AVRIL LAVIGNE: AVRIL LAVIGNE (2013)
1) Rock'n'Roll; 2) Here's To Never Growing Up; 3) 17; 4) Bitchin' Summer; 5) Let Me Go; 6) Give You What You Like; 7) Bad Girl; 8) Hello Kitty; 9) You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet; 10) Sippin' On Sunshine; 11) Hello Heartache; 12) Falling Fast; 13) Hush Hush.
The «reboot-style» album title makes it seem like a new potential star has just exploded on the scene — a sensible publicity move, considering that (a) mainstream pop stars seem to have much shortened shelf lives in the 21st century and (b) most people have probably already forgotten all about Avril Lavigne in two years. However, the publicity move is incomplete: the first single, ʽHere's To Never Growing Upʼ, immediately betrays the artist's age and pedigree, and ends up putting her on the right wavelength with her old fans of ten years ago, but hardly with the new fans who have no reason to identify with lines like "I'm like yeah whatever, we're still living like that". This ain't too good, Avril. An image slip-up.
For the critics rather than the fans, an even bigger slip-up will be the words-to-image connection. ʽRock'n'Rollʼ starts the record out on a punchy "I don't care about my makeup / I like it better with my jeans all ripped up", but then you look at the dark mascara thing around the eyes on the sleeve, and what the hell?.. This doesn't even refer to the fact that ʽRock'n'Rollʼ is anything but rock'n'roll. More of a happy round-the-campfire girlscout anthem, perhaps, dragged through the usual shit-filters of digital compression and autotuning to strip it of all identifiable life signs. And who helped her pen these lyrics? "I don't care if I'm misfit / I like it better than the hipster bullshit" — perceiving A. L. as a «misfit in the hipster reference frame» is a serious candidate for the Topsy-Turvy Award of the year 2013.
Anyway, the basic point is that Avril Lavigne continues to honor the general commitment of alternating one lite-pop album with one attemptedly «serious» album (be it the quasi-goth seriousness of Under My Skin or the quasi-sensual seriousness of Goodbye Lullaby). This one, yet again, emphasizes the have-fun side of our beloved Canadian rebel, and you can tell it from the song titles alone, without hearing one note of the record. She's having herself a bitchin' summer, sippin' on sunshine like she's still 17, a hello-kitty bad girl stealing her parents' liquor and going all «here's to never growing up». But 17 is also post-pubescence, so behind that screen of eternal fun — hello heartache, she's falling fast and is quite ready to give you what you like, and if you don't like anything, let me go, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
The actual music is hardly distinguishable from the latest brand of teen-pop à la Miley Cyrus («harder» sections) or Taylor Swift («softer» sections) — I was kind of hoping for at least a few guitar-dependent catchy pop-punk tunes of the Best Damn Thing variety, but most prefer to follow the thoroughly rote standard of ʽWhat The Hellʼ: ʽBad Girlʼ, with «Deep Purple gone nu-metal» guitar parts and completely unexpected growling (!) vocals by Marylin Manson himself (!) in the background, is sort of a pleasant exception to the rule. Everything else is, at best, acoustic-based alt-pop that rarely even takes the trouble of disguising itself as something «rebellious» — at worst, really embarrassing attempts at modernizing one's image, such as ʽHello Kittyʼ, an attempt to amalgamate Japanese pop culture gimmickry with a distinctly K-pop flavor (and I'm assuming the Japanese clichés in the intro signify a defying unwillingness not to confuse Korea with Japan).
On the good side, we do have ourselves some catchy vocal melodies, but somehow they all seem to be hiding in the «softer» section — ʽGive You What You Likeʼ has an emotionally resonant series of falsetto flourishes in the chorus, and the la-la-las of the childish, but cute ʽHello Heartacheʼ also turn out to be surprisingly moody. The same does not apply to boring power ballads like ʽLet Me Goʼ and ʽHush Hushʼ, but it still seems to indicate that, perhaps, she made a mistake by distancing from the vibes of Goodbye Lullaby — that it is sentimental pop, riding on vocal nuances, which should have been her weapon of choice, rather than a «rebellious rock» vibe. At least in 2002, when it already sounded phoney, it was still fresh, and the related marketology still incorporated a tiny bit of naïvete. By 2013, phoneyness is the only thing that remains. So, Avril, thumbs down, and here's to finally growing up, you know. Maybe your loyal fans haven't grown, I can admit that, but if they haven't, it's simply because they're idiots. No need to follow a bad example. You can't even play guitar like Angus Young — why keep on wearing his shorts?
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