Avril Lavigne’s sixth studio album, Head Above Water, was released on Feb. 15 after a three-year wait. Lavigne hasn’t released an album since 2013, and the singer/songwriter says that this album reflects the struggle of her battle with Lyme disease. She’s stated that most of the songs were written and recorded on her couch. The songs portray a mature, but still full of angst Lavigne. The moodiness in her voice is classic for those who grew up with her music. While I have hesitations to even critique the music, as this album clearly means more to Lavigne than just that, I’m going to do it anyway.
The first track, “Head Above Water” was released as a single before the album came out. Lavigne is quoted as saying: “I wrote [this song] from my bed during one of the scariest moments of my life. I had accepted death and could feel my body shutting down. I felt like I was drowning.” The end of the music video encourages people to research and look into Lyme disease. While the track is undoubtedly powerful, it sounded a bit stock.
Themes of overcoming a toxic relationship are present in tracks like “I Fell in Love with the Devil.” It makes me wonder, who hurt you, Avril? If it were her ex-husband, Chad Kroeger, she doesn’t say so. He even produced and wrote songs for the album, so clearly she doesn’t have as much disdain for him as the rest of our society does. At this point in the album, I felt my mind tiring from trying to process the same generic beats and song structure as the previous tracks.
And then there was Nicki Minaj.
This was probably the weirdest and most unexpected collaboration I’ve experienced since Eminem sang with Elton John at the Grammys in 2001. The song is called “Dumb Blonde” and it does not do justice to blondes anywhere. Picture Lavigne’s 2007 track, “Girlfriend,” but with rap. Something about Lavigne’s voice sounds immature in this track, like she’s trying really hard to relive her glory days.
For an album that featured Lavigne posing nude with an acoustic guitar I expected more guitar. Often, it was drowned out by over-produced beats. “Goddess” is the only track that shines through with some sweet acoustic sounds and carries with it a positive message about being treated like a goddess by a partner. Maybe it was just the two cans of cider I had drank by the time I reached this track, but it spoke to me. Heck yeah I want to be treated like a goddess!
The vocals on many of the tracks were overproduced, and as a result sounded artificial and dull. This is especially apparent in, “Bigger Wow,” a track that reflects the hallmarks of early 2000s pop and “Love Me Insane.” (Which has way too many “yeah-e-yeah”s for my liking.)
Looking at the YouTube comments, all I can say is, you Lavigne fans are hardcore and with her until the end. A lot of people really liked this album. Lavigne clearly put her heart and soul into these tracks. This is a more grown-up Avril, one who had been on the verge of dying, but lived to tell the tale. It seems that this album has touched people and she’s engaged the hearts of many listeners with her music, which may be what matters most out of it all.
Ultimately, I don’t share the same appreciation for Head Above Water as so many do. I found it to be a bit boring, rehashed, and overproduced. Lots of the songs sounded the same and nothing stood out to me as particularly unique. (Well, except maybe the Nicki Minaj track, if unique is the right word for that.)
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this album unless you’ve been a long-time fan of Avril’s and want to see what she’s up to these days, or if you just love yourself some basic top 40.