I’m currently on my third spin of Avril Lavigne’s self-titled new album, out tomorrow, and I have to say that I am very happy. Say what you will about her, but there aren’t many of you out there who haven’t jammed to at least one or two of her songs. Stop, stop, stop. Just stop lying, and admit it, you’ll feel better. There you go. Me? I love her. I have from day one. I always admired her middle finger mentality, and her ability to blend pop and rock together in a fun little package. Her first album Let Go was quite good, 2004’s Under My Skin was dark and beautiful, and 2007’s The Best Damn Thing will always be my favorite just because it sounds like they were having a ball making it. 2011’s Goodbye Lullaby however, was an unmitigated disaster, mired in depressing songs that were just stuck in the proverbial mud. I can’t even fire it up two years later.
Which brings me to now: Avril has gone back to doing what Avril does best. She and her team have crafted a blend of upbeat, pop-rock songs and heartfelt ballads, two things she’s always excelled at. Admittedly, first song “Rock n Roll” was one that had to grow on me, but now I’m all about it. And yet, first single “Here’s to Never Growing Up” was one I fell in love with instantly. This song just SCREAMS summer, and I can’t help but think that the label dropped the ball by not releasing this album in summertime, because many of these songs demand to be played in the car, top down, or at a backyard barbecue. “17” will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Katy Perry. That’s ok, I like her, too, and it’s a delicious piece of ear candy.
Despite its silly title, “Bitchin’ Summer” is another well-done ode to that most glorious of seasons, and again, I scratch my head at the November release date. Now we get serious, and I get ready for all kinds of hate mail. Avril and her husband Chad Kroeger (yes, THAT Chad Kroeger, Nickelback. Deal with it!!) duet on the first ballad of the record, “Let Me Go”. Those of you who know me also know I am a HUGE Nickelback fan, and I think their voices work together nicely on this one. If you have an issue, send me a comment, I welcome them. Another standout, also co-written by Kroeger, is “Give You What You Like”, showcasing a maturity that first reared its head on Under My Skin. The line, “I’ve got a brand new cure for lonely, and if you give me what I want, then I’ll give you what you like” speaks to a dysfunctional relationship, and Avril sings it well.
Marilyn Manson guest stars on another fantastic track, “Bad Girl”, but make no mistake, this one is all Avril, all the time. It is hot, it is sexy, and it’s one of the strongest songs on the record. Yep, the REPEAT button got a workout here, no doubt. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” is another winner, this one written completely on her own, and is downright infectious. Another grower for me was “Hello Heartache”. I thought I was gonna hate it, but no such luck. That said, there are two missteps: “Hello Kitty” is just nonsense, complete with Japanese phrasing, and “Sippin’ On Sunshine” tries too hard to be a summer anthem.
The album ends on more of a subdued note with a pair of love songs, “Falling Fast” and “Hush Hush”, the former being all about taking a chance on a new relationship, and the latter singing emotionally about a relationship that has come to an end. Two sides to the same coin, and the perfect way to close things, I think. As I said earlier, I’m very happy with this recording. The more I listen to it, the more I love it. I think the clouds have parted, and it’s nice to see the Avril Lavigne we all know and love come bubbling to the surface. I hope she sticks around.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Bad Girl”, “Here’s to Never Growing Up”, “Give You What You Like”, “17”, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”