Avril Lavigne
Head Above Water


1.0
awful

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (132 Reviews)
February 16th, 2019 | 16 replies


Release Date: 02/15/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Avril Lavigne's finally growing up... and maybe she never should have.

Head Above Water is another classic case of the old phrase “be careful what you wish for.” Many people, myself included, were suckered in with this album’s leadoff single and title track, which used Avril Lavigne’s unfortunate experience with Lyme disease as inspiration for a powerful piano ballad. It was classy, well-written (if a bit generic with its chord structures), and it was a sign that we weren’t going to be getting the Avril Lavigne of yesteryear with the new album. More than anything, there was the newfound expectation that Head Above Water would finally be the more mature version of Lavigne that many of us hoped for since the beginning of her career. So why is it, then, that her bratty pop-punk songs from 2002 still sound so much more engaging and interesting than this?

It’s clear that Lavigne approached Head Above Water with a more “inspirational” slant in mind, and in that way, I suppose it’s her version of Recovery by Eminem. But, much like that album, it struggles to stand its ground when Lavigne is constantly switching between having a more mature perspective and still trying to appeal to her old fans. Frankly, her newfound “maturity” is boring. The entire project is marred with dull piano ballads that encompass such sounds as watered-down soul, stiff blues, and listless R&B. Sadly, the title track - which happens to be the opener - is still the best song on offer. Following that, we have “Birdie” which immediately shows the chinks in the armor of Lavigne’s new approach. Sure, it has a nice lowkey vibe and what sounds like a Rhodes keyboard guiding it along, but that doesn’t do much when the song still has a really generic structure and overly glossy production to drag it down. The same can be said for “I Fell in Love with the Devil” which has a really nice piano line that immediately gets derailed by the cliched lyrics and overproduced arena-ready drums. Meanwhile, you have other songs that try - and fail - to recapture old glories. “It Was In Me” is a blatant retread of “I’m With You,” and “Warrior” and “Love Me Insane” both sound like they came out of Goodnight Lullaby’s slower moments.

Head Above Water also has its share of more upbeat moments reminiscent of Lavigne’s earlier work, but these songs might actually be even worse. “Dumb Blonde,” to put it bluntly, is fucking repulsive. It has an admirable message of female empowerment, but it’s completely drowned out by the horrible “Hollaback Girl”-esque chanting, pathetic attempts at sounding sassy, and completely pointless Nicki Minaj verse (thanks Nicki, your check’s in the mail!). And with so many female empowerment anthems being made every year, did we really need one that sounded like a low-grade Gwen Stefani leftover? I don’t think so. And of course, this brings me to the real elephant in the room: those damn lyrics. I’m not about to say Let Go or Under My Skin were lyrical masterpieces in any way, but the lyrics at least fit the vibes of the music they were accompanying. On Head Above Water this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, some songs that could have been decent were almost entirely ruined by how embarrassing some of the lyrics are. “Goddess” boasts a great folk-oriented acoustic guitar performance, but the hackneyed lines about finding a new lover are a total buzzkill. Even worse is the way she tries to force some really awkward rhymes in there, like pronouncing “bananas” as “ba-nah-nahs.” It’s really cringy stuff. “Warrior” is just as bad, in the opposite direction. “I’ll pick my battles ‘cause I know I’m gonna win the war” is a perfect example of the problem with many of the ballads on Head Above Water, being faux-inspirational without providing any new insight whatsoever.

Talking about Head Above Water is a depressing thing to do, because it comes from an artist who once had so much promise in her younger years. The tragic irony is that many people really wanted to see what Lavigne would become as a more mature songwriter, but once she got to that point, it was something many of us didn’t even end up wanting after all. Head Above Water is proof that she doesn’t seem to know how to age artistically, shitting out boring ballad after boring ballad with virtually nothing to return to. Maybe we should just wish for Avril Lavigne’s Let Go days all over again if this is what her “maturity” will give us in the future.



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user ratings (74)
2.2
poor
other reviews of this album
SowingSeason STAFF (2.2)
All my life I've been good, but now......

nomiddlename (2)
Maybe this should have been an EP....

Elizabeth Hanson (4)
A masterfully crafted collection that warmly recalls the era of album-driven FM rock radio....

Mason (2)
So "Here's to Never Growing Up" was a lie, what next?...


Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
February 16th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

To quote Sowing: this hurt to write.

LizHanson
February 16th 2019


9 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Cringe to read. Album deserved at least 2.0.

rodrigo90
February 16th 2019


5780 Comments


At this point everything Avril does is not even a 0.50

DivergentThinking
February 16th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

@Liz: lol, didn't you have this at a 4?

Ecnalzen
February 16th 2019


8724 Comments


I am legitimately surprised by how many reviews this has generated already.

Snake.
February 16th 2019


21804 Comments


"Cringe to read. Album deserved at least 2.0."


you went from a 4.0 to 2.5 what happened????

Digging: American Football - American Football (LP3)

DivergentThinking
February 16th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

@ecnalzen: I was gonna wait for a while to review it, but I was so disappointed and irritated that I couldn't wait on it. Especially since I know I'm never going to return to it for any reason.



@Snake: Yeah, I'm pretty confused. lol

Ecnalzen
February 16th 2019


8724 Comments


Maybe it's happened before, but 4 reviews with barely 30+ ratings seemed a bit odd, 3 of which are on the home page still.

I didn't really think she had much relevance anymore. I don't remember hearing much about her after the first two albums, but that's just me.

DivergentThinking
February 17th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

And most of the reviews being negative, lol

Ecnalzen
February 17th 2019


8724 Comments


Maybe that's it, ha ha.

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 17th 2019


32396 Comments

Album Rating: 2.2

Good review. I enjoyed the songs in terms of melody alone but I just can't listen to songs that say things like "birdie fly away" and not want to punch myself in the face.

Digging: Jimmy Eat World - Surviving

DivergentThinking
February 17th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

@ecnalzen: lol, another negative review just got posted



Thanks Sowing! Yeah, that’s the sad part... on a technical/surface level, this is all fine and good. But the annoying stuff is so engregious and awful that it totally ruins everything for me

Ecnalzen
February 17th 2019


8724 Comments


Theory confirmed!

DivergentThinking
February 17th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

The Avril onslaught continues!

Ecnalzen
February 17th 2019


8724 Comments


It is our duty to let all know the terribleness within!

DivergentThinking
February 17th 2019


6226 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

lol, yep! (trust me, this album deserves that)



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