A nude direction: why is Avril Lavigne posing naked with a guitar?

The singer has adopted the mysterious naked instrument shot for her new record. What does it reveal about her artistic ambitions?

It doesn’t half get warm when you’re a Woman in Music™. Frankly, this is the only reason we can find for so many having to resort to the rock’n’roll equivalent of the Ladies Laughing With Salad stock photo. Yes, it’s the never knowingly empowering Lady Posing Naked Behind a Guitar trope. The latest extremely limited variation on a theme dreamed up by a middle-aged record label exec in need of some fresh thrills after his wife ditched him for a hench personal trainer from Potters Bar comes courtesy of Avril Lavigne.

Now 34 years old, the Sk8er Woman is expressing her maturity by appearing on the cover of Head Above Water, her first album in five years, in moody black and white, like a Camden High Street busker as directed by Fellini. Stripping off, jumping in a large puddle and strategically manoeuvring her body behind an acoustic guitar, we can see neither nipples nor pudenda but plenty of leg, a smidge of sideboob and a Brigitte Bardot bouffant. “I can play this thing,” says this brand of pose, “but playing this thing isn’t my priority; my priority is trying to make sure the photographer doesn’t get too handsy when he moves the bugger.”

Liz Phair’s 2003 album artwork.
Liz Phair’s 2003 album artwork. Photograph: Publicity image

Even so, it’s not the raciest version of Lady Posing Naked Behind a Guitar out there. For that you have to visit Christina Aguilera’s 2002 Rolling Stone cover, in which she doesn’t even bother with placing the instrument over her bits, instead using a fingerless glove-clad hand (so 2002) to cover a boob while crossing her legs like she was desperate for the loo. On the flipside, the most demure version comes thanks to the delicate whisper of a skirt that Liz Phair has draped over her thigh as she assumes the position on the cover of her self-titled 2003 album. For a classical twist, why not check out a beaming Grace Chatto of Clean Bandit stranded in a car park with only a violin bra for warmth in the 2013 video for Mozart’s House? A scene so scandalous, it led to her being fired from her job as a school cello teacher. Thankfully, the band have since made a shit ton of cash, so she can afford all the IRL clothes she needs in case she’s ever stuck in Peckham Levels without her undies again.

So what does this particular pose mean? A number of things, actually, none of them particularly heartening. It means you are allowed to love your body (that’s if you’re a slim, conventionally attractive blond white woman). It means women are allowed to play musical instruments, but only if they’re also willing to use them as a saucy prop, just in case you’d forgotten for a few seconds that they’ve got tits. It means that women should be naked before they’re comfortable and vulnerable before they’re powerful. All of which means that the patriarchy is still winning. Goddamn those guys.


Leonie Cooper

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
This week’s tracks reviewed: The Joy Formidable, Avril Lavigne, Mumford & Sons
The Joy Formidable swagger in with a lip-curled cracker, Avril Lavigne’s back with a meh, while the Mumfords return with another trite radio ballad

Mark Beaumont

28, Sep, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Avril Lavigne: Avril Lavigne – review
Avril Lavigne's new album – a deliberately bratty return to her pop-punky early sound – is the best thing she's done in ages, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

07, Nov, 2013 @10:45 PM

Article image
Avril Lavigne – review
Expressionless voice, a Coldplay cover – but Avril Lavigne's watchable gig is still a favourite with adolescent girls, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

23, Sep, 2011 @5:42 PM

Avril Lavigne to launch her own perfume

Smell you later boi: The Canadian pop-punk princess is releasing her own fragrance line

Sean Michaels

06, Jun, 2008 @10:36 AM

Article image
Avril Lavigne goes acoustic on new album
The Canadian punk-pop princess is to unveil a more mature direction on her forthcoming album, featuring songs written when she was, er, 15 years old

Sean Michaels

29, Jul, 2009 @9:59 AM

Article image
Avril Lavigne attacks Mark Zuckerberg over Nickelback put-down
The singer and ex-wife of Nickelback’s frontman says Facebook CEO is ‘promoting bullying’ after a video suggesting the band have no good songs

Guardian music

23, Dec, 2016 @1:35 PM

Article image
Avril Lavigne: Head Above Water review – Sk8er girl on thin ice | Alexis Petridis's album of the week
She sold millions as a teenager, but now the Canadian is nude on her album cover to prove she is a serious singer-songwriter

Alexis Petridis

14, Feb, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Avril Lavigne 'too sexy' to perform in public

The Canadian pop-punk princess must tone down her act for a Kuala Lumpur gig. That means no baring her belly, jumping or shouting ... no laws against bratty snarling though

Sean Michaels

22, Aug, 2008 @10:23 AM

Article image
From Lavigne to Timberlake: what do pop stars mean by the ‘real me’
Today’s pop stars will stop at nothing to convince you of how ‘intimate and raw’ their music is - buzzwords that mostly sound like unwearable perfumes

Louis Wise

09, Feb, 2018 @1:00 PM

Article image
Avril Lavigne shows love for fiance with Nickelback cover
Singer records version of How You Remind Me, 2001 hit penned by partner and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger

Sean Michaels

23, Oct, 2012 @10:37 AM