win. Instead, she plunged into the darkness for 2004's Under My Skin, exploring post-grunge, nu metal and even hard rock influences on the punk-infused LP. The biggest hit from the album was second single "My Happy Ending," which became Lavigne's fourth No. 1 at Top 40 radio and spent four weeks in the Top 10 of the Hot 100, peaking even higher on the latter than "Sk8er Boi" had two years prior.

The downcast breakup anthem was the first time Lavigne put her broken heart on display ("All this time you were pretending/ So much for my happy ending," she lamented as the piano-driven verses swirled into a guitar-heavy chorus), and the result was an electric kiss-off delivered with equal parts anger, shock and a tinge of bitter sarcasm. 

The singer may not have gotten her happily ever after, but turning the doomed relationship into a scathing goodbye certainly earned her the last laugh: the song helped propel Under My Skin to becoming one of the top-selling albums of the year worldwide.

Read More: Loving Olivia Rodrigo's "Vampire"? Check Out 15 Songs By Alanis Morissette, Miley Cyrus & More That Reclaim The Breakup Narrative

"Girlfriend," 'The Best Damn Thing' (2007)

It wasn't all doom, gloom and angry tears on Under My Skin, however. Lavigne proved she was equally adept at bouncing back from a particularly disappointing Sk8er Boi with a devilish grin and a chip on her shoulder on the bouncing "He Wasn't."

While the brash ditty wasn't officially released as a single in the U.S. — instead being pushed to radio in Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, and her native Canada — it quickly became a fan favorite from the album. Nearly 20 years on, the song and its rowdy music video (come for Avril wearing fairy wings and a bright pink tutu, stay for her shattering a camera with the butt of her guitar) rather perfectly encapsulate the singer's place as one of the rare female voices at the forefront of the second-wave post-grunge movement. 

"Freak Out," 'Under My Skin' (2004)

Giving authority figures the middle finger has long been a hallmark of Lavigne's brand, and nowhere is that more clear than on Under My Skin deep cut "Freak Out." "Try to tell me what I shouldn't do/ You should know by now I won't listen to you," she scowls before ratcheting up the lyrical drama on the booming chorus. 

The track's second verse serves as a veritable manifesto for an entire generation of emo kids, as Lavigne offers the following advice to her fans: "You don't always have to do everything right/ Stand up for yourself and put up a fight/ Walk around with your hands up in the air/ Like you don't care." When in doubt? "Just freak out, let it go."

In retrospect, Under My Skin is often rightfully credited as one of the defining albums of pop-punk's 2000s heyday. And it's clear Lavigne is proud of the album's impact on both her career and the genre she helped pioneer, considering four of its singles — including "Don't Tell Me" and "Nobody's Home" — are included in the 20 tracks featured on her upcoming Greatest Hits compilation.

"Girlfriend," 'The Best Damn Thing' (2007)

Lavigne turned the power pop up to 11 for her third album, 2007's The Best Damn Thing, and traded the myopic grunge of her previous era for a blast of sugar-coated, self-confident sass. Lead single "Girlfriend" let the singer unleash her inner pop-punk princess like never before, as she played a mean girl with a flirtatious streak who somehow made stealing another girl's man seem lovable.

The unabashed bop was the first time Lavigne proudly declared herself "the motherf—in' princess," and the song's relentless sing-song hook was so addictive that it became the star's first single to top the Hot 100. Lavigne broke several records with "Girlfriend," which became one of the best-selling songs of 2007 and the most-viewed YouTube video of 2008 — as well as the first to ever reach 100 million views on the platform. 

Still can't get enough of "Girlfriend"? Hardcore fans know that the official remix with Lil Mama might even outdo the fizzy perfection of the original. 

"The Best Damn Thing," 'The Best Damn Thing' (2007)

For the title track off The Best Damn Thing, Lavigne doubled down on the bright and bubbly persona she'd donned on "Girlfriend." In fact, the song's opening rallying cry of "Let me hear you say hey, hey, hey!" and a call-and-response bridge are so downright peppy that it seems almost hard to believe they came from the same artist who thrashed her way through Under My Skin.

Released as The Best Damn Thing's fourth and final single, the song of the same name is more melodic than its chart-topping predecessor, with Lavigne unapologetically laying out the type of treatment she expects from a man in cheerleader fashion ("Gimme an A! Always give me what I want!/ Gimme a V! Be very, very good to me!"). After all, a pop-punk princess deserves a Cinderella story of her own. 

