Sunday, October 9, 2011

Avril Lavigne's First Full Failure: Goodbye Lullaby Leaves Me Unimpressed.

The Good: Some fun songs
The Bad: Derivative sound, Some truly lame lyrics, Thematically disappointing, Fairly short.
The Basics: Goodbye Lullaby has Avril Lavigne trying to follow Katy Perry down a skanky road, disappointing listeners looking for something and someone original.

Avril Lavigne is a musical artist who managed to surprise me. I, like many back in the day, got sick of hearing "Complicated" on the radio and wrote her off as a one-hit wonder when she followed it up with "Sk8er Boi." When I began my music reviews, I was looking to balance my reviews and I started picking up some of Avril Lavigne's albums, figuring that I was biased against her work and I would have something to easily pan. But then, the unthinkable happened and I fell for the albums and I was surprised to find myself recommending her albums, save a limited LP that she released. So, earlier this year when Lavigne announced she would be releasing a new album, I was actually at a point where I could admit I was excited. I found myself grooving out to "What The Hell," despite not being wild about its message. But, it took until last week for me to get in Lavigne's new album, Goodbye Lullaby and I've been listening to it in pretty high rotation since.

And it was not worth the wait. Sadly, on Goodbye Lullaby, Avril Lavigne seems determined to sell out to the lowest common denominator of people who are still listening to pop music. Yes, Goodbye Lullaby courts Katy Perry's fan base. Gone is the audacious loner who stands strong and does what she wants, in her place is a vacuous skank in the mold of Katy Perry. I cannot recall the last time I was so disappointed in a musical artist whom I had once respected and the truth is, despite my initial impressions of her, I had come to respect Lavigne's works. But Goodbye Lullaby mortgages that.

With fourteen tracks (how can a track be called "hidden" if it's on the tracklisting?!) clocking out just over fifty-two minutes, Goodbye Lullaby rests mostly on the talents of Avril Lavigne, so she takes most of the blame. Lavigne wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks, seven written on her own, and she produced two of the songs on her own as well. She is also credited as a co-producer on the album. She provides all of the lead vocals and piano on four songs, guitars on two. So, there is little denying that Goodbye Lullaby is the album Lavigne wanted to create.

Goodbye Lullaby is a pretty solid pop album, but it is not the album fans of Avril Lavigne might have wanted. "Last night I blacked out I think / What did you, what did you put in my drink / I remember making out and then oh oh / I woke up with a new tattoo / Your name was on my and my name was on you / I would do it all over again" are not lines from Katy Perry's ode to teen irresponsibility (though they might as well be) "Last Friday Night"; they are lines from Lavigne's song "Smile" on Goodbye Lullaby. This sums up the phase shift in Lavinge's music for this album. Gone are the ansty desires to be loved, demands to be respected and the anthems insisting her lyrical protagonists be given the opportunities to prove themselves and excel in a world they did not create. No, on Goodbye Lullaby, Lavigne is tired of all that and she just wants to get laid.

With pretty standard pop-rock guitar, bass, drum songs, Lavigne augments her sound with pianos and keyboards. Unlike her prior albums which were pretty straightforward pop rock with more of a rock and roll flavor, Lavigne's sound on Goodbye Lullaby is more poppy and soft. The opening and closing tracks, "Black Star" and "Goodbye" are bookends which repetitively and simply muse into the pop and leave the listener with an "oh well" feeling. The piano work on them is simple, like random, deliberating tapping of keys more than creating an actual melody. That is happens on one track is unfortunate; that Lavigne opens and closes the album with songs with the same issues is a bleaching of whatever talent she once had and that is beyond disappointing.

Vocally, Lavigne is back with her overproduced vocals that illustrate little of her actual talent. What has always gotten me to give Lavigne another chance when I hear her works is live performances of them. Indeed, it was hearing a live version of "Girlfriend" off Best Damn Thing that made me realize that Lavigne was not just another manufactured pop diva. She had some real talent. Vocally, that is almost entirely absent on Goodbye Lullaby where her vocals are so overproduced as to be almost unrecognizable at points as a human voice. Sure, she is articulate on most of the lyrics to "What The Hell," but none of the other songs even have that song's tempo, so remaining comprehensible is not much of a challenge.

What is a challenge is listening to the album and wanting to listen to it more than once. Having had to subject myself to the album more than eight times for the purpose of reviewing, I can honestly say the album has terribly low replayability. While I was as happy as anyone to hear Avril Lavigne get a song on the soundtrack for Alice In Wonderland, it wasn't until listening to Goodbye Lullaby that I actually heard the song. And I heard how bad the song actually is, which is an unfortunate slam to Lavigne, but when she created a song that is supposed to be about empowerment and apparently wrote it just based on what rhymed, she deserved that criticism. Lines like "I'll play the game / But I can't stay . . . I'll win the race / Keep up with the pace / Today's the day / That I start to pray / You can't get in my way" ("Alice") are just plain juvenile.

And when I had hopes that there might be some hope for the old, articulate Avril might be somewhere on the album, my hopes were soon dashed. Her new solution to relationship problems? "Just shut up" ("Push"). And instead of going out and getting her partner, she waits on the sidelines in "Wish You Were Here."

The album is all like that, songs where if one has the expectation that Avril Lavigne will be smart, ballsy or strong, those expectations are defied. On Goodbye Lullaby, she is submissive, she is defiant only when it fits a predictable and basic rhyme scheme, and she is strangely whorish. All in all, Goodbye Lullaby is the big letdown from an artist who seems to have completely sacrificed art for commerce on her latest album.

For other female artist's album reviews, please visit my reviews of:
500 Days At Sea - Heather Nova
21 - Adele
The Singles Collection (Boxed Set) - Britney Spears


For other music reviews, be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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