Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne

Artist: Avril Lavigne

Album: Head Above Water

Record Label: BMG

Recommended Tracks: Track 1 “Head Above Water”, Track 8, “Crush”

After a six year album-releasing drought, Avril Lavigne dropped her newest album, Head Above Water on February 15, 2019. Unfortunately, at some points she seems to miss the target. Avril has built a massive fan base since her debut album in 2002 where she established her pop-punk sound that made her popular. Of course everyone loves or is at least familiar with her catchy songs “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi,” all which instantly transport you back to your childhood. With Head Above Water, it seems as though she is trying to channel that same energy that brought her success earlier in her career, but with a soft rock flair. This album shows that her music has evolved with more mature lyrics and is inspired by different life experiences from her adulthood. However, it appears that she’s struggling to find her niche at this point in her career. Nevertheless, there are some notable aspects in her comeback album that remind why so many people were anticipating this album.

Sonically, the 12 tracks on this record make for a moody rollercoaster ride with unexpected twists and turns. The most shocking twist would be the unexpected collab with Nicki Minaj on the song “Dumb Blonde,” which sits completely out of place among the rest of the songs. It has a cringey sound and is overly produced, making it feel dizzying to the point where you’re trying to figure out what is going on. It falls flat in all areas of production and is the most skippable track on the album.

The first recommended song, “Head Above Water” sets the tone for an album that shifts dramatically as you get to the last song. It creates high expectations for the rest of the songs because it’s so well-crafted production wise. Vocally, instrumentally, and lyrically the song is intriguing and drenched with emotion. It’s more of a ballad with its heavy keys and passionate vocals. This track highlights her personal struggles of being diagnosed with Lyme disease and feeling like she is drowning with her declining health. Avril begs for a moment of relief while expressing her desperation to stay afloat. The chorus builds with her vocals gaining strength in each note, even in a song where she’s very vulnerable.  From beginning to end, her voice is powerful while the piano and strings support her sincere vulnerability with their softer tones. Overall, the payoff is satisfying and this song will make you root for Avril.

The eighth track on this album titled “Crush,” is Avril finding herself loving again after being in a toxic relationship. The lyrics point to her having her guard up in fear of being hurt again, and hoping that this new person in her life won’t break her heart. It has a sweet sounding melody and smooth rhythm. The violin strings in the beginning add a nice touch to the song and the upbeat drums support her lighter toned vocals. The title and lyrics of the song are clever as they reference having a crush, as well as the idea of feeling “crushed” in pain or heartache.Avril Lavigne’s Head Above Water has its triumphs and falls short in some areas, but thematically, it’s an empowering release for the artist herself. The album’s narrative begins with her barely hanging onto life and ends with her really living, rather than just merely surviving. There are definitely some gems on this album but it’s shaky at times, earning it a ⅗ rating.

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