Avril Lavigne set up for February 15th the release of “Head Above Water”, her sixth album and first since 2013. It has been a long wait, but it’s going to be worth it. We had the opportunity to listen to the album before anyone else, and we can say… it’s VERY GOOD!
“Head Above Water” has been described as something very different from everything else Avril has ever done. And it’s true, but don’t worry… it’s not as far from the past as you may expect. Maybe the early singles have scared some fans, especially “Tell Me It’s Over”, a more soulful R&B song, but the album is not like that. The title track serves more as a reference for the album in terms of its theme, sound and drama load.
Recently, the british newspaper The Guardian compared it to Lana Del Rey’s sound. Now, listening to it, I wuldn’t say so. The tracklist has more ballads, for sure, but they are all strong and do not have that sleepy touch (no offense to Lana Del Rey, I love her by the way).
Personally, I was very curious about what she would do in this album. The pop/rock genre doesn’t exist anymore, sort of, and some of the biggest singers from that time have already changed their styles, like P!nk and Kelly Clarkson. But we were missing Avril as she was away for a long time and did not have the opportunity to make that transition.
The person behind this very article is a journalist specialized in pop music and this passion started with… Avril Lavigne. In 2002, when I was only 11, “Let Go” was the first adult/pop CD I ever bought and it made a big impact in my life. This passion has lingered through Avril’s following eras.
Well, long story short, here are my thoughts on “Head Above Water”, track by track. Here we go:
1. Head Above Water
The song is so beautiful, as we all know. Maybe it wasn’t the best choice for the charts, but it is meaningful and reflects her moment and return to the music industry. Besides that, this song represents very well the album as a whole.
Despite being different from the whole album, long-term fans will be satisfied with “Birdie”. We might even compare it to “My Happy Ending”, mostly because of the mid tempo vibes, but it’s more vigorous. Basically the difference is: there are fewer guitars and more well-marked beats throughout the track. Avril sings about freedom, a bird that desires to fly. The verses are softer and the intensity comes in the chorus. At the bridge, the song becomes more dramatic with a muffled voice and what I could say, a trap beat – I could feel the vibration. At the end of this part comes the explosion: “Set me Free!”, Avril begs. Maybe “Birdie” is all about the years when she couldn’t make the kind of music she really wanted to. This is a strong song and could work very well as a single.
3. I Fell In Love With The Devil
Wait for the impact! In the first few seconds, before she even starts to sing, the violin arrangement already made me gasp. After that, vocals are almost angelic accompanied by a piano. It’s a contrast to the theme of the track – she says she fell in love with the devil. This one sounds more mature than “Birdie” but the structure is similar: softer in the verses, exploding in the chorus. “Please save me from this hell”, she sings at the end of the chorus. At this point, the song gets a “shutdown”. Details like this make the track even more powerful. At the bridge, the intro violins return and the vocals are really cute. For sure it will be a fan favorite.
4. Tell Me It’s Over
I do not agree with the choice of “Tell Me It’s Over” as a second single. Despite being so different from the rest of the album, Avril’s voice does not have that density that soul music demands. Do not get me wrong, she delivers the message, but it’s just not the strongest one. It’s good, but doesn’t stand out.
5. Dumb Blonde
Maybe the title doesn’t thrill the fans, but the track is very interesting. This is the first dancing song on the tracklist and has that “cheerleader” vibes that Avril has explored in her hit single “Girlfriend”, however it doesn’t have as much guitar. Imagine a mix of “Girlfriend” and Demi Lovato’s “Confident”. Also add a dash of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl”. The lyrics are well empowered, in which she reaffirms that she is not a dumb blonde. No one questions that!
6. It Was In Me
Don’t get me wrong when I compare songs, it’s just a matter of reference and does not mean it is something repetitive, that has already been done before. But when I first heard “It Was Me”, “Iris”, from the “Goo Goo Dolls”, came to mind – which she herself sang. The style is similar besides the construction of the verses. The track is another intense ballad shaped by very well-marked beats, as it’s being heavily used in the album. The lyrics are very intimate. She says she couldn’t always find herself in her life, but after a lot of searching, everything was inside her, simple as that. It’s exciting.
In the first few seconds, you remember Rihanna, when she used the “I’m With You” sample in “Cheers (Drink To That),” those “yeah yeah” repeated. But no, it has nothing to do with this song. “Souvenir” is another strong ballad, but it’s more positive, more cheered up. It’s all about the good times, the ones she wants to keep in her mind and her heart, like a souvenir.”
This song follows the same vibe as “Tell Me It’s Over”, with a soulful touch. Overall the album is not a big rupture from what Avril did before, except for moments like this. The lyrics are about a burning passion. “That look in your eyes drives me crazy,” she sings, “I can’t live without you.” How passionate!
This one is more acoustic, basically vocals and guitar. It sounds a bit like “Push”, but even more simple. It’s subtle, but delivers the message. “You treat me like a goddess, you find me so sexy in my pajamas,” she sings, claiming that she is finally safe with her loved one. You can see that this is a more positive album, talking about love or overcoming adversities. The softness in this song will delight her fans.
10. A Bigger Wow
This is another cheerful moment of the album although it is not exactly to dance. It’s a “good vibes” track, good for relaxing on a sunny weekend, the perfect soundtrack for a road trip. I couldn’t help but compare with Hailee Steinfeld’s collaboration with Gray and Zedd, “Starving”. The background guitar is very similar and it’s also the element that helps finding the vibe. It’s a really good track, which raises the mood of the album.
11. Love Me Insane
This song is a great match to the previous one – that’s why it’s good to hear the album in order. It’s really cute, brings a good feeling. Although it has instruments like keyboards and drums, it’s very subtle. The most striking part is the bridge where beautiful violins comes along. I think by now you already know that this writer here has a crush on violins, right? “Baby, let’s go crazy, so I’m going to lose my mind,” she sings, not as if it was something bad, but very positive.
This song is perhaps the most anticipated among fans and it talks about surviving Lyme disease, when Avril thought she was going to die. This is the track that will bring you to tears. Yes, it has that impact. Avril couldn’t be more honest, strong and determined. “Nothing will stop me now,” she sings. She stepped out of the showbizz for a long time because of her health problems, but this song gives a certainty that she is stronger than ever and more mature. This is what the record represents. Fans should be proud – I’m sure they already are and will be much more after this incredible album.
Potential singles: “Birdie”, “Dumb Blond’ and “A Bigger Wow”.
Personal favorites: “Birdie”, “I Fell In Love With a Devil” and “It Was In Me”.