Album Review: Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
[BMG; 2019]
Rating: 5.5/10

Key tracks: “Head Above Water”, “Warrior”, “Bigger Wow”

Since releasing her last album in 2013, it’s fair to say that Avril Lavigne has dropped off of the face of the earth for a little bit, and a lot has changed in that time, with Lavigne battling both Lyme disease and rocky relationships. Her cries for everlasting youth and semi-punk aesthetics have given way for more emotional maturity in both her lyrics and in her vocals on Head Above Water, changing expectations for this former punk-pop icon.

Read more: Album Review: Bring Me the Horizon – amo

“Head Above Water” opens the album at a ridiculously high point. The lyrics reference Lavigne’s faith, which push this track dangerously close to a praise-and-worship-style song, especially with the simple repeating chorus about meeting God at the altar and pleading for him not to let her drown. The beautiful orchestral movement underneath completes the power ballad. Several tracks follow the spiritual lead of “Head Above Water”. Specifically, “It Was in Me” references how everything Lavigne needs already exists inside of her and how turning to God is the answer. Again, it’s youth group fodder, but it’s good youth group fodder.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These songs showcase the best and most heartfelt parts of the album. The biggest problem is that tracks like the two mentioned above are bookended between tracks with lyrics that take listeners out of this illusion. The best (worst?) example of this is on “Goddess”, where the chorus is “He treats me like a goddess, goddess / He thinks I’m sexy in my pajamas / The more I am a hot mess, the more he goes bananas (Oh) / He treats me like I’m a goddess.” Bananas is also pronounced with a strange British accent. It’s cringe-worthy.

Lavigne also tries to pull tricks that worked for her in the past, like a cheerleading-style song where she collabs with Nicki Minaj on “Dumb Blonde” which seems to echo the spirit of “Girlfriend”. Is it as iconic as “Girlfriend”? Absolutely not.

Unfortunately, this blend of styles doesn’t lead to particularly compelling songs. “Warrior” could be confused for any women’s empowerment song that already exists. Songs like “Bigger Wow” and “Crush” would work perfectly as background tracks for rom-coms, but who is using rom-coms for music suggestions? Many of the songs have lost the edge that made her music so popular in the past. Granted, this is the woman who internet conspiracy theorists believe was replaced by a doppelgänger 15 years ago. There are mystery and misunderstanding, and Lavigne herself doesn’t seem to know what direction she really wants to go.

Listen here:

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