Having made history, smashed records and consistently blazed a trail of her own as an uncompromising force in music and culture, Avril Lavigne has finally returned to her pop-punk roots. The Canadian artist rose to fame at 16 with singles ‘Complicated’ and ‘Sk8er Boi’, both of which earned her the title of ‘Pop Punk Princess’ from the media, and undoubtedly paved the way for female-driven, punk-influenced pop music in the early 2000s. While her previous album ‘Head Above Water’ certainly had some show-stopping vocal moments, ballad-heavy music was the least people had expected from the skate punk persona and (dare I say) a bit boring. The disappointing comeback of adult contemporary saw Lavigne’s stardom die down but now that pop-punk has infiltrated the mainstream again, the singer-songwriter has gone back to what she does best after two decades in the industry – delivering nothing but pop-punk anthems.
Described as the type of album she’s “wanted to make for a long time”, Lavigne’s seventh album ‘Love Sux’ is full of self-determination. There’s a lot of reflection upon different relationships that Lavigne has been through as well as reflection on where she’s at now personally. In some ways, it’s almost as if she’s poking fun at the things she’s experienced but in a feisty, light-hearted way with endless amounts of exhilarating drumming and classic pop-punk power chords steering the way.
There’s no time to gather your expectations for the album as ‘Cannonball’ catapults you straight into it without warning. It opens with Lavigne screaming “like a ticking time bomb, I’m about to explode and motherf*ckers let’s go.” It starts the album on a high and is a fitting statement for the energy-driven album as now you’re in for the ride and left intrigued of what’s to follow.
Already released track and lead single ‘Bite Me’ is everything you’d expect from Avril Lavigne and stands out as one of her angriest, loudest songs to date. While her nostalgic voice may remain in the past for some, there’s no doubt the sound she’s returning to feels more updated and fresh. The upbeat instrumentals, live drums and guitar shape the fast-paced anthem and her vocals are potent throughout. The second single from the record, ‘Love It When You Hate Me’ featuring Blackbear is another angsty, high energy riddled track. Lyrically, it tells the tale of a toxic relationship as Lavigne spills how she secretly loves the way she’s being hurt and the gritty energy that pulsates through it makes it addictive to the ear. In theory, featuring with Blackbear shouldn’t work the way it does due to their distinct contrast in production styles but his hip-hop-influenced vocals met with her upbeat rock highlights the different perspectives they’re singing about and play off of each other quite well. Not perfectly, but enough to make the song work.
Bringing the album to a close, ‘Break Of A Heartache’ recalls the opening statement that kicked off ‘Cannonball’ and brings the record full circle. It’s another bombastic number that confidently brushes off past trauma and reassures people that you can overcome things and change how you feel towards certain situations given the time.
It would be easy to disregard Lavigne's album as part of the current 2000s nostalgia storm that’s on the rise but it’s far from hazy nostalgia. Granted it’s full of the beloved Lavigne sound that put her on the map and pays homage to her previous works (‘All I Wanted’ featuring Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus references ‘I’m With You’) but ‘Love Sux’ showcases growth in Lavigne as an artist. The only fault lies with its collaborators as while ‘Love Sux’ hits its targeted audience incredibly more than its predecessor, it’s evident Travis Barker has produced the album. His drum performances, despite being extremely impressive, become repetitive towards the end and sound very similar to what he produced on Machine Gun Kelly’s latest album ‘Tickets To My Downfall’. Above all of that, ‘Love Sux’ is more of an antidote to pop progress rather than a nostalgic throwback. It just has all the elements of what made us fall in love with Avril Lavigne in the first place.
Words: Shannon Garner
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