"A first taste like honey, you were so yum/Can't wait for a second, cause it's so fun," is a line from the song "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," off Avril Lavigne's self-titled fifth studio album. It's a line that's cutesy and cloying, but look, if you can, beyond it, and soak in the beautifully crafted pop song that houses it. From "Sk8er Boi" to "Girlfriend" to the underrated "What The Hell," Lavigne has always released pop music that defies dissection, ruffling the feathers of scholars with cries of "Hey, hey! You, you! I don't like your girlfriend," and disregarding high art for a meaty chorus. The thing is, Lavigne has always been highly skilled at this practice -- ever since she began spitting the polysyllabic pile-up of the "Complicated" chorus, Lavigne has stayed in her lane, cranked out an album's worth of enjoyable pop-rock every three years or so, and kept her image and integrity intact. For someone who often focuses on the irresponsibilities of youth, Lavigne has proven herself as one of mainstream music's most reliable personalities; her commitment to bestowing us with impudent anthems is almost workmanlike.
There are new faces on "Avril Lavigne" -- notably her husband, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, who co-wrote most of the album and sings with Lavigne on "Let Me Go." There is a new label, Epic Records, which reunites Lavigne with Antonio "L.A." Reid, who helped bring her music to the masses. But for the most part, Lavigne's fifth full-length encapsulates everything worth loving about the 29-year-old's long-running artistry. There are zero attempts at growing up, but instead there is "Here's To Never Growing Up," the album's marvelous lead single, as well as a kick in the groin called "Bad Girl," featuring Marilyn Manson; "Bitchin' Summer," about how awesome the summer is going to be; and "Falling Fast," a love song that could soundtrack a flurry of proms come springtime. In spite of the subject matter, the songwriting has never been sharper, and unlike 2011's "Goodbye Lullaby," which featured moments in which Lavigne sounded unsure of herself, the singer is fully in control here. When she concludes that line from "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" with "Third base, I'm headed for a home run/Don't stop baby, don't stop baby now," she tries to sell her words with the most charming of poses. Needless to say, she succeeds.
Which songs on "Avril Lavigne" are worth adding to your hottest playlist? Check out our track-by-track breakdown of Avril Lavigne's new album.