Review Summary: Pop’s punk princess delivers another bout of radio-ready rockers.
Consistency has been Avril Lavigne’s forte ever since she exploded onto the pop music scene in the early 2000’s. As she keenly toed the line between high school drama and adulthood, she has always kept a balanced musical persona that would appeal to adults and teens alike. There isn’t a contemporary soft rock station that hasn’t overplayed ‘My Happy Ending’, and everyone who was a teenager in 2006 will half-ashamedly be able to recite to you the lyrics of ‘Girlfriend.’ Lavigne is a staple of new millennium pop, and with that success comes very specific expectations. Avril needs to show flair – the defiant, “my way or the highway” attitude that made The Best Damn Thing
irresistible. She also needs to display a sensitive and relatable side, along the lines of “I’m With You.” Perhaps that is what made her 2011 release Goodbye Lullabye
such a resounding success. There was a perfect blend of bad bitch rockers and sensitive Swift-esque balladry. With Avril’s freshly minted self-titled album, you can expect more of the same pop sensibility with a punk attitude that has allowed her to enjoy success for over a decade.
It’s clear from the start that Avril Lavigne wants listeners to bask with her in youthful glory first and foremost. The album opens with a pair of irresistible tunes – ‘Rock N Roll’ and ‘Here’s to Never Growing Up.’ Both boast unforgettable melodies and even catchier choruses, with the former recalling Joan Jett and the latter summoning up some of her most anthemic songwriting to date. ‘17’ stays the course, recalling her high school days of “learning how to break the rules.” While the appeal of each song varies across the album, the lyrical content is essentially the same throughout. It may be her most reminiscent album to date; something that is not uncommon for star singers in their late twenties or early thirties who never fully experienced their youth because of the immense pressure they faced at such a young age. Not that anyone feels bad for the young celebrity, but it provides Avril with a platform upon which to construct her more thoughtful lyrics. ‘Let Me Go’ is a prime example of her softer side, exposing vulnerable lyrics and pairing them with Chad Kroeger’s duet. Before you scoff at the inclusion of the Nickelback singer, remember that pop music is the name of the game here – and there is no question that ‘Let Me Go’ hits every nail on the head as far as accessible ballads go. The acoustic guitars and piano notes that act as an outro, in particular, are quite beautiful. From start to finish, Avril Lavigne
possesses a tradeoff between uptempo anthem bids and lush pop ballads. Sure, it’s all commercial and it’s all very manufactured – but in the face of those criticisms it’s hard not to notice that it’s also very good.
As with any Avril Lavigne album, her self-titled release has its share of pitfalls. Sometimes, her lyrics will leave you scratching your head. For instance, anyone who has actually listened to Radiohead knows that they don’t make the kind of music that you “sing at the top of your lungs”, as she proclaims in ‘Here’s to Never Growing Up.’ She also isn’t the best at varying her style, as the entire record marches to the same beat as her collective prior discography. She really only has two modes, which was already discussed at length, and she doesn’t try to change that perception at any point in time. Personal weaknesses aside, Avril Lavigne
is still an inconsistent record. It’s front-loaded, with the majority of the strongest tracks residing in the first quarter of runtime. This leaves little to look forward to after the waning minutes of ‘Let Me Go’, and at times compels you to want to skip around the CD in order to find your favorite moments. Additionally, some of the album’s attempts to draw in a younger crowd are laughably bad, like the insipid ‘Hello Kitty’ and the rap verse on ‘Bitchin’ Summer.’ Both tracks carry the vibe of someone trying just a little too hard to stay relevant with the young crowd, and Avril would be better off if she just aged gracefully (which she isn’t even that old at 29) and stayed true to herself. Obviously, there’s a wide array of shortcomings – some inherent in the pop genre, and others specific to Lavigne – that anchor this album and prevent it from being lauded as anything other than a good mainstream pop album.
As a whole, Avril Lavigne
is an appropriate self-titled album if there ever was one. It is basically the quintessential Avril Lavigne record, featuring the soaring choruses and melodies that made us fall in love with her over the past ten years, as well as the silly (and sometimes stupid) quirks that range from endearing to flat out annoying. This is Avril Lavigne’s me
record, and it couldn’t be a better representation of her career up to the present day. It’s fun, easily digestible pop for the masses. In the end, that probably tells you everything you need to know about Avril Lavigne