Avril Lavigne Actually Made A Pop-Punk Album This Time

Avril Lavigne Actually Made A Pop-Punk Album This Time

I first met Avril Lavigne in 2013. A decade after watching Avril on MTV, here I was, actually working at MTV, and Avril was promoting her fifth studio album, a self-titled venture that featured guest spots from then-husband and album co-writer Chad Kroeger (erggg) and Marilyn Manson (even more errrgggggg). We chatted for about three minutes so I could get some quotes for a fluff-piece blog post — nothing revolutionary. But I remember thinking her singing voice was outstanding.

Avril didn’t know it yet, but life was about to get much harder — ironically not so much for Kroeger or Manson reasons, though she and the Nickelback singer would divorce two years later. In 2015, Avril would reveal that she had been diagnosed with Lyme disease, which essentially forced her to take a lengthy career hiatus.

“I was in bed for fucking two years,” she told Billboard in 2018, adding that the disease went undiagnosed “for so long that I was kind of fucked.” Up until then, Avril had been steadily releasing an album every few years, beginning with her breakthrough disc, 2002’s landmark Let Go. Her debut album made the then-teenage singer a bona fide pop superstar, but one with a little more punk-rock bite compared to her TRL peers. (Not that any die-hard genre gatekeepers took her seriously at the time — I have a distinct memory of a punk purist high-school friend outright refusing to dance when “Sk8er Boi” queued up at our tenth-grade dance.)

It didn’t much matter if purists gave Avril permission to be punk or not in the early ’00s. Avril herself didn’t think she was punk. But her music circa Let Go and its 2004 follow-up Under My Skin tended to be guitar-led and angst-ridden, surfing through themes of feeling abandoned and emotionally vulnerable. Along with her mall-punk attire and specific-to-her androgynous neckties, people just kind of ran with the “Avril’s punk” or “Avril wishes she were punk” narrative.

Whatever genre Avril really is (isn’t it nice to live in a post-genre, poptimist world, as opposed to the decidedly more rockist ’00s?), she hasn’t strayed far from those combative roots as a pop singer. In 2007, she experienced another “motherfuckin’ princess” career surge on the back of The Best Damn Thing and its slappin’ (if completely anti-feminist) lead single “Girlfriend.” 2011’s Goodbye Lullaby, largely about Avril’s divorce from ex-husband and Sum 41 singer Deryck Whibley, diverged from her trademark style, leaning into acoustic melodies, and Avril Lavigne featured a mixture of power ballads, badly executed nu-metal test runs (see: Manson), and a techno/EDM cut called “Hello Kitty” that actually featured the lyric “like a fat kid on a pack of Smarties.”

By the time Avril recorded 2019’s Christian-rock-adjacent Head Above Water, she’d come out through the other side of her Lyme diagnosis. To be honest, I was under the impression that she’d gone full-on Christian rock and was never coming back. No judgment: I can’t pretend to know the hideous pain one experiences in the throes of Lyme disease, but I guess I assumed that Avril would just be singing Christian rock from now on. (Avril never actually claimed to have been saved, but this album’s lead single did become an unexpected crossover hit on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart, peaking at #2.) I also don’t know that much about Christianity, being raised Jewish, but I always got the sense that doubling down on Christianity — or really any organized religion — as an adult is not unlike discovering yoga, in that once you do it, it becomes your entire personality? (Sorry to any Christians or Christian rock listeners I may have just offended.)

But Avril has not stayed put in the Christian rock world. Love Sux, released last Friday, is easily her most punk-rock record since Let Go, assuming Let Go was even punk rock to begin with. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that Love Sux is Avril’s most energetic record ever. Even early Avril tended to lean hard on midtempo ballads (“Complicated,” “Losing Grip,” “I’m With You,” “My Happy Ending,” “Things I’ll Never Say”) rather than the actual pogo-stick pop-punk/emo one would more associate with Paramore. But this time, she’s going hard — keeping right up with the wave of younger pop stars like Olivia Rodrigo and WILLOW who idolize her. “They’re really talented songwriters, and it’s been cool for me to meet these girls,” Lavigne told Billboard. “The 17-year-old me could never have imagined I’d be in this position where people tell me that my music’s had an influence on them.”

It’s very possible Avril got the now well-documented memo that pop-punk is having its nostalgia-cycle moment 20 years after bands like Good Charlotte, New Found Glory, and blink-182 made their mark on MTV and the pop charts. Last year, she guested on WILLOW’s lately i feel EVERYTHING, duetting on a song called “GROW,” and joined rap-punk boyfriend Mod Sun on the song “Flames.” For Love Sux, she looped in a group of collaborators at the mainstream forefront of the pop-punk zeitgeist, including producer John Feldmann (5 Seconds Of Summer, All Time Low), punk revivalist Machine Gun Kelly, emo rapper blackbear, Mod Sun, and even two thirds of blink-182: Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus. Further cementing her symbolic return, Love Sux came out on Barker’s Elektra Music Group imprint DTA Records. As Avril recently told Billboard, it’s all part of an intentional shift: “I want to make a pop-punk record, a rock-and-roll record. I don’t want to be on the piano. I don’t want ballads, really. I just really want to rock out.” Mission accomplished!

If (like yours truly) you’re a sucker for strong, guitar-driven hooks, Love Sux will scratch that itch. It’ll probably leave some marks on your back, too! Opener “Cannonball” has Avril literally howling over Barker’s light-speed drumming. Next, she teams with Machine Gun Kelly for what seems like a tongue-in-cheek reference to her second-ever single: Two decades ago, Avril advocated for the underdog “Sk8er Boi” — in 2022, she’s calling them out in “Bois Lie.” (“Girls lie too,” MGK retorts.)

