Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

An unfortunate, pretty bog-standard collection of pop songs fails to help Avril Lavigne stay afloat on her first record in five years

Album Review by Dylan Tuck | 21 Feb 2019
  • Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water
Album title: Head Above Water
Artist: Avril Lavigne
Label: BMG
Release date: 15 Feb

To say that it’s been a rough few years for Avril Lavigne might be an understatement. Since her last release, 2013’s self-titled effort, the pop star has seen her second marriage come to an end, and been hospitalised with a case of Lyme disease so bad she claimed that she was close to death. Following a turn of events as negative as those, you’d probably expect Lavigne’s 'comeback' album to be fairly 'grown-up'. 

Enter Head Above Water, the Canadian’s sixth record, and one that, despite best intentions, is pretty flat. Granted, the personal trauma, heartbreak and illness provides greatly powerful meaning behind the songs on offer, but the tracks themselves are average.

Shock horror, the worst thing on the record features Nicki Minaj. Dumb Blonde, while having a fantastic anti-mansplaining, female-empowerment motive, is trashy, and feels like it’s been cheaply smashed together for nothing more than a chart position that it’s almost certain to get. Elsewhere, Tell Me It’s Over and Crush serve up plodding, vanilla rhythms; Goddess and Bigger Wow seem recycled.

The best tracks here are those which delve into the power ballads that we know Lavigne can produce so effectively. But other than the album's self-titled lead single and It Was In Me, with soaring orchestrals and subtle keys paving the way for her lung-bursting croons, it feels much like a lost Lavigne seeking a sound that’ll just keep her afloat.

This is far from the sassy, bootcut-jean donning queen of the skate park once heard on her breakthrough release in the early noughties – but it was never going to be that. That said, while it’s great to have Lavigne back, unfortunately Head Above Water doesn’t show her in her best light.

Listen to: Head Above Water, It Was In Me, Souvenir