The 13 songs on 27-year-old Canadian pop-rock chanteuse Avril Lavigne’s 2013 self-titled effort can be roughly divided into three categories:
1) Songs sadly lamenting her failed marriage to Sum 41 rocker Deryck Whibley.
2) Songs joyously celebrating her new marriage to Nickelback rocker Chad Kroeger.
3) Songs recklessly reminiscing about an adolescence full of sex, booze, cigarettes and, of course, rock ‘n’ roll.
And note that there are quite a few more songs in the third category than in the first two.
While paying melancholy tribute, it seems, to Avril’s first marriage, “Let Me Go,” “Hello Heartache” and “Hush Hush” wield no rancor. They simply display deep remorse as Avril tries to make peace with a once-perfect love that went irreparably wrong. “Goodbye, my friend,” she sings on “Hello Heartache,” “It’s not the end/It’s not the same/Wish it didn’t have to be this way/You will always mean the world to me, love.” Similar sentiments turn up on “Hush Hush”: “When I try to forget you/I just keep on remembering/What we had was so true/Somehow we lost everything/ … So many questions, but I don’t ask why, no.” And on “Let Me Go” (recorded with her new husband), she adds, “I’m breaking free from these memories/Gotta let it go, just let it go.”
Divorce, obviously, is a terribly destructive thing—not something to let go lightly. So it’s a sad but good thing that in these mournfully poignant songs Avril acknowledges just how painful the sundering of her marriage to Deryck Whibley has been. (It’s something she did on 2011’s Goodbye Lullaby as well.)
“Falling Fast,” then, guardedly celebrates new love, an attitude that need not be confined solely to a second love: “I’m falling fast/I hope this lasts/ … It doesn’t matter what we do/You make everything brighter/I never knew I needed you.” “Sippin’ on Sunshine” brings more of the same, with said sunshine being delivered by way of a kiss.
“Give What You Like” begins with a drunken woman taking a lover to bed. (More on that negative below.) Toward the song’s end, however, we see that her desperation-driven promiscuity is a cautionary tale, as she knows her decisions are self-destructive: “I’ll give you one last chance to hold me/If you give me one last cigarette/By now it’s early morning/Now that I gave you want you want/All I want is to forget.” She confesses, “Emotions aren’t that hard to borrow/When love’s the word you never learned.”
That said, “Give What You Like” also details the couple’s alcohol-fueled hookup in a way that could be heard as glorifying it: “Please wrap your drunken arms around me/And I’ll let you call me yours tonight/’Cause slightly broken’s just what I need/And if you give me what I want/Then I’ll give you what I like.”
And whatever cautionary note might be present in that song gets buried by seven others that unabashedly extol the praises of excess. The very next track, “Bad Girl,” finds Avril teaming up with Marilyn Manson (!) and shamelessly purring, “I just wanna be your baby/You can f‑‑‑ me, you can play me,” followed by this S&M-laced invite: “Choke me, because I said so/ … I’ll let you do whatever/I’ll be your bad girl, here we go.” (Manson adds another f-word for obscene emphasis.)
More evidence of said “badness” turns up on “Rock N Roll,” as Avril brags, “I don’t care if I’m a misfit/I like it better than hipster bulls‑‑‑/I am the m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑ing princess/ … This is your invitation/Let’s get wasted.” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” fixates on sex with, “A first taste like honey, you were so yum/’Can’t wait for a second, ’cause it’s so fun/Third base and headed for a home run/Don’t stop, baby, don’t stop, baby, now/ … ‘Cause you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Four more songs fondly recall teen years spent drinking, rebelling and caving into carnal appetites. First up, “Here’s to Never Growing Up” zooms in on a never-ending teen rager: “Got a bottle of whatever, but it’s getting us drunk/Singing ‘Here’s to never growing up’/ … We can stay young forever/ … We don’t give a f‑‑‑, and we’re never gonna change/ … We’ll be running down the street, yelling ‘Kiss my a‑‑.'” Second, “17” tells us, “I would kiss him in the parking lot/Tasting like cigarettes and soda pop/ … Stealing beers out of the trailer park/ … My favorite place was sitting in his car/Seventeen/We laid a blanket on the rooftop/That time I knew I wouldn’t make him stop/The nights were cold, but we kept them hot.” Third, “Bitchin’ Summer” repeats that title over and over again as kids look forward to a summer break that involves drinking whiskey and running from police. And finally, “Hello Kitty” proclaims, “Mom’s not home tonight,” followed by suggestive lyrics about “spin the bottle” and “truth or dare,” after which Avril suggests, “We can roll around in our underwear.”
Avril’s edging inexorably toward 30 and has lived enough life to know better, but her fifth album is nevertheless a disappointing case study in juvenile rock ‘n’ roll clichés and profanity-laced arrested development as she repeatedly toasts her stubbornly proud refusal to grow up. She shares some regrets about her failed marriage along with a smattering of hopeful thoughts about her new one. Mostly, though, she gushes giddily about how good it is to be bad, dropping f-bombs while relishing memories of teenage sex, bondage and whiskey.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.