“I’mma keep it real from the jump,” as Drake would rap. Avril Lavigne’s previous effort, 2011’s Goodbye Lullaby was not her crowning achievement, no questions asked. Goodbye Lullaby had its moments, specifically with brash promo single “What The Hell” as well as “Smile”. Otherwise though, it was merely average, particularly for a firecracker like Lavigne. Avril Lavigne is definitely a bolder, more entertaining effort, evidenced from its opening intro on the opening track. That isn’t to label this effort as valedictory (it’s not perfect by any meand), but there are plenty of strong showings.
“Rock N Roll” sets the tone with it’s aggressive, unapologetic sound. Avril doesn’t play, that’s for sure, as she proclaims “I don’t care if I’m a misfit / I like it better than hipster bullshit / I am the mother f*ckin’ princess…” There it is! Basically, Lavigne is a rebel and on this anthemic, middle fingers to the sky cut, she’s at her best. Follow up nonconformity with even more nonconformity in smash “Here’s To Never Growing Up” and you definitely have vintage Avril on hand. “Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs / with the boom box blaring as we’re falling in love / I got a bottle of whatever, but it’s getting us drunk / singing here’s to never growing up,” the pop artist confidently sings on the addictive chorus. The best lyrical moment? “They say just grow up, but they don’t know us / we don’t give a f*ck / forget we’re never gonna change.” Interpretation: Avril says screw you (replace with four-letter word beginning with “f”).
Continuing to ‘back peddle’ as far as youthfulness, Lavigne takes it back on “17”. The narrative continues to play up the care-free nature of being young, wild and free. Lyrics like “He was working at the record shop / I would kiss him in the parking lot / tasting like cigarettes and soda pop / seventeen…” or “Stealing beers out of the trailer park / flicking lighters just to fight the dark…” characterize this particular number. Ultimately it’s enjoyable, though falls a shade below “Rock N Roll” or “Here’s To Never Growing Up”. Follow-up “B*tchin’ Summer” is good, though not nearly as electrifying as it’s title might suggest. Regardless, Lavigne gets her foul-mouthedness in on the chorus as “it’s gonna be a b*tchin’ summer / we’ll be livin’ fast, kicking ass together / like high school lovebirds…” Get the idea? Overall, those Avril cues are in play.
“Let Me Go” featuring husband Chad Kroeger is a standout, providing a definite contrast early on in within the effort. The songwriting is definitely ‘meatier’ and more serious than previous numbers. Normally, seriousness wouldn’t necessarily be a pro for someone like Avril, but here, the magic is in place. “Love that once hung on the wall / used to mean something, but now it means nothing / the echoes are gone in the hall / but I still remember the pain of December”, Lavigne shares on her first verse. Kroeger assists on the second verse: “You came back to find I was gone / and the place is empty, like the hole tat was left in me.” As solid as both sound individually, the vocal chemistry occurs during various simultaneous vocal opportunities.
“Give You What You Like” proceeds soundly, showcasing Lavigne’s vocal control on the verses. Like many of its colleagues, “Give You What You Like” shines in part because of a well-penned, catchy chorus. “Bad Girl” is a better rounded standout, featuring Marilyn Manson. Manson’s role within the cut is conservative (oxymoron anyone?), but also a gargantuan aspect of the song’s overall success. Avril is definitely on autopilot here in top-notch “bad girl” form: “You know you know I’m crazy / I just wanna be your baby / you can f*ck me and then play me / you love and you can hate me…” Dark and over-the-top. “Bad Girl” ranks among the best.
“Hello Kitty” is definitely not expected – that’s a massive understatement! Continuing off the momentum established by “Bad Girl”, “Hello Kitty” lacks lyrical depth, but is chocked-full of gimmickry. If nothing else, the production and stomping beat are admirable. As for the song itself, well it’s pretty dumb. Honestly, following “Bad Girl”, things slow down a bit for Lavigne in regards to the ‘best of the best’. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” is more traditional Avril Lavigne compared to “Hello Kitty”, but it also doesn’t sound ‘brand new’ or truly innovative. “Sippin’ On Sunshine” sounds like it’s built for Katy Perry, likely because it has that sunny vibe going for it. Lavigne sounds respectable of course, no disrespect intended. From “sippin’ on sunshine”, Lavigne says “Hello Heartache”. “Heartache” and follow-up “Falling Fast” are good, but just lack ‘greatness’ and that cutting-edged spirit. Final cut “Hush Hush” is a shade better, appropriately closing Avril Lavigne.
Ultimately, Avril Lavigne is a good album, though perhaps not an exceptional one. Lavigne definitely redeems herself from Goodbye Lullaby, but is it enough? I dunno. “Here’s To Never Growing Up” made a chart impact, but not to the degree of say “Complicated” or “My Happy Ending”. Even with some truly catchy, well conceived numbers, superseding the work of her prime or achieving similarly seems unlikely to ever happen again.
“Rock N Roll”; “Here’s To Never Growing Up”; Let Me Go”; “Bad Girl”
Avril Lavigne | Avril Lavigne | Epic | US Release Date: November 5, 2013