Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

Avril Lavigne – Head Above WaterIt’s been 17 years since Avril Lavigne released Let Go, one of the greatest pop albums of the 2000s, and well over a decade since she’s had any major impact on the charts.

When her second album Under My Skin, a notably more ‘adult’ album, didn’t perform as well as the first (and really, nothing would have), she was forced back into a box labeled brat pop, resulting in the hit Girlfriend, ensuring every subsequent album afterward would contain enough songs in that style to stunt any growth in the eyes of anyone not paying attention.

Yet, while her label was pushing songs like What The Hell and Here’s To Never Growing Up to radio and YouTube, her albums were full of tracks like Stop Standing There, Falling Fast and I Love You – songs that more or less opposed the image it seemed like she was being forced to maintain.

So after needing to take time off to battle Lyme disease, Avril’s return feels more triumphant. Not only has she come back from fighting the disease, but the album feels more honest to who she’s been trying to become as a recording artist.

She bookends the record with inspirational songs about her battle with the disease, declaring herself a warrior on the aptly-named final track. In between those are tracks about sour relationships and newfound love, wrapped in strong melodies that have long become Avril’s footprint.

The album is also full of little surprises. Her vocals are surprisingly strong throughout, almost taking centre stage at points, most evident on the slower numbers like It Was In Me, the title track, and Tell Me It’s Over, a doo-wop number that on paper would never work but on the album, it’s a highlight. Avril also reconnected with Let Go collaborator Lauren Christy on a third of the album, including the highlights Souvenir and Bigger Wow, both songs with melodies that rival even those on her earworm-filled Let Go.

Head Under Water isn’t new ground for Avril. In fact, it stays pretty safe, venturing from her norm only just a little. But it’s still a win for her and for those eager for 2000s nostalgia with a twist. (Count me among them!) It’s easily her best and most consistent record in 15 years.

Four stars

Check out: Tell Me It’s Over, Souvenir, Goddess

1. Head Above Water
2. Birdie
3. I Fell In Love With The Devil
4. Tell Me It’s Over
5. Dumb Blonde
6. It Was In Me
7. Souvenir
8. Crush
9. Goddess
10. Bigger Wow
11. Love Me Insane
12. Warrior

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