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Track Review

The prospect of imminent death can change a person. Just ask Avril Lavigne.

Sixteen years after the Canadian pop-punk princess first catapulted to fame, Lavigne's back with her first new music in five years—music deeply shaped by Lavigne's nearly fatal struggle with Lyme disease.

"Head Above Water" is not like anything we've ever heard from the 34-year-old Lavigne before. Talking about the grim-but-hopeful inspiration for her new single "Head Above Water," Lavigne said on her website, “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.”

In a letter to fans, she said of her multi-year struggle with the debilitating disease, "Those were the worst years of my life as I went through both physical and emotional battles. I was able to turn that fight into music I’m really proud of. I wrote songs in my bed and on the couch and recorded there mostly as well. Words and lyrics that were so true to my experience came pouring out of me effortlessly.”

A Desperate, Beautiful Prayer

The lyrics to this emotional piano ballad do indeed mirror Lavigne's desperate cry to God to rescue her from slipping under the waves of her struggle.

"I've gotta keep the calm before the storm," she begins, "Must bar the windows and the doors." Soon, however, the scene changes, and Lavigne writes from the perspective of someone nearly lost at sea: "Yeah my life is what I'm fighting for/Can't part the sea, can't reach the shore/And my voice becomes the driving force/I won't let this pull me overboard."

When it seems as though she might be overwhelmed by the waves, she calls plaintively to God: "God, keep my head above water/Don't let me drown, it gets harder." She then tells Him, "I'll meet you at the altar/As I fall down to me knees," before repeating her request: "Don't let me drown, drown, drown."

At one point, the current threatens to take her: "So pull me up from down below/'Cause I'm caught in the undertow." That leads to another petition: "Come dry me off and hold me close/I need You now, I need You most."

"Head Above Water" testifies that God answered Avril Lavigne's prayers.

Carrying Her Cross

Lavigne's song sounds like something you'd hear in church. And perhaps it will be heard there, if its No. 2 spot on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart is any indication.

The stylized video finds Avril walking on an island wearing a beautiful white dress, carrying a lamp and wearing a large cross (which the camera frequently focuses upon). Eventually, she plunges into the water.

But even as the video vividly depicts—in a very literal way—the possibility of going under, Lavigne's hopeful, fierce voice suggests that the wind and waves won't have the last word.

"Head Above Water" delivers a triumphant, soaring anthem of hope, prayer and restoration. And it comes not from a familiar voice from within the Christian music world, but from a unlikely star who seems to have found God just when she needed Him most.

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Reached No. 2 on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart.

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September 19, 2018

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Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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