“Love Sux,” Avril Lavigne’s newest album released on Feb. 25, could not have come at a more fitting time for the pop-punk icon. The genre has been having a strong resurgence in the music industry in the last few years. The album, aptly titled to reflect its themes of heartbreak, anger and disillusionment with love, is Lavigne’s attempt to reenter the edgy, alternative music scene that she dominated in the early- to mid-2000s.
After the lackluster reception of her 2019 album “Head Above Water,” which was emotionally charged and filled with stripped-bare pop ballads, Lavigne has gone back to her musical roots. Fans have gravitated to Lavigne throughout her career for her snarky lyrics, relatable relationship woes and energetic, loud sound. These features, which were notably lacking in “Head Above Water,” have made a full comeback on “Love Sux.”
The 12-track album opens with the fiery “Cannonball,” which is a sort of post-relationship, self-confidence anthem. Featuring speedy electric guitar runs and electro-synth elements, Lavigne sets the high-energy tone for the rest of the album by yelling, “Like a ticking time bomb / I’m about to explode.” Although it is not the strongest track on the album, it sets up Lavigne’s intentions for the record well.
The rest of the songs on the album are a mixed bag, with some being utterly forgettable, while others are fun, carefree bops that are undeniably catchy. “Love Sux” and “Bite Me” are right in the middle of these extremes. Both feature simple, generic chorus hooks and lean more into a poppy production sound that fits into Lavigne’s repertoire well.
The album features three collaborations, which succeed to varying degrees. “Love It When You Hate Me (feat. blackbear)” and “All I Wanted (feat. Mark Hoppus)” both showcase how good Lavigne’s higher-pitched, clear voice can sound when paired with a deeper voice. Featuring these artists helped make the album feel less monotone as well. “Bois Lie (feat. Machine Gun Kelly)” is a weaker addition, however, as Kelly’s voice does not blend as nicely with Lavigne’s, and the lyrics are incredibly cliche and tired.
“Avalanche” is a low point for the record, owing to its bland, slower-paced melody and almost comically uninspired lyrics. Lines like “I say that I’m just fine, but I don’t feel alright on the inside / I say that I’m OK, but I don’t feel OK right now,” are so shallow in depth that they make the song unenjoyable.
“Dare To Love Me,” an emotional piano ballad, allows Lavigne to show off her ability to sing on a slower track. Although exploring the sadness of heartbreak in addition to anger makes the album more well rounded, the song is simply quite boring lyrically and instrumentally and feels out of place.
By contrast, “Kiss Me Like The World Is Ending” and “F.U.” are some of the album’s highlights. They succeed in creating the nostalgic, energetic sound that makes you want to sing or dance along, resembling Lavigne’s early hits like “Sk8er Boi.” “Kiss Me Like The World Is Ending” has a refreshing, upbeat feel, describing the intense happiness of a new relationship with an undeniably catchy chorus line. “F.U.” is Lavigne’s way to express her pure anger about a relationship, with her sharp, frustrated tone perfectly matching the powerful chords and riffs featured.
“Déjà vu” is the best song on the entire album, owing to its fun, lively lyrics and vibrant instrumentals. The song hits on the same theme of relationship woes but does so with more entertaining and original lyrics. Lavigne allows herself to be silly at times, singing, “You’re not romantic, you for sure are hopeless / I’ll buy a Range Rover just to run you over and call you out.” It’s this carefree, snarky style that makes “Déjà vu” shine. The song is also benefited by having a prominent guitar backing that is reminiscent of other early pop-punk hits.
The closing song of the album, “Break Of A Heartache,” creates a fitting end with the same fast-paced, bright tone and self-confidence that introduced the album in “Cannonball.”
On the whole, “Love Sux” is a bit of a letdown. A lot of the potential greatness of the album was weighed down by heavy-handed use of auto-tune in production, which when paired with simplistic, generic lyrics, made some of the songs feel like the “KIDZ BOP‘’ version of pop-punk. Although Lavigne has never been known for having extremely deep lyrics, it feels as though the album overwhelmingly relies on cliches without making them any more interesting. Looking past these flaws, however, a few songs stood out as great new guilty pleasure favorites for fans of pop-punk in 2022, perhaps showing promise for Lavigne’s next projects.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars