Anyone still holding onto the idea that Avril Lavigne‘s music might mature probably won’t be surprised to learn that it hasn’t – not quite.
The lead single to the 29-year-old’s fifth album, which is self-titled, says so as she chants about “never growing up” before she gets nostalgic and retreats to her days as a rebellious young’n in the songs 17, when she was “living so wild and free,” Bitchin’ Summer and the Katy Perry-esque Sippin’ On Sunshine.
These songs are just a selection of the album that recalls the brand of brat-pop that Avril herself owned during her pop music dominance more than ten years ago. The same sound that has been adopted by many youth-oriented singers since then, including Taylor Swift, who’s had a better time with it on her last record Red, essentially leaving Avril as a second-rate version of herself.
But Avril carries on – with more of her style of catchy pop songs and several guitar-strumming singer/songwriter numbers, the two dynamics she has flip-flopped with since Let Go.
The album does take a few deviations with the help of the album’s key collaborators including Evanescence co-founder David Hodges and new husband Chad Kroeger.
Despite Chadvril’s peculiar relationship, they seemingly work well together as Avril branches out slightly beyond her usual style of pop/rock. While the first four tracks are standard Lavigne-fare, the fifth, Let Me Go, is a power-ballad duet with Chad, who is more of a thorn in an otherwise decent song that Avril reliably pulls off.
On several songs, she explores a sexual element that has never been present in her music before. Give You What You Like, easily the album’s best track, speaks to a state of vulnerability where Avril takes a sensual approach to an empty one night stand as she sings “Please tell me I’m your own and only/Or lie and say at least tonight.”
Contrast that with Bad Girl, featuring Marilyn Manson, where she begs for sex as Manson introduces the banger with “just lay your head in daddy’s lap, you’re a bad girl.”
It’s only slightly more uncomfortable than Hello Kitty, which is exactly what it sounds like. Avril says “you rock, thank you! Cute!” in Japanese before exploding into a chorus of “Come come Kitty kitty/You’re so pretty pretty/Don’t go kitty kitty/Stay with me.” As out-of-place as the song might seem, it’s oddly not that much of a stretch for her sound. Plus, she has a significant following in Japan.
While Avril is known more for her upbeat songs, this record is at its best in the ballads. Songs like Give You What You Like and Hush Hush show that Avril is more than the rebel-teen we were introduced to back in 2002.
She has shown several times over the years that she’s able to move on but she seems perpetually stuck in her own past. As a result, this album rarely steps above mediocre and seems content playing a poor hand when the deck has a better offering.
1. Rock ‘N Roll
2. Here’s To Never Growing Up
4. Bitchin’ Summer
5. Let Me Go [featuring Chad Kroeger]
6. Give You What You Like
7. Bad Girl [featuring Marilyn Manson]
8. Hello Kitty
9. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet
10. Sippin’ On Sunshine
11. Hello Heartache
12. Falling Fast
13. Hush Hush