Album Review: Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

The sk8r girl is back with her new album and first new music in six years.

“This is me and my fight,” Avril says about her new record. “This album tells my story.” And that it does. Head Above Water is an powerful, emotional statement that cements the singers status as one of our generations’ best songwriters.

In album opener and title track Head Above Water, Avril tackles her battle with Lyme Disease. “One night, I thought I was dying, and I had accepted that I was going to die. My mom laid with me in bed and held me. I felt like I was drowning. Under my breath, I prayed ‘God, please help to keep my head above the water.’ In that moment, the song writing of this album began. It was like I tapped into something. It was a very spiritual experience. Lyrics flooded through me from that point on.” She says about the track’s story. Just one year before this moment, Avril was diagnosed with Lyme Disease during her 2014 tour in support of her self-titled album.

“I fought Lyme Disease on antibiotics and herbs for two years. I tried to have a life, but was in bed the majority of the time, and it was very up and down with good days and bad days. When you’re in bed for the better part of two years, you lose muscle mass,” explains Avril “and your entire body gets weak. I’ve had to work to get my endurance up. Head Above Water was the first song that I sang. I was fresh off not singing for two years. I thought my voice would be weak, it ended up being stronger than ever. The break happened to actually be good for my vocal cords.”

The record features collaborations with the likes of Stephan Moccio, Chris Baseford, Johan Carlsson, Lauren Christy of The Matrix, Ryan Cabrera, Travis Clark, Bonnie McKee, JR Rotem, Mitch Allan and more.

Following on from the title track is the very heavy Birdie. A moody drum beat and ocassionally distressed vocals add to the eerie mood of the song. I Fell In Love With The Devil starts off with violins before kicking into a mellow piano tune. Once again the song’s instruments beautifully underline Avril’s signature vocals. With a powerhouse voice like hers, you really don’t need much fancy instrumentation to make an impact. Lyrically, we continue to dive deep into Avril’s psyche as she talks about being tempted by the devil as we all have at one point or another.

Tell Me It’s Over, although having a sultry attitude, is a desperate cry to be able to let go of a non-functional relationship that you just can’t seem to let go of. “I played the fool for the last time, I just can’t do this myself.” she calls.

Then cue the first up-beat track of the album, and boy oh boy, what an absolute tune it is! Dumb Blonde is this year’s version of Avril’s iconic girl power attitude. With the help of rap star Nicki Minaj, the song is everything you need for your “kick-ass females” playlist.

Stepping up to the piano again for It Was In Me, Avril takes it back down a notch and is a gorgeous declaration of love to herself, and honestly, gave us goosebumps. It Was In Me has so much incredible strength in its three minutes and fortytwo seconds.

“I really took my time to dig deep. Lyrically I pushed myself to be the best I possibly could and pulled from my experiences. Because I had so much quiet downtime, I was able to stay in the zone and get in touch with myself. Titles came from phrases I was saying that rang true to my experiences. Subjects were things that weighed heavy on my mind and heart. I sat at the piano and wrote my life.”

In Goddess, Avril swaps the piano for her guitar to create a stunning singer-songwriter sound wrapped around lyrics of a love song. A declaration of adoration for a significant other and how he treats the one he loves –  kind of makes us want a guy exactly like that. “He treats me like a goddess, goddessn, he thinks I’m sexy in my pajamas, the more I am a hot mess, the more he goes bananas.”

The up-beat pop influence shows its bright colours again in A Bigger Wow. It’s the feel-good summer tune you won’t be able to stop listening to because that catchy chorus has some serious attitude.

Closing off Head Above Water is Warrior where Avril goes back to basics with huge vocals backed by piano. Warrior is exactly what it says on the tin – a battle cry. And the perfect ending to a record that feels more personal than anything she’s done before. “I’m stronger, that’s why I’m alive.” She sings and it couldn’t be more true. “I went through a lot to get here,” she leaves off. “The positive side is I didn’t stop living my life. Having music while I was healing and in recovery definitely pulled me out of my darkness. I had a goal to work towards and a purpose. I hope the album touches people. We all go through challenges in life. Some unfortunately are more serious than others. Having gone through the battle of my lifetime, I’m stronger than ever and looking forward to sharing my renewed voice and energy for my life with my fans through this new music.”

Avril Lavigne’s sixth release and debut on BMG is not your averga pop record – it is personal, emotional and strong. It is something that should be celebrated for all its rawness and even its little flaws, because that’s what healing is.