The bangers just don’t stop: “Bite Me” is a sneering kiss-off (though the rhyming of “like me” and “wifey” is a little cringe and definitely serves as a reminder that this is the same singer who once rhymed “boy” with “boy”). “Love It When You Hate Me” featuring blackbear also got the single treatment; it’s plenty catchy, but I much prefer Avril’s collab with Hoppus on the rapid-fire “All I Wanted,” which sounds like an unreleased blink-182 B-side.

Thematically, Love Sux explores romance’s highs and lows, and goodness knows Avril has seen her share of both. The title track focuses on love’s valleys (“Not another break-up/ When I think of you, I just wanna throw up”), with Avril jadedly throwing her hands up over the fact that “I never learn.” Later, the album’s one ballad — the booming “Dare To Love Me” — features the record’s most impressive vocal work as she challenges future partners to be honest in their intentions.

If Avril earned her “alternative” stripes back in the day by writing slick, post-Alanis songs about sk8r bois and emotional turmoil, Love Sux has a lot more anger pouring out of its chunky guitars and breakneck drumming. Avril sounds renewed, refreshed, and totally at home kicking down doors. My only real note is that it would’ve been nice for her to bring in a female guest or two, especially given how rock and punk spaces have evolved so significantly since the early ’00s. (Case in point: When I recently interviewed another Canadian Y2K pop-punk singer, she said her entire backing band would consist of women.) Still, even if it could have benefited from a Pinkshift or Meet Me @ The Altar guest spot, Love Sux is way more fun than I thought a new Avril Lavigne album would ever be again. In a way it feels like meeting her all over again.

CHART WATCH

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the Encanto soundtrack is #1 on the Hot 100 for a fifth straight week. The song — credited to Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero, Stephanie Beatriz, and the Encanto cast — extends its record as the longest-standing #1 hit from a Disney movie. It’s followed again by Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” at #2.

GAYLE’s “abcdefu” rises to a new #3 peak, bumping Adele’s “Easy On Me” down to #4. Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin” is back up to #5, with the Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay” down to #6 and another Bieber song, “Ghost,” at a new high point of #7. Ed Sheeran holds down the next two spots with “Shivers” at #8 and “Bad Habits,” resurgent thanks to a new remix with Bring Me The Horizon, back up to #9. Elton John and Dua Lipa’s “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)” is at #10.

On the Billboard 200, the Encanto soundtrack remains #1 for a seventh nonconsecutive week. Encanto racked up 90,000 equivalent album units this week, including 11,000 in sales. According to Billboard, only two other albums in the past five years have spent that many weeks atop the chart: Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album and Taylor Swift’s folklore.

Speaking of Wallen and Swift: After Gunna at #2, Wallen’s Dangerous is at #3, which marks its 58th week in the top 10 — the most for a country album since Swift’s Fearless in 2008-2010. After the Weeknd’s greatest hits album at #4 and Olivia Rodrigo at #5 comes a #6 debut for Yeat’s 2 Alive with 32,000 units, almost entirely via streaming. Drake, Doja Cat, Eminem’s greatest hits LP, and Adele round out the top 10.

POP FIVE

Alec Benjamin – “Shadow Of Mine”

I really dig Benjamin’s anxious mood, thanks to a careful marriage of piano, rhythm, and strings. The whole song sounds like an elaborate tip-toe.

Tyga & Doja Cat – “Freaky Deaky”

Who doesn’t like a sexy duet about getting hyped to bang? Mickey & Sylvia walked so Tyga and Doja could run.

Kehlani – “little story”

Kehlani’s nimble vocals lead the way on this minimal, delicately arranged track, which urges a love interest to “write me into your story.”

Justus Bennetts – “Don’t Trip” (Feat. GAYLE)

GAYLE lends her vocals to a mid-tempo track from emo rapper / singer-songwriter Justus Bennetts that crescendos with a chanting, guitar-solo’d chorus.

Kygo & DNCE – “Dancing Feet”

Joe Jonas’ DNCE have resurfaced after a four-year break and are teaming up with Kygo for a high-energy bop sure to flourish on any dance floor.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Camila Cabello teased a new single, “Bam Bam,” featuring Ed Sheeran. [Instagram]
  • Cardi B finally broke her legendary silence about Russia and Ukraine. [Twitter]
  • Kelly Clarkson covered Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better.” [YouTube]
  • Olivia Rodrigo had a Lorde lyric cake for her 19th birthday. [Uproxx]
  • Megan Thee Stallion launched a new Snapchat series, Off Thee Leash. [YouTube]
  • Megan Thee Stallion sued her old label 1501 Certified Entertainment again. [Billboard]
  • BTS announced four concerts in Las Vegas. [AllKPop]
  • Billie Eilish talked about her Oscars nomination, hosting SNL, and her new fragrance on Seth Meyers. [YouTube]
  • Britney Spears threatened to “sue the shit out of” her former management company. [Rolling Stone]
  • Phoebe Bridgers said Taylor Swift first contacted her with a text from Aaron Dessner’s phone. [Billboard]
  • Charli XCX released an A.G Cook and Vernon of Seventeen remix of “Beg For You.” [YouTube]
  • Machine Gun Kelly and WILLOW did “emo girl” on the Late Late Show. [YouTube]
  • AJR cancelled their Russian tour in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine. [Twitter]
  • Avril Lavigne has a Hello Kitty-themed bedroom in her house. [Vogue]
  • The Chicks announced a summer tour. [The Chicks]

CLOSING TIME

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