"What the Hell," 'Goodbye Lullaby' (2011)

Riding high off the commercial success of The Best Damn Thing, Lavigne kicked off the rollout for her fourth studio album, 2011's Goodbye Lullaby, with "What the Hell," a playfully bratty banger that found her toying with a love interest and vowing, "All my life I've been good/ But now I'm thinking, 'What the hell!'"

Produced and co-written by pop impresarios Max Martin and Shellback, "What the Hell" melded Lavigne's snarky songwriting sensibilities and penchant for bucking authority with a catchy, singalong refrain. But the lead single actually proved to be something of an outlier on the pop-punk princess' fourth go-around, as the rest of the album utilized a stripped-back sonic palette to lay her heartbreak bare in the wake of divorcing Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley.

"Bad Reputation," 'Goodbye Lullaby' (2011)

Goodbye Lullaby may have been Lavigne's first foray into a more acoustic sound — complete with introspective lyrics and surprisingly sincere song titles like "I Love You" and "Everybody Hurts" — but she couldn't resist adding a little snarl to the album's softer, more sensitive proceedings. So for the deluxe edition of the album, she featured her take on Joan Jett's classic 1980 single "Bad Reputation" as a bonus track. 

Lavigne had originally recorded "Bad Reputation" for the soundtrack to the Japanese anime feature film One Piece Film: Z (it even reached the top 10 on Japan's Hot 100!). But she apparently liked the cover so much that it ended up on the track list of not one, but two of her albums, as the song was also included on 2013's Avril Lavigne.

"Here's to Never Growing Up," 'Avril Lavigne' (2013)

Even as she approached her thirties, Lavigne wasn't about to give up her spot as pop-rock's resident wild child. Case in point: "Here's to Never Growing Up," the lead single off her fifth album, 2013's Avril Lavigne. Over a peppy stomp-clap rhythm, the singer shouts out an undying love of Radiohead, dancing on bar tops and making late-night memories with your best friends as the boombox blares all your favorite songs.

There's a thread of bittersweet nostalgia running through the midtempo jam — one that's sure to pierce the heart of any millennial listening as Lavinge sings, "Say, won't you say 'forever'?/ Stay, if you stay forever/ Hey, we can stay forever young." It's not that the singer's refusing to acknowledge the cruel act of getting older on the track, she's just rebelling against the notion that adulthood should be a dreary slog of, you know, taxes and laundry and all of those lame adult responsibilities. 

"Rock N Roll," 'Avril Lavigne' (2013)

Lavigne once again put her middle finger to the sky and re-upped her rock star credentials on the appropriately titled "Rock N Roll," the second single off her self-titled album. The spirited singalong finds the singer reveling in her eternally bad attitude as she wails, "I don't care if I'm a misfit/ I like better than the hipster bulls–/ I am the motherf—in' princess/ You still love it."

Though "Rock N Roll" didn't make quite as much of an impact on the charts as some of the other hits on this list, it remains one of the most underrated bangers in her entire discography. Plus, the song gifted fans with the campy, comic book-inspired music video starring Lavinge, Danica McKellar, a drunk-driving Doberman and one very unlucky lobster as they race across a dystopian wasteland to save rock and roll from the clutches of an evil bear-shark. (Billy Zane shows up on a rocket-powered Segway at some point, too — just go with it.)

"Head Above Water," 'Head Above Water' (2019)

Proving that pop-punk doesn't always have to come with an in-your-face, "f— you!" attitude, Lavigne released "Head Above Water" — the lead single and title track to her 2019 album — five years into an often confusing, devastating and all-consuming battle with Lyme disease.

"One night I thought I was dying, and I had accepted that I was going to die," she revealed at the time of the song's unveiling. "My mom laid with me in bed and held me. I felt like I was drowning. Under my breath, I prayed, 'God, please help to keep my head above the water.' In that moment, the songwriting of this album began."

Lavigne taps into a truly admirable well of resilience and hope on the spiritual ballad as she sings, "Yeah, my life is what I'm fighting for/ Can't part the sea, can't reach the shore/ And my voice becomes the driving force/ I won't let this pull me overboard." Unlike anything that's come from the singer's catalog either before or since, "Head Above Water" remains a powerful testament to the beloved pop-punk princess' inner strength.

