Review: Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne

Head Above Water by Avril LavigneMy musical awakening came around the time when Avril Lavigne was getting big. She rode that early pop-punk wave well, but “I’m With You” proved there was more to her than that all-bets-are-off image of sorts. And then she got stuck in that lane, and it felt frustrating that years after her heyday she seemingly still refused to grow up. Head Above Water comes with a completely different context, however: after being diagnosed with Lyme disease, which sidelined her for years, it seemed this new record of hers will be more authentic, whatever that means these days. (The title track does have a different sound to her previous work.) But then, this record feels utterly generic, devoid of anything that carried that accidental narrative through. Avril’s voice is front and center here – again, “I’m With You” told us that much – but the songs feel like it’s catching up with the past five years of almost-straightforward pop, with everything from the grandiose to the swingy represented. The lyrics are vanilla. The inspiration quickly runs dry. Halfway through I wondered why I decided to review this album. And then I remembered that, yes, I was curious, and yes, I should’ve known better. I shrugged. [NB]2/5

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