On March 8, 2011 Avril Lavigne will be releasing her fourth album. Based on the first single "What the Hell" you'd expect another fusion of pop/punk music similar to her last album The Best Damn Thing but you'll be surprised by how Avril's changing up her style. Goodbye Lullaby is far more mellow and mature in sound than anything she's done before. The lead single is about as dance or pop as she gets. Instead of the usual ranting and ravings of how love sucks and how she wants to have fun and party, Avril leaves that scene for others like Ke$ha as she goes for the adult contemporary market. For a good portion of this new album Avril seems genuinely in love and willing to write odes and ballads about how grand love is. Seems like a big game changer for Avril that left me wondering if she'd be able to keep the attention of her fanbase or if this album would leave her in limbo with music fans.
The album's first track sets a bit of a different tone for Lavigne as she transitions from her familiar pop roots to a more mature, adult contemporary sound. "Black Star" is very short and with the twinkling of the piano dancing in the background, you get the sense that this album is more adult-orientated and serious in tone than Avril's last very pop-dance material album The Best Damn Thing. "What The Hell" follows and it is probably the most danceable track on the entire CD. Lavigne channels her inner Alanis Morrissette on "Push" that's a bit of a pop ballad. On this track Avril shows a bit of her feminine and vulnerable side as she tries to put on a tough face and hard front while pleading with her partner what it will take to keep their relationship flourishing and together. It was fun and refreshing to hear her singing such a girlie track considering all the punk/pop material she's been known for in the past. "Wish You Were Here" is probably my favorite track from the album. Again, she goes for the sentimental track as she sings about love and her relationship. Instead of the expected breakup/relationship gone wrong track this one is pure celebratory and accepting of love. It's somewhat upbeat but I never got the feeling that it was overly produced and enjoyed hearing Avril let loose vocally toward the end and show off her vocal talents.
"Smile" breaks from the silly love songs and re-introduces us to the foul-mouthed, cursing, punk Avril Laving we're familiar with. It's a bit of a transition track or "best of both worlds" because a good portion of the lyrics are very punk while the chorus is a complete about-face and has her singing the praises of the guy who's brought some happiness into her life despite her flaws and her being a "crazy who bitch who wants to lose control." "Stop Standing There" is catchy and without even being aware it had me clapping along with the beat. It's reminiscent of the type of track you'd expect from Kelly Clarkson and the message overall is "seize the day" and to not be afraid to love and show love for/toward another. "I Love You" is a bit of what you'd expect from the title – it's a lyrical love letter. She goes through the many reasons she loves the guy who has her on cloud 9 and states that her love for him goes beyond his looks but is all about who he is.
"Everybody Hurts" (which is not a cover song) switches directions and goes for the downside of being in love or a relationship, describing that there's going to be moments when you're hurt or feeling down and that it's okay. Though this is a step down in tone and production wise from the rest of the album, it feels necessary in that it offers something different to the mix and keeps the album from being completely love-crazed. "Not Enough" continues with the theme of waning love where she starts to lament about what's missing from the relationship that seemed to serve as her muse for a good portion of the album. These two tracks are a bit less interesting than the other tracks. These two tracks had a bit more of an acoustic-feel to them and they were ok but left my mind wandering not too far into them. "4 Real" is a midtempo song where she does less singing and more of her rapping/rhythmic beat singing. It has a nice beat while it sounds a bit repetitive after a while. "Darlin'" is more of a stripped-down track featuring mostly guitar. While it's supposed to be a bit uplifting and loving, it really lost my attention as the lyrics aren't that deep and the melody is not as catchy as the earlier tracks.
As the album draws to a close, there's an extended version of "Alice," the track she did for the recent Alice in Wonderland film. While it's a decent track, theme wise it doesn't go with the rest of the album and feels like it should have been more of a bonus track that one of the album's main selections. Things get back on track with "Remember When" that's mostly backed with piano and later is built up with drums and strings. It's a bit of a "love's been lost, I'm moving on" vibe but closes and rounds out the album well since the album starts with such a heavy-handed theme of love. "Goodbye" is in my opinion probably one of her better album-closers. Instead of something loud, big and obnoxious she goes for the heart with a track all about letting go of something of meaning and worth while continue to profess her love and adoration. While it's not a power ballad by any means, it definitely hits you hard and ends this musical effort on a positive note.
The Japanese edition (and surely the U.S. edition) had a few bonus tracks included, most of which are true acoustic versions of some of the best tracks from the album. The first one is an acoustic version of "What The Hell." The original track wasn't totally over produced but hearing the track stripped down to nothing but a guitar and piano was fun. It didn't change the overall vibe of the song but gave it more of a backyard/garage jam session feeling. It was hard for me to pick out the big difference between the acoustic version of "Push" beyond the twinkling chimes and heavier guitar presence but it still stands out as one of the album's best. Avril's vocals stand out more so on the acoustic version of "Wish You Were Here" and having the song stripped down to the bare essentials makes it even more sentimental and effective in conveying the emotion behind the lyrics.
There's an acoustic, professionally-recorded of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," a Bob Dylan cover. While lyrically and subject matter it may not fit with the rest of the album, it's a nice bonus track and the acoustic-stripped down vibe does fit well with the rest of the album. The bonus tracks round out with a cover of Joan Jett and The Blackheart's "Bad Reputation." It's about as rock and punk as Avril gets on this album but sound wise it doesn't at all go with this album so it's easy to see why it ended up as a bonus track. It's a nice, straight-forward cover that seems better suited for her last album The Best Damn Thing than this more mellow musical set she's released.
Overall, I liked and enjoyed Goodbye Lullaby. Granted, it's not as pop as I expected it to be based on the first single, it's still a strong album from Avril and if it accomplished anything it shows she's maturing with age and is willing to go for less pop territory and into the adult world. Will it be a smash record and album everyone will be talking about? I doubt it. It's one of those albums that relies heavily on sentiment, emotion and feelings and I think most of her core audience isn't really interested in that sort of thing and that an older audience may not give her a chance thinking her sound and attitude will be far too young and unpolished for them. The strength of the music lies within the fact that none of the songs are terribly overproduced. They all have a very acoustic/stripped down sound and lyrically it was a change to hear her singing about love, relationships and being open to being a bit vulnerable and open. I say give the album a listen: it's one of those that catches on after a few spins.
Listen to These: "Wish You Were Here," "Push," "Goodbye," "What the Hell"
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