Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Avril Lavigne | Avril Lavigne

Rating: ★★★★☆

It's not often that artists release an eponymous album that also isn't their debut album, but that's what the "motherfucking princess" is doing now. Avril Lavigne recently unleashed her fifth studio album, which she decided to leave as a self-titled release because she "really couldn't find a title to sum it up."

Before talking music, let's talk about this cover. The album cover for Avril Lavigne is pretty bothersome. In a low quality format, she looks like a ghost with greasy hair, heavy make-up, and extremely noticeable nostrils. In a high quality format, it's a bit more bearable because you can actually see a tint of skin complexion and her hair looks decent, but not many people are actually going to take the time to look for it in high quality unless they're a big fan.

Now, moving onto the music. To be up front about it, "Let Me Go" is without a doubt the best song on the album, hands down. The vocals are spot on, the blend between Chad Kroeger and Lavigne is phenomenal, and best of all, it carries the mature sound that some fans have been begging to hear for a while now. I'm still shocked that the song was picked up as the first single from the album. The album cover screams "dark" and "mature"; things that "Here's To Never Growing Up" and "Rock N Roll" definitely did not radiate.

"17" may not display a massive amount of maturity like "Let Me Go" does, but with it, Lavigne finally rediscovers the sound that got her where she is now. It's got the same spunk and lyrical matter as "Sk8er Boi," which is ironic considering that "Sk8er Boi" looked at the future ("Five years from now, she sits at home feeding the baby, she's all alone.") while "17" looks back at the past ("We were on top of the world / Back when I was your girl / We were living so wild and free / Acting stupid for fun"). It's a nice little song that has a bit of nostalgia attached to it; I like it.

Another shining track is "Hello Heartache," which also works its way back to the sound of Lavigne's older material. I feel like it would do moderately well as a single if it was sent to the right contemporary stations. It's not too far into the pop spectrum, but it's not too far into the rock scene either; it's a happy medium that I like seeing Lavigne at. The lyrics aren't that childish either, which is always a plus: "Goodbye my friend / Hello heartache / It's not the end / It's not the same."

In this album full of power ballads and alternative anthems, pop bits like "Here's To Never Growing Up," "Rock N Roll," and "Hello Kitty" are just randomly shoved in there, however they serve as a wise marketing purpose: they still have to push this album to the fans that fell in love with Lavigne during those awkward days of The Best Damn Thing. The same thing happened with Goodbye Lullaby, when she used "What The Hell" and "Smile" to attract listeners.

On the version of the album I purchased from Target, the album both opens and closes with "Rock N Roll," with the first track being the original pop version of the song, and the closing song being a special acoustic version. Although I do like the original song, I think I like the acoustic version even more; it's a stripped down performance of Lavigne's lead vocal stem and a guitar. The acoustic version seems to actually fit the sound of the album better than the original.

The most experimental track, "Hello Kitty," is also the most awkward outlier on Avril Lavigne. The song opens with Lavigne yelling in Japanese ("Minna saiko, arigato, ka-ka-kawaii, ka-ka-kawaii") before spiraling into a Ke$ha-esque sing-rap of nonsense lyrics, including the intolerable lines "So we can roll around have a pillow fight / Like a major rager, OMFG / Let's all slumber party / Like a fat kid on a pack of Smarties / Someone chuck a cupcake at me." 

After those lines are finally out of the way, the song then spirals into full electronic-dance mode, complete with its own breakdown of synths and squeals of "Hello kitty, hello kitty / Hello kitty, you're so pretty." The lyrics of this song, as well as most of the songs on the album, just emphasize exactly what Lavigne plans on doing with her career: like one of the songs on this album says, she's "never growing up."

By no means am I going to judge her, because the market of tween punk rockers out there is always coming and going. She's going to make money, but like Taylor Swift, she's not going to remain near the top of the pop royalty hierarchy. Sure, there going to be a few pop music fans like myself that will pick up the album, but she's going to make all of her money with the faux punk-rockers of junior high schools around the globe.

However, I am sad to see that Lavigne is still trying to play some sort of juggling act: She has some really great contemporary songs, but she also has some okay basic pop tracks as well. She either needs to focus on one shtick or prepare her fans for more variable albums like this. Luckily, minus the three curve-balls on the album, Avril Lavigne isn't as bipolar as Goodbye Lullaby, but she still hasn't completely picked a side to stay on.

Lavigne's career is slowly but surely recuperating and Avril Lavigne is a sign of that. It took a skydiving trip with The Best Damn Thing, but she's now making up for lost time. While maturing isn't in her agenda (although she is nearing thirty years old), making some great and catchy tunes is. If she continues on this path, it's safe to say that her next album should be directly back on par with Let Go, but for the time being, this album will hold us all over while we wait for that time to come.

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