There became a point where she openly admits she accepted death…but she found salvation in music and coped the best way she knew how; to play through the pain. Having spent the past six years going through treatment and recovery, and finding hope and salvation in her music, she makes her long-awaited return in 2019 with her brand new album “Head Above Water”…let’s give it a listen and check out the very songs that kept her afloat.
The album opens up with the title track, and the song that got this album off of the ground to begin with. A song of hope, pleading and determination as she sings of fighting off this illness; acknowledging her own mortality but defiant in its face…the idea of drowning here being used to describe her struggles and solitude, and as the sombre piano and subtle orchestral elements wash over you, it’s incredibly moving and deeply personal. A solid pop ballad this and a decent start in all fairness. “Birdie” follows up and here we hear her sing of a caged bird allowed the opportunity of freedom; metaphorically very soul-searching as she hints at personal growth and development, moving onwards and upwards in life, towards new horizons, like a bird free in the wind. Musically subdued but it’s her vocals that carry the track with their impassioned delivery.
Here though is when the album takes, for want of a better word, a bit of a dip…”I Fell In Love With The Devil” can’t help but make me think of poor Chad Kroeger…Avril here pulling off the ultimate Nickelback trolling. I digress, it incorporates more orchestral elements through some morose strings, but the opening line of ‘Shotguns and roses’ makes me think ONE of them had been watching Terminator 2 and that sounds like one hella messy divorce. “Dumb Blonde” treats us to a collaboration with NICKI MINAJ of all people…denouncing the idea that they are some, stupid Barbie dolls and that they’ll prove us all wrong, but musically this is SUCH an immature sounding, cheesy pop track. While meant to be empowering and defiant it’s got such an adolescent sound compared to the rest of the record and it cannot be taken seriously. “Hello Kitty” is a better track…let that sink in.
“Goddess” and “Bigger Wow” lyrically make you do a double take in places and really it’s cringe-worthy. On the former we learn of how Avril is treated like a Goddess, because some unknown person finds her sexy in her pyjamas…even suggesting he goes banana’s over her; banana’s and pyjama’s in an Avril Lavigne song in 2019…the latter? Well the latter really stretches her vocabulary…check this out “I just wanna bigger wow, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bigger na-na-na…”, my brain just fucking exploded! “Warrior” may end the album on an emotive note with ample vocal harmony but, it’s too little too late.
Avril over the course of her last couple of albums has tried her best to shake her initial pop-punk skater chick image, and for the most part this IS a much more mature album it has to be said, HOWEVER…the ballad approach wears thin over time. Yes this is a massive victory for Avril personally as she’s been through A LOT recently, hell I applaud her…but it doesn’t give boring songs a pass. When she DOES try and liven things up, the energy is wasted on frankly childish tracks and ideas, really doing herself no favours. Am I glad she recovered and that she’s fit and healthy, making music again? Of course I am…am I glad THIS was the comeback album? No…no I’m not, it’s annoyingly disappointing overall. I was hoping for something…how can I put it? Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-better.