"Bite Me," 'Love Sux' (2022)

As the 2010s gave way to a new decade, pop-punk made a surprise resurgence in popularity while Lavigne was making major moves of her own; she left BMG after just one album to sign with Travis Barker's DTA Records in 2021 (about which she fittingly declared, "Let's f— s— up!"). Partnering with the blink-182 drummer sparked some serious magic in the studio, as her seventh studio album, 2022's Love Sux was a wildly entertaining return to her pop-punk roots after the emotional catharsis of Head Over Water.

On lead single "Bite Me," Lavigne effortlessly dusted off her crown and reclaimed her throne with an octave-jumping vocal performance. Along with proving she still has the chops, the singer simply sounds like she's having a hell of a lot of fun as she snaps back at an ex-flame who made the mistake of crossing her. Pop-punk's reigning princess? Try queen.

Read More: How 'Love Sux' Led Avril Lavigne To True Love, Her First Fangirl Moment And An Album Process That Was 'Just Stupid Fun'

"All I Wanted" feat. Mark Hoppus, 'Love Sux' (2022)

Lavigne collaborated with plenty of special guests on Love Sux, from blackbear (on love-drunk single "Love It When You Hate Me") to eventual tourmate Machine Gun Kelly (on delicious battle of the sexes "Bois Lie"), but no other duet on the album holds a candle to "All I Wanted" featuring blink-182's Mark Hoppus

The supercharged deep cut features the two trailblazers rocking out in a whirling dervish of escapist bliss, playing a sort of pop-punk Bonnie and Clyde as they bust out of the town they're stuck in. And in doing so, they proved they're more than happy to show the new kids at the rock show just how it's done.

"Breakaway," 'Let Go (20th Anniversary Edition)' (2022)

And finally, a proper celebration of Lavigne's status as pop-punk royalty wouldn't be complete without including the biggest song she ever gave to another artist. As the story goes, the singer/songwriter originally penned "Breakaway" for her debut album, but the hope-filled anthem didn't quite fit with the vibe of Let Go tracks like "Complicated," "Sk8er Boi," "Losing Grip," and "I'm With You." So instead, she gave it to a fresh-faced newcomer by the name of Kelly Clarkson, who had just come off of winning a little reality TV experiment called "American Idol." 

After being featured on the soundtrack to The Princess Diaries 2, "Breakaway" became the centerpiece and title track of Clarkson's 2004 sophomore album, which helped turn her into a bonafide superstar — and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Lavigne started performing the song live for the first time on her 2019 Head Above Water Tour, which naturally left fans clamoring for a studio version. Blessedly, the pop-punk icon gave them exactly what they wanted by revisiting "Breakaway" in the recording studio for the 20th anniversary edition of Let Go in 2022. She even reinstated her original lyrics in the opening stanza ("Grew up in a small town/ And when the snow would fall down/ I'd just stare out my window") for a personal touch that connected back to her roots in Greater Napanee, Ontario. 

Clarkson may have made the song famous, but the beating heart of "Breakaway" will always be Lavigne's story — one of a small-town girl who bet on herself, only to become a trailblazing artist whose legacy is forever cemented in the pop-punk history books. 

The State Of Pop-Punk: A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

Paul McCartney & Wings
Paul McCartney and Wings in 1974

Photo: Michael Putland/Getty Images

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Wings Release 'One Hand Clapping': How To Get Into Paul McCartney's Legendary Post-Beatles Band

After 50 years on the shelf, Wings' raw and intimate live-in-the-studio album is finally here. Use it as a springboard to discover Paul McCartney's '70s band's entire catalog — here's a roadmap through it all.

GRAMMYs/Jun 17, 2024 - 05:19 pm

Whether it be "Band on the Run" or "Jet" or "My Love," chances are you've heard a Wings song at least once — in all their polished, '70s-arena-sized glory. More than four decades after they disbanded in 1981, we're getting a helping of raw, uncut Wings.

Last February, Wings' classic 1973 album Band on the Run got the 50th anniversary treatment, with a disc of "underdubbed" remixes, allowing Paul McCartney, spouse and keyboardist Linda McCartney, and guitarist Denny Laine to be heard stripped back, with added clarity.

After a few months to digest that, it was time to reveal a session that, for ages, fans had been clamoring for. On June 14, in came One Hand Clapping, a live-in-the-studio set from August 1974 that captured Wings at the zenith of their powers.

Back then, Wings had the wind in their sails, with a reconstituted lineup Band on the Run at the top of the charts. They opted to plug in at Abbey Road Studios with cameras rolling, and record a live studio album with an attendant documentary. The film wouldn’t come out until a 2010 reissue of Band on the Run; the music’s popped up on bootlegs, but had never been released in full.

