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In a polished pop world, Lavigne is unvarnished
- ‘britney killer’ zooms to the top

She’s plopped on a sofa backstage, looking bored to the point of catatonia, her only vital sign the non-stop jiggling of a pink-sneakered foot. The unfocused stare, her barely audible voice — it all says she’d rather be anywhere but in this tiny room, hashing over her life, her music, her family and her seemingly instant rise from small-town obscurity to big-time “Britney killer” for the zillionth time.

The only topic that interests her in this interview is how little she enjoys interviews.

“No offence or anything, it’s just, like, weird when someone’s, like, ‘So how does it feel'’” she murmurs. “You just shake someone’s hand, sit down and spill your guts. And they just want to know so much and you’re just, like: ‘Why do you care'’” Why do we care' Well, girlfriend, let’s start with your debut album, Let Go, which has sold more than 4 million copies and is hovering at number three on the charts 31 weeks after its release. Let’s move on to the five Grammy nominations, including nods for best song of the year (Complicated) and best new artist.

No offence or anything, but that sort of cannonball grabs the attention of everyone in the pool. According to fans, this 5-foot-1, 18-year-old Canadian is leading a counteroffensive against factory-made teen pop. Lavigne (it’s pronounced AV-ril La-VEEN) co-writes the songs, plays an instrument and doesn’t dance. She dresses in baggy pants and T-shirts, like any sophomore skipping third-period French. She’s tomboyish but cute, feisty but somehow indifferent, naughty enough to swear and flip the occasional bird.

She certainly seems real enough during the interview, if only because there’s no point in faking so much apathy. It’s charming, paradoxically. Lavigne has been perfectly packaged, right down to the punky type font on her album, but she and the character she’s playing onstage are the same person, and after all the beauty-pageant blankness of the midriff crowd, a kid so unprogrammed that she won’t perk up for a chat is refreshing.

Lavigne comes from a town in Ontario called Napanee, population 5,000. Her parents are strict Baptists, and Avril spent far more time at church than playing records. Actually, she never owned any LPs or CDs growing up. Aside from a couple of cassettes — the Beach Boys, Dixie Chicks — she rarely heard any pop music. Last week she bought her first Ramones album. “There was always music at the church,” she says. “That’s where I got my start.”

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