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Avril Lavigne “Goodbye Lullaby” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

While Avril Lavigne‘s 2007 album, The Best Damn Thing, has become an unquestionable success—certified platinum in the US within a few months, it has since gone on to sell over six million copies worldwide—the years that followed its release offered some unique obstacles for the young vocalist. Plagiarism claims persisted and by 2009 the bottom finally fell out on her marriage to Sum 41′s Deryck Whibley. Despite such issues however, the singer was still able to log plenty of studio time in creating what would eventually become her new album, Goodbye Lullaby. Having the majority of the album completed before even reaching 2010 the singer was then dealt another blow, this time from her label. Signed to Arista, Lavigne found herself transplanted as the label was consumed by RCA. It was under this new watchful eye that she was told to take on a more “urban” sound. Lavigne disagreed; the album was delayed.

With the release of Goodbye Lullaby‘s lead single (“What The Hell”) in January however, things appeared to once again be right on track for the perennial pop punker; the song itself acting much like “Girlfriend” did on The Best Damn Thing, adding a very recognizable kick early on in the LP. The single continues to project Lavigne’s longstanding edgy persona that has persisted throughout her career, this time utilizing a catchy organ line as she confronts the double standard of being a player, “You say that I’m messin’ with your head boy, I like messin’ in your bed… All cause I was makin’ out with your friend.” From the remaining tracks that follow however, the song’s energy is only duplicated in “Smile.” “Last night I blacked out, I think/What did you put in my drink?” yelps Lavigne before the song’s squirly guitar is pushed aside for a glowing pop hook. The energetic track pales in comparison however, picking up on a trend that persists throughout the entire recording: aside from “What The Hell,” the album is largely forgettable.

Make no mistake, “I Love You” serves its purpose as a solid pop song, “Alice” leans on a momentous sound in focusing on lyrics aimed at triumphing over adversity and opener “Black Star” is at the bare minimum a relatively graceful introductory track. (If it weren’t simply a theme song for a fragrance it might’ve been able to develop into something special.) In between however, there are few sparks that deliver something on par with what Lavigne’s career has proven her capable of.

This isn’t to point fingers, but one of the likely reasons for the lack of excitement in Goodbye Lullaby might have to do with the project being far more in-house than any she has ever taken on before. While Avril Lavigne has always assumed the role of a songwriter in the creation of her music, the new album finds her as the sole writer on a number of songs. Not only that, but through their rocky ups and downs, Whibley played role of producer for roughly half of the album; Lavigne herself also wearing that hat for a pair of tracks. The result is something that she’d obviously be willing to fight to the death over—a personal creation unlike any she’s had to this point in her career. Unfortunately it also emphasizes her obvious need for collaboration.

The aforementioned “What The Hell” and “Smile” are two of four tracks written with the help of proven hit-makers Max Martin and Shellback, each standing out for their obvious pop-heavy appeal. Even at that however, the lyrics in the tracks translate as remarkably soft, “Wish You Were Here” including “There’s a girl who gives a shit, behind this wall you’ve just walked through it” and “I Love You” topping out emotionally with “You’re so beautiful but that’s not why I love you.” Lavigne’s work with guitarist Evan Taubenfeld on the album yields an unfortunate trio of “singer/songwriter” tracks; “Push,” the cliché-ridden “Everybody Hurts” (“Everybody hurts, everybody screams, everybody feels this way—and it’s OK”) and “Not Enough.” From there however, we’re led to believe that it’s all Lavigne: from the dull sounds of “Stop Standing There” to the the limp acoustic-focused “4 Real” (“I’m for real, are you for real?”) to the relationship driven “Remember When” (“Remember when I cried to you a thousand times?”) and “Goodbye” (“I have to go and leave you alone but always know that I love you so”). There’s a lot of emotion in the songs, but practically none of it makes an impact.

In a recent interview with Maxim, Lavigne broke down the album’s focus from her perspective, “Is it inspired by my personal relationships? Yes. Inspired by life experiences? Yes. Inspired by experiences in situations with my family and friends? Yes.” Just as these are all important sources in terms of learning more about herself, they’re also powerful in gathering inspiration for her lyrics. That said, the drawback comes when the songs themselves are neglected in the process of making the album more “personal.” There’s nothing wrong with taking the risk, but the outcome unfortunately illuminates the unmistakable transparency of Lavigne’s game. Sad to say it, but now she’s just Taylor Swift with a “fuck” tattoo.