Canadian pop star and “punk princess” Avril Lavigne released her self-titled fifth studio album last week. For Lavigne, the album presents a return to the upbeat teen pop for which she is famous. But for this reporter, the new Lavigne album is, among other things, a nostalgic trip back to 2003 and her debut album, “Let Go.”
“Sk8er Boi” reached number 10 on the Billboard 100 and even hit number one internationally. Most impressive of all was how quickly “Sk8er Boi” became an anthem for kids everywhere. Teetering on the brink of middle school, my clique deemed it “uncool” to like anything by Lavigne, forcing us to silently bob our spiky heads to the entire “Let Go” CD. Why do adolescent children have to be so complicated?
After critics accused her of burying her edgy attitude in a much more pop-oriented sound in her last two albums.
Lavigne promised her next album would revitalize her rebellious persona. With a slew of raunchy lyrics throughout and an appearance by Marilyn Manson on “Bad Girl,” could she make it anymore obvious? But in many ways, the latest LP is too similar to her debut album.
Instead of forging a new sound for herself, Lavigne clings to her youth in her latest musical endeavor. Songs like “Here’s To Never Growing Up” try desperately but ultimately fail to become the summer anthem that “Sk8er Boi” was so many years ago. Another single, “Rock N Roll,” was intended to be a critique of Lavigne’s critics. What instead happens is a theme for this album in Lavigne trying to channel a more youthful sound, but lyrics like “Let ‘em know we’re still rock n roll” make us wonder who she is trying to convince.
Lavigne’s last grasp at originality backfires when she drops in an overly produced, out of place ballad with equally out of place guest vocals. Lavigne’s duet with husband and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger on “Let Go” feels like the album’s biggest stylistic disappointment, crossing into a ballad-country rock hybrid that lacks any real emotion. The couple calmly croons about love and how it is “never too late” on a flat track ends up sounding like a Nickelback B-side instead of an Avril single. But at least they tried.
Ultimately, Lavigne’s fifth foray into the recording studio lacks the stylistic maturity of a veteran artist, opting instead to go with what worked ten years ago. Lavigne’s efforts come off like that friend from high school who never quite moved on and spends his days rocking a faded Black Flag t-shirt at the high school football game. Flirtatious lyrics like “Let’s get wasted” are difficult to digest when we realize Lavigne is pushing 30, has dropped five complete albums and is in her second marriage. Teenage angst should be the last thing on her mind. Of course we do not expect Lavigne’s next album to focus on mortgages and pension plans, but we should not have to differentiate between Avril Lavigne the artist and Avril Lavigne the gimmick.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.