Avril Lavigne’s new album, Under My Skin, feels like a metamorphosis or is perhaps better described as a hybrid, catching a moment in time under Avril’s skin in the timeframe somewhere between Complicated teen and grown-up singer/songwriter.
Some of the tracks, especially Freak Out, He Wasn’t and recent single Don’t Tell Me, feature the shouty-singing that stops just marginally short of a full-on teenage strop, whilst Fall To Pieces and Slipped Away show that Avril is learning to emote in a more sophisticated and arguable more demonstrative way.
The overall feel of the album is guitar-based pop-rock, and with Lavigne’s growing friendship and significant collaborations with Our Lady Peace‘s Raine Maida and his wife Chantal Kreviazuk, her music was never in danger of going soft.
Lavigne describes Kreviazuk as her best friend, her sister and her mentor, and wrote most of the album while staying at the Maida/Krevuziak household in California. Krevuziak co-wrote half the songs with Lavigne, while Maida produced many of the tracks on the album, and also co-wrote Fall To Pieces. The latter is one of the stand-out numbers, not least because it shows a different, more adult side to Lavigne to that on the rest of the album.
Throughout the album Lavigne is only a co-writer, but this doesn’t reek of nominal co-writing credits, but seems indicative of a songwriter, admittedly focussed on lyrics more than music, who is learning her trade by collaborating with others. This is surely only a good thing.
The lyrics are generally good. Lavigne seems to have been told to write about what she knows, with more than half the songs being about breaking up with boys, starting relationships with boys, going out with boys… You get the picture. But even here the lyrics are not just run of the mill, the “don’t think your charm… will get you into my pants” of Don’t Tell Me being a case in point. Nobody’s Home is an evocative description of watching a depressed friend but being unable to help, while Slipped Away (“in loving memory to my grandpa”) is a poignant look at grief and being left behind.
Take Me Away, the opening track, veers towards goth in the Evanescence mould, although Lavigne’s voice cannot match Amy Lee’s haunting vocals. Forgotten is also a great track, with some really good drums and good bass – with a different singer it could almost have been heavy metal. And bonus track I Always Get What I Want will have alternative music dance floors packed with its high octane guitar and vocals.
The main downsides are the preponderance of teen angst themes (probably an upside in terms of Lavigne’s target audience) but also the ponderous stress-ing of syllables in the singing, sounding like a music teacher is trying to ensure that Lavigne knows where the main beat of the bar is. Where she breaks away from this into free flowing song, such as in How Does It Feel, the effect is much improved.
Overall, Under My Skin is a good follow up to debut Let Go, but what will be really interesting is to see what Avril Lavigne does next.