Review Summary: So "Here's to Never Growing Up" was a lie, what next?
There are plenty of albums worse than Head Above Water
that I could easily be discussing right now. There’s probably a huge batch of bad releases that have more dull performances, more annoying stylistic choices, and more out of place tracks that break the flow of the album. The difference between them and Avril’s sixth studio release though is that most of the time, those other albums were doomed to fail from the start. As this is her first album in about six years, she could have gone in any direction. The lead single and title track “Head Above Water” led us to believe that we might finally be getting to see a new side of Avril Lavigne; no longer is she the bratty teenager who wrote “Sk8er Boi” nor is she the mom trying to fit in with her teenage friends who wrote “Rock N Roll” or “Here’s to Never Growing Up”. What the single didn’t
tell us, however, is how dull and disappointing the songs to come would be.
To be fair, as cringeworthy and borderline-pandering as 2013’s Avril Lavigne
was at times, at least it felt peppy and wasn’t primarily written to lull you to sleep. She had the groundwork for this album laid out with the strength of her lead single, but it seems as if all her cards were bet on that one song and that she didn’t spend nearly enough time refining the rest of the album. The issues come bubbling out immediately after the first track concludes; “Birdie” not only features painfully dull lyricism but a very grating vocal performance courtesy of Lavigne, and “Dumb Blonde” is arguably one of the worst pop songs I’ve heard since “Hello Kitty” polluted the airwaves with its annoying musical premise. “Tell Me It’s Over” and “Souvenir” are alright enough for middling pop fodder, poor lyrics aside, and “Warrior” is as close as this album gets to the same level of quality as its opening track. “I Fell In Love With the Devil” is an attempt at a more complex form of poetry but still ends up sounding like it came from a twelve-year-old girl’s diary, and I don’t even think I need to explain “Goddess”.
I do feel bad for Avril Lavigne though, as it’s clear her struggle with Lyme disease is prevalent within the majority of Head Above Water.
Enduring years of constant fatigue and feel as if you’re on death’s edge has to have been rough for her. While tragedy has made room for some of modern music’s most moving moments, it’s clearly not a universal experience. It’s been years since I’ve been this
disappointed in a record, and since Avril was coming off one of her most poorly-received releases, I think even she knew that to recover from a blow like that, she’d have to nail it on her follow-up. Her attempts to reinvent herself as a matured figure in contemporary music could have easily been far more than they were on this release. Despite taking six years to release this, it still somehow feels rushed. This is Avril Lavigne’s Hurley
; an album which showed some promise on one or two songs but otherwise felt middling and uninteresting. Head Above Water
is living proof that tragedy isn’t always the key to success in the music industry.