Head Above Water has hit shelves today as the follow-up to the Canadian artist’s 2013 self-titled opus, and previous hits Let Go, Under My Skin, The Best Damn Thing and Goodbye Lullaby. Preceded by the singles Head Above Water, Tell Me It’s Over and Dumb Blonde, the record’s release today has been anticipated by fans for a long while. But was it worth the wait? Here’s what the critics are saying.
Head Above Water has picked up generally warm reviews from critics thus far.
While most have hailed Lavigne’s voice and gift for songwriting, some have criticised her lack of a standout identity in 2019.
The Independent gave three stars out of five, saying: “The album is certainly more elegant than the offerings of the past decade, and Lavigne’s voice reaches new heights too.”
After criticising a couple of “forgettable” tracks, they add: “Lavigne might not have found a musical identity that truly becomes her, but Head Above Water is an effective, and occasionally affecting, album.”
NME also gave three stars out of five, saying this “isn’t her most banging album, but it is a deeply honest one that sounds a lot like growing up gracefully.”
The Guardian were more critical, giving two stars out of five.
“The problem with the album’s dabblings in chart pop à la Taylor Swift (Souvenir, Goddess, Bigger Wow) and post-Amy Winehouse retro-soul (Tell Me It’s Over) isn’t that the songs are poor, or that Lavigne can’t manage the stylistic shifts. It’s more that she doesn’t impose herself on them – they could be by anyone.
“You struggle to identify exactly what she’s bringing to the party beyond a knowledge of which way the commercial wind is blowing.”
The Times also gave two stars, summarising: “It is all very professional and Radio 2-friendly. The only thing missing is any trace of believability.”
Clash awarded a much more enthusiastic seven out of ten, despite a generally critical tone throughout the review: the publication criticises “sonic inconsistencies that leave you dissatisfied, wanting the bigger and better things that Avril is definitely capable of.”
And Exclaim! gave a score of 6, saying: “The fun, bratty Lavigne is missed — if ever there was a time for an outspoken, give-no-s**t female artist, it’s now. But sincerity suits Lavigne.”
Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne is out now.