Long gone are the days of skateboards, baggy trousers, and wanting to date a ‘Sk8er Boi’; Avril Lavigne is all grown up. Following a six year break from music, in which she faced a battle with Lyme disease, the pop-punk princess is back with her sixth album, ‘Head Above Water’. Full of emotion, it’s a testament to why she has lasted this long in the industry.
The opening titular track and lead single is a powerful statement of hope and getting out of the deep end. Ruthlessly well written, it fits Lavigne‘s voice and the soldier-on lyrical sentiment is given a little edge by the album’s backstory. As the epic, stadium sized chorus sweeps in, the track reveals a version of the Canadian singer/songwriter that we’ve never seen before – the girl who promised to never grow up desperately clinging to life through heavenly grace. Inspired by her battle with Lyme disease, which nearly killed her, it sets the album up for its emotional ride.
Lavigne is no stranger to ballads – 2002’s ‘I’m With You’ was an immediate hit among fans, as was 2007’s ‘When You’re Gone’ – and now, she follows through with an album full of sentimental ballads. ‘I Fell In Love With The Devil’ hits some pretty rough areas on the topic of toxic relationships. ‘It Was In Me’ and ‘Warrior’ both follow suit and are a testament to her strength and similar to the work of Demi Lovato, providing a therapeutic outlook on life; perfect for those days when you need a reminder of your potential and worth.
This isn’t to say that the album isn’t inclusive of some upbeat numbers. ‘Dumb Blonde’ features Nicki Minaj and falls perfectly into ‘The Best Damn Thing’ era. Similarly, ‘Souvenir’, ‘Bigger Wow’, and ‘Crush’ are lively, loud, and reminiscent of everything that Lavigne succeeds in: catchy lyrics, upbeat tempo, and incredible vocals.
A mixed bag of sounds, the album also contains a number of modern updates on retro-soul music, the break-up lament ‘Tell Me It’s Over’ is a 60s prom slow dance with drums, and the gracefully computerised ‘Love Me Insane’ pushes boundaries and presents yet another new level of Lavigne.
‘Head Above Water’ is an album full of surprises. Whether you need a pick me up moment, an empowering pep talk, or just want to feel slightly nostalgic, there’s a track for every mood. Avril Lavigne has sure had her fair share of battles and struggles, especially in recent years, but this record proves her impeccable talent and showcases a triumph of will and determination.