That long absence is a shame; while One Hand Clapping is a bit of a historical footnote, it absolutely rips; Giles Martin shining up the mixes certainly helped. Epochal Macca ballads, like "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Blackbird," are well represented, but when Wings rock out, as on "Jet," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five," and "deep cut "Soily," they tear the roof off.

Basically, in range and sequencing, One Hand Clapping shows McCartney prepping Wings like a rocket; soon, it'd rip through the live circuit. If you've never taken a spin through McCartney's post-Fabs discography, though, you may not know where to go from here.

So, for neophytes (or just fans wanting a refresher), here's a framework through which to sift through the Wings discography — with One Hand Clapping still ringing in your ears.

The Essentials

Remember, as you get into Wings: don't cordon off their catalog from McCartney's solo work as a whole. In other words: if you haven't heard masterpieces like 1971's Ram yet, don't go scrounging through Back to the Egg deep cuts yet: check all that stuff out, then return to this list.

That being established: the proper Wings entryway is almost unquestionably Band on the Run. Like Sgt. Pepper's and Abbey Road before it, it's an exhilarating melodic and stylistic rush, a sonic adventure — whether you go for the original or the "underdubbed" version.

In the grand scheme of solo Beatles, Band on the Run is also the one McCartney album that slugs it out with John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, in terms of artistic realization.

That being said: despite slightly inferior contemporaneous reviews, its follow-up, 1975's Venus and Mars, is almost as good — and if grandiosity isn't your bag, you might actually enjoy it more than Band on the Run. (Think of Harrison following up All Things with the sparser, more spacious Living in the Material World, and you'll get the picture.)

Between those two albums, you've got a wealth of indispensable Macca songs — "Jet," "Let Me Roll It," "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five," "Rock Show," "You Gave Me the Answer" — as well as satisfying deep cuts, like doomed Wingsman Jimmy McCulloch's "Medicine Jar."

From there, it's time to understand Weird Wings — which rewinds the clock to their beginnings.

The Weirdness

As the McCartney canon goes, Ram's stock seems to shoot up every year, single handedly inspiring new generations of psych-pop weirdos. By comparison, Wings' debut, Wild Life, was critically savaged in 1971, and its reputation isn't much better today.

As you'll learn so often in your solo Macca voyage — you've just got to ignore the critics sometimes. Even McCartney himself said "Bip Bop" "just goes nowhere" and "I cringe every time I hear it." What he leaves out it's a maddening earworm — to hear this loony, circuitous little sketch once is to carry it to your deathbed.

Indeed, Wild Life is full of moments that will stick with you. In the title track, McCartney screams about the zoo like his hair's on fire; "I Am Your Singer" is a swaying dialogue between Paul and Linda; "Dear Friend" is one of McCartney's most moving songs about Lennon.

Wild Life's follow-up, Red Rose Speedway, is a little more candy-coated and commercial — but outside of the polarizing hit "My Love," it has some integral McCartney tunes, like "Little Lamb Dragonfly" and "Single Pigeon."

In the end, though, Wild Life is arguably the early Wings offering that will really stick to your ribs. It's not a crummy follow-up to Ram, but an intriguing off-ramp from its harebrained universe — and as the opening statement from McCartney's post-Beatles vehicle, worth investigating just on that merit.

The Deep Cuts

McCartney has always been a hit-or-miss solo artist by design — digging through the half-written pastiches and questionable experiments is part of the deal.

1976's Wings at the Speed of Sound features a key track in the irrepressibly jaunty "Let 'Em In," and an (in)famous disco-spangled hit in "Silly Love Songs." From there, with tunes like "Cook of the House" and "Warm and Beautiful," your mileage may vary wildly.

The ratio holds for 1978's London Town: you could put the gorgeous "I'm Carrying" on your playlist and scrap the rest, or you can go spelunking. And McCartney being McCartney, despite 1979's Back to the Egg being choppy waters, he nailed it at least once — on the lithe, sophisticated, Stevie Wonder-like "Arrow Through Me."

Today, at 81, McCartney is an 18-time GRAMMY winner and an enormous concert draw — charging through his six-decade catalog in stadiums the world over. These albums only comprise one decade in his history, where he flourished as a mulleted stadium act alongside his keyboarding wife. But his catalog would be so much different if he never got his Wings.

