When an artist decides to release a self-titled album, it’s either the debut album or a very personal one that accurately represents the artist’s current state in life; neither is the case in Avril Lavigne’s fifth album. After 2011’s ballad-heavy Goodbye Lullaby was met with lukewarm reviews from both fans and critics, Avril drops down several levels of maturity to reclaim her teenage-bratty image in her eponymous album. Once again, the Sk8er Boi singer delivers a repertoire of mainstream pop music where The Best Damn Thing left off, though with a sense of diversity and personality.
The record opens with Rock n Roll, a spunky pop-punk track that serves as Avril’s declaration that she’s back on the music scene and fiercer than ever. The track is quite similar to her previous singles, but its production value cranks it up a notch, making it one of the highlights from the album. Her “in your face” attitude rubs off on the subsequent Here’s To Never Growing Up (which could have been a more appropriate and straightforward title for the album) and 17, one of the more upbeat numbers that could have been included on her first record but would not feel out of place. These opening tracks with its carpe diem feel effectively builds up the general trend of the record.
To maintain a balance among the tracks, Avril also introduces a few ballads where the listeners finally get a glimpse of her raw and honest emotions after continuously singing about not wanting to behave like her age. She starts shifting the mood with Let Me Go, a duet about a journey of love through one’s life which features her husband and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger. The pair’s vocal chemistry during the mid-verses and its haunting piano outro where Avril continuously echoes out “Won’t let you go…” to her lover establishes this as one of her more memorable tracks. In Give You What You Like, Avril breaks down her walls to deliver possibly her most vulnerable song in her career. These two tracks are considerably well written compared to her previously released songs, but the problem is that these gems seem to get lost when placed between anthems about high school, “middle finger to the sky,” parties at the beach (Bitchin’ Summer) and losing one’s inhibitions with a provocative lover (Bad Girl).
Avril has formed a considerably huge following in Japan, thus it would seem inevitable that she would pen a song for them. The result is the electronic-based Hello Kitty, one of her more unique songs though definitely not her best. She opens the slumber party anthem with a straightforward “Mina Saiko! Arigato! Kawaii!” before chanting a handful of inane lyrics in a child- like fashion that would leave listeners cringing during the first (and perhaps subsequent) listen. The infusion of dubstep after the chorus doesn’t make it any better. It’s probably best to consider that the saccharine Hello Kitty was produced to appeal only to her Japanese fans. With all the attention that she is receiving there, this track would definitely do well in Japanese charts.
She continues to go down the lane with her devil-may-care attitude throughout. For the last few tracks, we see Avril on familiar territory. There’s nothing really special about them; listeners may feel that they’re being treated to the same songs again that somehow fail to leave an impact like the earlier tracks. However, the closing ballad Hush Hush manages to evoke feelings of desperation, regret, pain, and hope with its simplicity in songwriting and melody that saves it from being “just another lullaby about broken hearts”.
As an experimental album, Avril Lavigne is diverse in terms of its genre. There’s always a song or two that would fall under rock, electro-pop, or bubblegum pop to satisfy varying musical tastes. With Bitchin’ Summer and Sippin’ on Sunshine, this could potentially be a summer record that feels good to blast to in one’s car. But in terms of its lyrical diversity, singing about running away from adult responsibilities during round-the-clock parties in almost every track can make the album quite tiring after a few listens. Even at 29, Avril Lavigne still isn’t ready to grow out of her rebellious teenager persona and this latest offering from her proves just that.