By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 5, 2013
Lavigne was thirsty for an intoxicatingly wild record to follow up the relatively sincere Goodbye Lullaby — eager to free the untamed pop-rock artist that became an icon for every complicated sk8r boi. Evidently, the visual production team missed that memo. Lavigne’s fun-filled thrill ride of a fifth studio album introduces itself as a cheerless mascara advertisement, complete with snow-white skin, a despondent face, raccoon eyes and a black backdrop. Not exactly the look of a “Bitchin’ Summer.” It’s not for nothing that the expression “don’t judge an album by its cover” exists.
What intends to be an assemblage of defiant party anthems is actually an assortment of absurd contradictions. Lavigne can’t seriously expect the album’s premiere track, “Rock N Roll,” to justifiably introduce a collection of sugar-coated pop productions that narrate the intensity of being a teenage girl in 2013 America. This senselessness rivals the later track “Bad Girl” — a hard rock duet with Marilyn Manson — being followed by “Hello Kitty,” the obligatory 2013-dubstep mess created for the sole purpose of attempting to follow a trend.
The album isn’t doing Lavigne any favors by relentlessly drilling the topic of age into the tracks ( “Here’s To Never Growing Up” and “17”). The 29 year old is pleasantly youthful, in a worldly sense. In a pop-rock sense, her age is viewed as the beginning of the end, despite how irrational or unfair that may seem, and waging a lyrical war against age is a messy battle, especially when the attempt is as unsubtle as Avril Lavigne’s content.
Two blatantly obvious pitfalls are the album’s lead writer Chad Kroeger (lead singer of the infamous rock group, Nickelback) and producer Martin Johnson (lead singer of Boys Like Girls, whose production credits lie somewhere between producing for Hannah Montana and producing for Victoria Justice).
Stylistically, the album is anywhere and everywhere. Lavigne took the palette and smashed the whole thing all over the canvas. The Kroeger-written tracks like “Let Me Go” and “Give You What You Like”) sound as if they migrated to Lavigne from some unreleased Nickelback album, while the Johnson-produced tracks (e.g. “Here’s To Never Growing Up”) are a style junction between Cher Lloyd and One Direction. Even the traditional Avril Lavigne-style songs like “Rock N Roll” have a rebelliousness that’s campy to the point of self-parody.
Avril Lavigne’s form stains its substance. Everything from cover art to production style and lyrical content is off the mark. For another artist or album, perhaps, the record’s characteristics would be fitting, but the frame doesn’t hold Lavigne or the attitude she was striving for. Ironic, given the self-titling.