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Musicians Mark Stoermer, Brandon Flowers, Ronnie Vannucci and David Keuning of The Killers poses for a portrait during the 2004 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 8, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Killers

Photo: Frank Micelotta

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5 Ways ‘Hot Fuss’ Propelled The Killers To Rock Royalty

During the alternative-guitar-band renaissance of the early 2000s, the Killers slugged out a debut album that’ll stick with us forever. Here are five reasons ‘Hot Fuss’ catapulted the Vegas favorites to the top.

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2024 - 05:19 pm

They came out of their cage, and now they're doing just fine. 

In an era of stiff competition, from the White Stripes to the Strokes, the Killers could have gotten lost in the shuffle. But with 2004's Hot Fuss, the Brandon Flowers-led, Vegas-based rock band essentially emerged fully formed, with a debonaire mystique, a raided new wave record collection (think the Cure and Duran Duran), and a knack for sky-high hooks. They didn't just nail the songs, and charisma, on the first go — they created one of the most timeless albums of their generation. 

In the 20 years since, chances are "Mr. Brightside" has gotten maddeningly stuck in your head at least once. But that's just the tip of the iceberg: Hot Fuss is teeming with cryptic one-liners, sticky melodies and a specifically aughts sort of emotional abandon.

Today, the Killers are one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century, with five GRAMMY nominations and more than 28 million records sold worldwide. Here are five aspects of Hot Fuss that helped them break into the stratosphere.  

It's The Result Of A Completely Scrapped First Attempt 

Sometimes, the first thought isn't the best thought. The Killers were full steam ahead on their debut album when Flowers hit a major snag: a little album called This Is It by the Strokes came out. 

"When we put it on in the car, that record just sounded so perfect," Flowers admitted to NME in 2012. "I got so depressed after that, we threw away everything, and the only song that made the cut and remained was 'Mr. Brightside.'" 

How would the Killers' legacy have changed without classics like "Somebody Told Me" and "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"? We'll never know — but the band (and the world) is likely glad they gave Hot Fuss a second shot. 

Brandon Flowers Is A Superb Lyricist 

Did you know Hot Fuss has an extended murder narrative? Well, in two songs: "Midnight Show" and "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine." (The third act, "Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf," was relegated to their 2007 B-sides and rarities disc, Sawdust.) 

Outside of sprawling concepts, Flowers' sneaky prowess as a lyricist is all over Hot Fuss, from sticky alliteration ("Turning saints into the sea/ Swimming through sick lullabies") to masterful use of negative space. 

Exhibit A is "Smile Like You Mean It": "Someone is calling my name/ From the back of the restaurant/ And someone is playing a game/ In the house that I grew up in/ And someone will drive her around/ Down the same streets that I did." By erasing the specifics, and only providing a framework of memory, the picture is ever more elusive and intriguing. 

The Album Is Front-Loaded With Five Bangers 

Sure, some tracks on Hot Fuss, like "Change Your Mind" and "Believe Me Natalie," are relatively minor. 

But with absolute napalm across the first five tracks — "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," "Mr. Brightside," "Smile Like You Mean It," "Somebody Told Me," "All These Things That I've Done" — it's actually kind of a relief to get a sleeper album track, that reveals its qualities slower. 

No matter your take on the rest of Hot Fuss, or their discography, the fact remains undeniable: they came in swinging. 

They Kept The Demos Intact For Raw Impact 

The Killers and the Boss have crossed paths a time or two — and they made a Springsteenian move when they used demos as the final tracks. It worked, imbuing Hot Fuss with a certain spontaneity and energy. 

And because these Hot Fuss tracks were meant to comprise a demo, "We never thought [these songs] would be on a record." drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. later admitted. Talk about a turn of events: what could have been a collection of scratch tracks would help define a generation. 

"Mr. Brightside" Took On A Life Of Its Own 

"Mr. Brightside" has undeniably become the Killers' signature song — a staple not only at their concerts, but at bars and karaoke joints around the world. And once social media came along, it inspired a cornucopia of memes: even snippets of lyrics, like "Comin' out of my cage" and "It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?" have become miniature cultural forces. 

Aside from Flowers' almost unwaveringly single-note verse melody, the song's odd structure — the second verse is the same as the first — has also been ripe for humor: one favorite meme takes you into the fictional writer's room when that decision was made. 

Whether for rock 'n' roll transcendence, or just a nostalgic laugh, revisit Hot Fuss as it turns 20 — and smile like you mean it. 

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