Avril Lavigne - “Head Above Water” Album Review

posted February 21, 2019 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Jack Grossman

One of the biggest pioneers of punk rock in the early 2000s was none other than Avril Lavigne. Having gone through several musical direction shifts, a marriage (and divorce) with Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, and struggling with Lyme disease, Lavigne has had quite an exhausting personal life. Her latest album, “Head Above Water,” is a reflection of Lavigne’s medical battle with Lyme, presented as a personal journey that invites the listener alongside Lavigne. Ironically, while attempting to create a more personal album, Lavigne sacrifices uniqueness in her sound. In a sea of modern era pop, “Head Above Water” fails to stay afloat.

The album happens to channel the artist’s later music shifts into pop more so than her classic punk sound. The album’s title track, “Head Above Water,” is a product of this. Gone are grunge-heavy guitars and vocals of yesteryear, replaced with smooth, crisp pop-oriented drums and a colorful voice. While a new transition to pop is certainly an admirable feat, Lavigne’s attempt is not entirely in vain. Comparing it to her previous works, it offers a new side to Lavigne that looks promising, though it fails to deliver.

While “Head Above Water” is a very strong start, the album eventually turns into a very long, dismissive session. A lot of the tracks sound very similar to one another, and they all sound very artificial in its mixing and production. “Birdie” and “I Fell In Love With The Devil” are songs that attempt to channel in the new genre, though their lack of lyrical substance and generic-sounding accompanying melodies weaken them.

Another notable track is “Dumb Blonde,” featuring Nicki Minaj. It was released prior to the album as a single, deviating from the pop genre entirely to experiment in hip-hop. This type of pop artist and rapper collaboration has been done before, though it is unsure whether or not it was the presence of Nicki or Avril that made it out of place in comparison to the rest of the album. However, it surprisingly does channel back a bit of Lavigne’s grunge style. It is a shame that this collaboration appeared on this project, as it could find itself at home on a different project, perhaps a Nicki Minaj one.

“Head Above Water” is a staple example of what happens when experimentation does not hit all of the right marks. While by no means it abhorrent, it is severely lacking in identity among Avril Lavigne’s previous works and the current pop out there that Lavigne is trying to emulate. It, unfortunately, has quite a forgettable selection of tracks, but the ones on the album that do stick out are nothing special on their own, either.

To her credit, however, Lavigne has the right idea. While it is not entirely honed in on yet, it is possible for her to create a great collection of pop songs. Going forward, it is hopeful that Avril Lavigne will figure out what works in the studio. For the first entry into music in some time, there can certainly have been a few more creative liberties taken.

Rating: 4/10
Favorite Track: “Head Above Water”
Least Favorite Track: “Souvenir”



Jack Grossman is a junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email jackdgrossman@gmail.com.