Avril Lavigne's "Head Above Water" on BMG Records.

Avril Lavigne's "Head Above Water" on BMG Records. Credit: BMG Records


Head Above Water

BOTTOM LINE A personal comeback story that needed more outside input

It’s great news that Avril Lavigne has recovered enough from her battle with Lyme disease to record music again. And the title track of “Head Above Water” (BMG) tells the story of that struggle well, using a dramatic ballad and more forceful use of her powerful voice to great effect.

These new songs, her first since 2013’s “Avril Lavigne” album, are clearly personal, dealing with relationship woes as well as her health issues. And nearly all lean more toward the pop world than the pop-rock line she used to straddle with hits like “Complicated” or “Sk8er Boi.”

The problem is that she doesn’t always navigate that world very well. Sometimes, it’s a lyrical problem – like in “Goddess” where she mispronounces “bananas” so it rhymes with “pajamas.” Sometimes, it’s a phrasing problem – like the way she slips into vocal fry in the serious “I Fell in Love With the Devil” as she talks about “teddy bears and ‘I’m sorry’ letters.”

The issues on “Head Above Water” are numerous, but generally minor. The fact that easily addressed things were left in means Lavigne likely wanted them that way, leaving her comeback slightly short of where it could have gone.

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