Avril Lavigne, more than any other pop star (except Lady Gaga), has had an absurd amount of personas throughout her career. The Canadian phenom was launched into fame nearly 17 (holy shit, we’re getting old) years ago with 2002’s Let Go. And for good reason — it’s an absolutely iconic alt-rock album. Good luck finding anyone who doesn’t know every single word of “Sk8er Boi.” She maintained the status quo with 2004’s Under My Skin before doing a complete 180 in 2007 with The Best Damn Thing — possibly post-death and post-replacement by double. This album is notable for featuring one of the greatest songs of all time, “Girlfriend.” Lavigne shed her angsty vulnerability for a hard-ass attitude, and it is safe to say that her risk to fuse glam-rock and pop paid off. Unfortunately, save for a few singles, her 2011 and 2013 efforts were hardly memorable, and the end seemed nigh for Miss Lavigne.
This actually happens to be quite literal, as her latest album Head Above Water is about her near-death experience battling Lyme disease. Her struggle over the past six years has pushed her back to her roots, leaving behind alt-pop hooks for ballad-y piano melodies. The album is an odd combination of bad-girl Avril and old-school Avril, pasted together in a messy fashion. Her vocal melodies carry a nostalgic punch, reminiscent of the girl who denied the skater boy. But here’s the kicker: This is a Christian album.
On the album opener, biblical imagery is abundant. “Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore,” she calls out; “God, keep my head above water / Don’t let me drown, it gets harder / I’ll meet you there at the altar,” the chorus begs. In truth, it’s pretty catchy, but at the same time, a very unexpected turn of events for the girl once yelling “Hell yeah, I’m the motherfuckin’ princess!” It’s almost safe to say it’s the album’s peak because every song following it elicits a “what the actual hell” within 10 seconds.
Head Above Water is like a box of chocolates but every piece contains a different type of nut. Ultimately, you’re gonna be disappointed after a bite or two. There are blues tracks, there are pop songs, there are ballads and there is even a track with a Nicki Minaj verse. There’s just way too much going on here, and none of it particularly stands out.
In her defense, there was no way she was getting away with yet another reinvention in 2019. Pop is too in right now — it’s that genre, and it’s fucking cutthroat. Pop stars come and go on a whim, and only the truly strong keep their head above water in today’s environment. Lavigne’s roots are too deep, her legacy too set in stone. If you’re not innovating today, pop will chew you up and spit you out on your head. Her insistence to maintain a semblance of the pop she was putting out over a decade ago is near fatal. What I’m getting at here is that Lavigne, while holding on to nostalgia at times, is outdated. Do yourself a favor and listen to “Mine” by Slayyyter instead.