A hum rises in my throat. A few lyrics murkily surface, muttered almost unconsciously, as my feet began to tap on the floor. There can’t be a chance that my head is bobbing side to side, is there? After all, this is Avril Lavigne who I’m listening to, and it hasn’t been cool to listen to her since … well … well was it ever considered cool? Lo and behold, Ms. Lavigne has emerged relatively unscathed from several years of obscurity with her forgettable Goodbye Lullaby, an album that more or less adequately toes the line between forgettable pop of yesteryear and weak power ballads, a true oxymoron if there has ever been one.
The album never quite recovers from the one-two punch of its first two songs. The first, an intriguing and blessedly short number, “Black Star,” was used in her perfume commercials, but it works just as well as an intro to the whole disc. Piano-driven and just so saccharinely sweet, “Star” leads right into the lovably memorable “What The Hell.” It is astounding that pop radio has not embraced this, Lullaby’s lead single, with open arms. The world hasn’t been delivered a song so tailored for Top-40 success since last summer’s ubiquitous Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.”
Later, audiences hear a glimpse of the rebellious “sk8r girl” they loved (or loved to loathe) in the aptly titled “Smile.” A swear-laden track, the song was surely packaged for young drivers to belt as they push 60 in a 55 zone in an act of pure teenage mutiny.
One need not fret if frantically searching for awkwardly named tracks like “Sk8r Boy,” because the ingénue comes through with the maturely titled “4 Real.” Her lyrics sparkle with Rebecca Black like clarity. The listener can agree when she sings, “I know that we have something the past could never change.” Later, Lavigne asserts the title of the song for those who didn’t get the message the first time around, standing clear on the fact that she’s “for real / Are you for real? / Can’t help myself it’s the way I feel.”
Lavigne has always been a cheeky little devil of a singer, and Lullaby is no exception. In a move straight from Taylor Swift’s playbook of songwriting ingenuity, “Darlin” seemingly references Lavigne’s ex-husband, as she nudges someone who is “hiding in the closet once again” to “start smiling.” Once again borrowing from YouTube sensation Rebecca Black, the Canadian songstress teaches listeners that “tomorrow is not yesterday / Yesterday / Oh Oh.” One almost wants to jump in with a lending hand of “yesterday is Thursday / Today it is Friday” but alas, Lavigne quickly moves on from her important lesson on the days of the week.
The album reveals a wide array of Lavigne’s clearly cryptic emotions. Take, for example, “Remember When,” a song in which the singer professes to have “cried a thousand times / I told you everything / You know my feelings.” Don’t think that the rascal is too vulnerable or down, however, as she rapidly back peddles while proclaiming, “I’m not lost / I’m not gone / I haven’t forgot.” Things get serious when she again points out that “I cried a little bit / You died a little bit,” but clearly she has no regrets.
On the whole, the album is not the most egregious work that has been released this year (that honor is given to Kim Kardashian’s atrocious “single”), but it is far from Lavigne’s best work. While the singer/songwriter has never been the most talented artist around, her first three albums far overshadow her disappointing efforts displayed in Goodbye Lullaby.
I don’t mean to be overly tough on Ms. Lavigne, a competent singer who has somehow managed to make headlines several years past her expiration date. In today’s world of over-produced music that have been completely buried under layers and layers of technological enhancements, Lavigne stands out as one of the few females in the industry daring enough to step away from the autotune, and for that she should be commended. Additionally, the hidden track “Alice” (initially overshadowed on the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack by Grace Potter’s far superior “White Rabbit”) isn’t the most heinous thing about Tim Burton’s muddy flop. Small victories though they may be, they’re the best that can be offered.