How Avril Lavigne’s 2002 MTV VMAs Best New Artist Win Captured the Y2K Pop-Rock Zeitgeist
It was a fitting passing of the torch during last night's star-studded awards show — 20 years ago the "Complicated" icon was in the same place as Cameron when she accepted the award herself.
"I love that I get to hand out the award for Best New Artist tonight. Because it's about to change somebody's life like it changed mine 20 years ago. And it's still one of my favorite memories," Lavigne said while on stage at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The pop-punk princess picked up her own Best New Artist Moon Person at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Aug. 29, 2002. Her win has gone down as a defining moment for the Y2K pop-rock era.
Of course, it also kicked off a successful career for the "Head Above Water" singer who has become an undeniably versatile artist over the years. Back then, though, she was one of the driving forces of a pop-rock and pop-punk radio takeover.
Lavigne certainly proved herself worthy of the title of Best New Artist. Dressed in her signature baggy cargo pants, tank top and necktie, she rocked out outside the venue during the 2002 pre-show.
However, her defining VMAs moment came during the main event. The up-and-coming rocker accepted her award from a surprising, yet of-the-moment group — the cast of the inaugural season of American Idol, including Kelly Clarkson, who just two years later would launch her own pop-rock era with her smash album Breakaway.
Lavigne's acceptance speech was both gracious and appropriate for the occasion.
"Dude, this is amazing. My dreams are coming true. This is something that I won't take for granted. I've had this dream for a very long time, and it's incredible," Lavigne enthused.
She wrapped things up in a true rocker fashion.
"Yeah," she bellowed while holding up her trophy. "That's what I'm talking about."
Revisit her speech below:
The moment has gone down in history for several reasons. For starters, it was one of Lavigne's first major wins. Her debut album Let Go — which featured smash hits "Complicated," "I'm With You" and "Sk8er Boi" — later peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
The win also sparked rumors of a surprising feud.
Clarkson handed over Lavigne's Moon Person and reportedly got elbowed in the face in the process. She reflected on the moment and Lavigne's eventual apology in 2017.
"Years later she saw me and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know, people keep saying I elbowed you in the face, and I’m so sorry,’" Clarkson said, according to In Touch. "She did it, but I don’t know if she felt bad about it, or, like, she didn’t mean to do it or what. But it felt purposeful.”
Thankfully there doesn't seem to be any bad blood between the two. Lavigne wrote Clarkson's smash hit "Breakaway," and they reunited on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2022.
Twenty years later, Lavigne was likely reflecting on her own iconic win while on stage with Cameron. So were her fans.
"Avril lavigne 20 years later and more iconic than ever," one fan tweeted, summing everything up nicely.