‘Head Above Water?’ Sure couldn’t keep my head up

Tim Powers

Avril Lavigne released her comeback album after years of silence on the musical front. Her last released body of work was 2013’s self-titled, “Avril Lavigne.” Her sixth studio effort is titled “Head Above Water,” and was released on Feb. 15.

[media-credit name=”Photo courtesy of BMG Records” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Other than an insane social media theory that Lavigne actually died after the release of her first album back in 2002, was replaced by a lookalike named Melissa and got married, and later divorced, to Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, Lavigne has mainly spent the last few years on the down low. This is mainly because of her suffering from Lyme disease, which she said impacted her making the new album.

Lavigne’s career has been defined as being a part of the early 2000s rise of punk-rock, with songs as famous and iconic as “Complicated” and “Sk8ter Boi.” Unfortunately, that genre of music has since seen a decline in output from artists and attention from record labels and radio stations. Lavigne hasn’t had a true hit since 2007’s number-one “Girlfriend,” from her third studio album “The Best Damn Thing.” Her last two albums, released in 2011 and 2013 respectively, saw a stark decline in sales and quality. So, how does Lavigne continue on creating new music that sticks to her brand while also remaining relevant? “Head Above Water,” sets out to answer that question.

The album’s title track and lead single, “Head Above Water,” was released back in September 2018. The song is a sonically pleasing tune. It’s your typical piano ballad that increases its string-count as the song carries near the end. It is a generic track in regard to the lyrics that only get down to a surface level examination of her feelings. The song’s highlight is Lavigne’s powerful vocals that shows the immediacy and urgency she is feeling.

One of the best tracks from the album is the second song that Lavigne released back in December titled, “Tell Me It’s Over.” The song is an album highlight and should have been the lead single from the work. It has a great production that is catchy and uplifting. The song’s vocal performance is one of her best. This is definitely a shining song for Lavigne’s repertoire.

A few tracks later is another significant song. “Dumb Blonde” featuring Nicki Minaj is a fun, rowdy anthem. It reminds me of Lavigne’s earlier work, in particular, “Sk8ter Boi,” due to its charismatic, playful vibe. The verses by Minaj provide a fun, almost relevant look into the music of 2018. It feels as if Lavigne just threw Minaj on the album to gain a bigger audience and feel a connection to today’s musical landscape. The song does not fit with the rest of the album sonically.

From there, the album tends to go even further downhill; the production is very generic. There is a lot of filler on the album and none of the songs truly stand out from one another in a positive way. They mesh together and, at times, it was hard to get through to the last track. The album’s production sounds like a relic from the early 2010s in the vein of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” from the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” soundtrack. In addition, many of the songs feel as if they don’t add any significance or of substance to the album’s progression. The first half of the album makes more of an impact than the second half of the album. The album’s lyrics also feel insubstantial and never get too deep. They remain on a surface level examination throughout the album.

“Head Above Water” is probably Lavigne’s best album in years, but that isn’t saying much. It surpasses her last couple of musical efforts but never reaches the heights of her earlier work. The album isn’t bad per se, it’s just mediocre. It’s not career-defining but it’s also not career ending. Lavigne has had better moments in her career and, while here are a few bright spots on the album, the negative aspects certainty outweigh them.